Kedah to relocate squatters in Langkawi forest reserve

Energy and resources minister Shamsul Anuar Nasarah (right) has also promised action to remove settlements near a mangrove forest. (Bernama pic)

ALOR SETAR: The Kedah government has agreed with a proposal to relocate residents in illegal settlements reported to have sprouted at Bukit Malut mangrove forest reserve in Langkawi, said menteri besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor.

About 10,000 Myanmar nationals are reported to be living in the area, and their presence is reported to have upset local residents who called for the squatters to be moved out.

Muhd Sanusi did not disclose who had submitted the proposal but said he had asked that the proposal be brought up with the National Security Council (MKN) for action, Bernama reported.

“The state government has agreed to the proposal to relocate them (Bukit Malut residents) to other areas in Langkawi and it is now up to the MKN to make a decision. But I am confident that the MKN will agree with the proposal,” he told reporters here today.

Action on the illegal settlements was also promised by Shamsul Anuar Nasarah, the minister for energy and natural resources, who said in Lumut that he would obtain a detailed report on the illegal settlements.

Once the report is completed, the ministry would take appropriate action according to the existing regulations.

“The ministry is aware of what has gone viral and caught the attention of various parties,” he told reporters after launching celebrations of the international day of the mangroves.

Sanusi said the proposal to relocate the squatters was also made so that the land being occupied could be returned to the owners. Among the landlords is the Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority.

“There are landlords (for these idle lands) but there has been rampant squatting by them (residents of illegal settlements),” he said. A local newspaper report said many houses had been built in Bukit Malut, including on the hillsides, without permission from the authorities.

Shamsul Anuar said his ministry was committed to preserving the 50-hectare sea mangrove areas throughout the country by maintaining a 38-hectare area under the 12th Malaysia Plan, Bernama reported.

Malaysia housed 42 of the 52 mangrove flora species found in Southeast Asia. “So we must preserve this ecosystem as it is one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world,” he said. “The rate of depletion of sea mangrove forests is three to five times higher than that of global forests,” he said.

Shamsul Anuar said sea mangrove forests had a high potential as tourist destinations, and he gave the example of the pine trees planted in Pantai Senok in Bachok, Kelantan, dubbed as Malaysia’s Nami Island.