PETALING JAYA: An NGO has called for the environment department to immediately revoke the approval of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the clearing of forests near indigenous customary land for a new palm oil project.
RimbaWatch said it had received reports that a company had already begun clearing peat swamp forests near Kampung Orang Asli Air Hitam and Tanjung Keruing in Pekan, Pahang.
It added that based on Global Forest Watch satellite data, about 310ha of the forest has been cleared and it is less than 100m from Kampung Orang Asli Air Hitam.
The NGO said an EIA for 402.33ha of oil palm plantation development in the area was submitted by Pertubuhan Peladang Negeri Pahang (PASFA) and approved by the environment department on May 27, 2021.
“RimbaWatch demands the environment department halts this project and revokes PASFA’s EIA approval immediately.
“It also demands that the state government gazette the customary land of Kampung Orang Asli Air Hitam and Tanjung Keruing as an Orang Asli reserve,” it said in a statement.
The NGO questioned how the EIA report could be approved, given that it has not been publicly displayed anywhere as required under the environment department’s guidelines.
RimbaWatch also claimed that the clearance of peatland for palm oil is in opposition to the National Action Plan on Peatland and National Policy on Biological Diversity 2016-2025.
It added that the palm oil plantation cannot be Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certified as it involves deforestation after the cut-off date.
“Therefore, there is no justification to develop an uncertified palm oil plantation.”
The NGO called for the company responsible for the land clearance to pay compensation to the affected communities as well as pay for the restoration of the peat swamp forest.
RimbaWatch also said the Orang Asli affected have submitted reports to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), the police and the plantation operator involved.
“In their report to Suhakam, which was sighted by RimbaWatch, members of the Kampung Orang Asli Air Hitam and Tanjung Keruing communities complain that the project is invading their customary land,” it said.
RimbaWatch said the Orang Asli, in their report, called for the project to be halted immediately, claiming that they have not been consulted and that their crops and graves have been destroyed by the deforestation.