A plea for public support in the effort to Save Langat South Forest Reserve.
We received a message just before Christmas, stating the State owned Selangor State Agriculture Corporation (PKPS) has made a proposal to acquire the whole of Langat South Forest Reserve for an oil palm plantation. The Selangor Forestry and Wildlife Department was given two weeks by the Chief Minister’s (MB) office to come up with a paper to justify to continue conserving the reserve.
Located in Southern Selangor, bordering the state of Negeri Sembilan, Langat South Forest Reserve is a peat swamp forest which was first gazetted as a reserve in 1927 under the Federated Malay States Forest Enactment 1918 (F.M.S En 34/1918). If you take off or land in KLIA, looking out the window of the plane, you should be able to see a large sea of greeneries, looking closer this greeneries are actually all oil palms plantations. A large area of these plantations is actually sitting on what used to be the Langat South Forest Reserve
Originally 12,141 hectares (ha), Langat South Forest Reserve covers an area of 6,908 ha after its boundaries were amended over the years for the building of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and for use in development of agriculture, mainly for oil palm plantation. Illegal encroaching by farmers adopting the slash and burn farming method has also affected more the some areas within the reserve. Today, approximately 5,000 ha of Langat South Forest Reserve are still under forest cover. This includes the last of the peatland Virgin Jungle Reserve of about 270 ha.
A Rapid Ecological Assessment is currently being carried out to determine if the Langat South Forest Reserve is worth conserving. This was a true demonstration of hand in hand efforts between the stakeholders: government, NGOs, and community, within day, surveillance teams were already deployed. Camera traps were set, and species identification works are being carried out with the objective to determine the biodiversities and ultimately the actual value of this reserve.
The thing about peat swamp forests is that its ecosystem is characterized by waterlogging, in which the soil is saturated with water of a level too high to allow for typical agricultural activity. This creates a condition of low oxygen and nutrient level, whereby the water reaches acidity. This sort of harsh environment creates the distinctive condition that is conducive for the growth of many unique species of flora. Peat — dead and decaying organic matter — forms the base on which these peat forests grow, besides acting as major carbon storages that slow down the process of global warming.
Estimates suggest that 5,800 tonnes of atmospheric carbon per hectare can be stored in a 10-metre deep peat swamp, considerably much more compared to the estimated 300-500 tonnes per hectare for other types of tropical forest. Besides that, tropical peat lands have active carbon sequestration properties, in that they actively accumulate carbon in the form of peat — all of which are released the moment these forests are drained and cleared. This will further contribute to already rising carbon levels and global temperatures. It goes without saying that preserving our peat swamp forests would be one of the easier and most natural ways of regulating our nation’s carbon emissions.
We went to the site on 26 December 2010, and within two hours in the reserve, the group were greeted by numerous evidences of wildlife. From mammals to insects, from birds to spiders, from huge trees to wild crawlings, the forest came alive and awed us with nature’s most mesmerizing symphony. It was a friendly reminder that there are still lives in this reserve, and a hasty conversion into commercial agriculture land will leave many unidentified species remains unidentified, and nature best treasures would vanish under the current of greediness of mankind.
The assessment report will be presented to the MB in early January, after which a decision on which proposal the state government will use, would be made. In this aspect Selangor’s MB has done the right thing requesting cases from all parties involved before making a decision. We need all the support from the public in this effort to Save Langat South Forest Reserve. Various groups are already carrying out separate campaigns for this cause.
Chow Pong sells black in the day and turns green at night; “I fade in and out of existence; and I walk both world, to deliver the message in completeness.”
Jin Rui is a multitasker extraordinaire, juggling duties of being a student, a greenie, a filial daughter and an occasional writer. Oh, and being amazing while she’s at it.