While the heavy rainfall in Kelantan between Dec 22 and 24, 2014 was enough to inundate the state, other factors such as logging is said to have aggravated the situation further.
The expanse of land that have been cleared is evident when viewed from land, water or above.
The writers upon arriving in Gua Musang and Kuala Krai witnessed timber lorries on the public road at all hours, putting the lives of motorists in danger.
Despite claims by various parties that logging activities have ceased to exist in Kelantan, how come the lorries still operate in these two districts?
During the 10 days stay there, the writers witnessed lorries laden with timber making their way through the town area.
TIMBER LORRIES OUT AND ABOUT TOWN
Even local resident Shamsuddin Yaacob, 57, admitted to this.
The clerk who works at a school in Gua Musang would meet-up with friends after work at the coffee shop next to the main road heading to Kuala Krai and that is when he would see the timber lorries.
"Many lorries pass by here. I don't know where they are headed but I worry something bad will happen and that the roads will be damaged by their heavy load," he said.
Rubber tapper Ahmad Tarmizi, 31, said the timber lorries were driven at high speeds and its drivers were rude and used profanities when anyone confronted them.
"We are also suspicious of some of the lorries as they are overloaded and the long logs are not marked with red cloth at the potruding end," he said.
ACTIVE LOGGING IN KAMPUNG LAMBUT
According to residents of Gua Musang, among the logging locations was the Kampung Lambut Orang Asli village situated about 80 kilometres from Gua Musang town.
To get there, the writers took a 90 minute boat ride from Sungai Galas to Sungai Kuala Betis and upon arrival the villagers took them to the timber collection centre five kilometres away from the village.
There they saw workers busy loading logs onto a lorry.
VILLAGE ROADS DAMAGED BY LORRIES
Village chief Adam Asu, 71, told the writers the log collection centre came about five years ago after the Gua Musang Orang Asli Development Department completed roads to improve infrastructure in the village.
"Once the roads were ready the lorries carrying timber started plying the road. As the years went by, more lorries plied the roads, damaging the road in turn," he said.
The Orang Asli community made up of the Temiar indigenous group expressed their disappointment over the log collection centre.
However, the writers observed that the logs transferred out were small in diameter and did not meet the specifications set by the Forestry Department, in which only those with a 45cm diameter can be cut down.
BARREN KUALA KOH FOREST RESERVE
The writers' next stop was at the Kuala Koh Forest Reserve where logging activities were said to be rampant.
Located about 100km from the town of Gua Musang, the area is popular among anglers as it was home to the 'kelah' (mahseer) fish.
However, the forest reserve that was once rich in natural beauty is now shockingly bare. A large portion of the land near the entrance has been cleared for farming.
Based on the looks of the young oil palm trees, it was obvious they were cultivated recently.
Ultimately, the cleared land will create surface water runoff and land erosion due to lack of support from grass, trees and shrubs.
Kuala Koh Orang Asli village chief Hamdan Keladi said he was disappointed by the floods, especially after the land clearing as the village had never been flooded before. Even the agar wood and herbs, which have been a source of income for the community, were affected by the flood.
"Our crops, our forest and food such as tapioca are all gone. We used to depend on forest products but now it's all gone now," he told Bernama.
Meanwhile, Kuala Koh Forest Reserve Resort operator Nik Nora Nik Mohamed Yusoff said the resort had never been short of guests, be it local or international, as many came to admire the natural beauty there.
However, the number of visitors declined after the clearing of land at the entrance of the forest reserve.
In the worst incident, water had risen up to eight metres at the resort and caused damage to the property
"Water had never risen this fast or this high. All this land clearing by the entrance had affected the national park's image," she said.
Though floods are a natural disaster, there are aspects that need to be looked at as various areas face the risk of being flooded due to land clearing.
DRASTIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN
Meanwhile, former Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) chairman Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed said homogenous crops generally could not replace the function of diverse tropical forest crops in the hydrology process.
"Part of the rain will be intercepted by leaves and plants, thus evaporating into the atmosphere. Part of the rain water will run along the branches and tree stumps before ending up on the ground.
These homogenous farms are not capable of providing a natural canopy like that of a natural forest to slow down the rain falling onto the ground.
However, the writer could only see oil palm plantations along the river. Therefore, Maketab said high surface water runoff could be expected as the oil palm plantation could not absorb the rain.
"When it rains heavily on the oil palm plantation, the water flows directly to the rivers.
"Water that is not absorbed will make the river currents strong, which then erodes the riverbank. Moreover, rain that falls on exposed soil also causes land erosion," he said.
LOGS BELONG TO STATE GOVERNMENT
The writer approached the Forestry Department Director General Datuk Seri Professor Dr Abd Rahman Abd Rahim regarding the issue of logs not meeting the diameter requirement.
He explained that if the log measures less than 45cm in diameter then it was not from the forest reserve but from the forest on government owned land which might have been cleared for development.
Abd Rahman said under Article 74(2) of the Federal Constitution, land and forests were owned by the state government and not the Forestry Department.
In his personal opinion, Kelantan is going through poorly planned development and does not comply with development guidelines.
"If we look on the map (remote sensing map), land clearing is widespread in Kelantan for development causing the earth's surface to be exposed.
Based on the 2013 Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Statistics, Kelantan lost 698,304 hectares of forest cover, representing 46 percent of the state's land.
Records also show that the state government frequently applied for logging licence on goverment and privately owned land from 2004 to 2013, with the land area applied exceeding 5,000 hectares each year.
by Syed Iylia Hariz Al-Qadri and Nik Nurfaqih Nik Wil
This is the third of the four part series dwelling on the environmental destruction that contributed to the worst floods in Kelantan in three decades.
Sat Mar 14 2015
Logging is said to have aggravated the flood situation in Kelantan situation further -BERNAMApic
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