Amnesty International and Forest Research Institute Malaysia (Frim) are the latest groups to voice their opposition to the proposed degazetting of 930ha in the centuries-old Kuala Langat (North) Forest Reserve.
"The Selangor Forestry Department’s failure to consult the relevant indigenous communities demonstrates a blatant disregard for the principle of free, prior and informed consent, as well as their willingness to put corporate development ahead of the welfare of citizens," said Amnesty International in a statement on its site.
It went on to encourage the public to send a letter of objection to Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari and published a draft of such a letter.
Amnesty International also called for a twitter campaign to voice objections to Amirudin, Selangor exco in charge of the environment Hee Loy Sian and the Selangor Forestry Department.
Meanwhile, Frim said its director-general, Abd Latif Mohmod, had delivered a letter of objection to the Selangor Forestry Department Director Mohd Ridzuwan Endot today.
Frim argued that based on studies the area needs to be preserved since there are many endangered species of flora and fauna in the area.
"Based on the data reports of flora and fauna collected, there are at least three species of endangered trees that are mersawa paya (anisoptera marginata), meranti bunga (shorea teysmanniana) and meranti bakau (shorea uliginosa)"
"In addition, there is a species of Selangor small flying squirrel, three species of freshwater fish and over 100 bird species in the area," it added.
Frim called on the state government to take note and make the "right decision not to change the status of the forest reserve to ensure that the source of the state's biodiversity source is restored and well-maintained".
Yesterday more than 200 Orang Asli villagers gathered in front of the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah building in Shah Alam to voice their objections to the state government's proposal.
On Feb 20, Amirudin defended the state’s proposal contending that developing it is a good idea seeing that 40 percent of the forest had already “degraded”.
He took pains to explain the government’s reasons behind its plan to degazette 930.93ha (97.1 percent) of the 958ha forest reserve for a mixed development project.
Amirudin claimed the quality of trees in the Kuala Langat forest reserve - a peat forest - had eroded due to fire and posed a continual fire hazard to surrounding areas.
However, conservation groups such as the Malaysian Nature Society and the Global Environment Centre disputed his claims, saying that the wildlife in Kuala Langat was recovering well after fires a few years ago and that its ecosystem was irreplaceable.
Amirudin (above) did not explain the actual purpose of the land being used. However, a report by the Singapore Straits Times claimed that royal figures may be among the developers of the land.
News of the proposed degazetting broke when the Selangor Forestry Department placed a notice in major dailies on Feb 5 inviting stakeholders in the district to voice their objections to the proposal within a 30-day time frame.
This is in accordance with the Public Inquiry (Selangor) Rules 2014, as well as the National Forestry Act (Adoption) Enactment 1985, which makes the exercise (placement of notice) compulsory before a forest reserve can be degazetted.