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Taman Negeri Endau-Rompin: A Quiet 6000-ha Excision

*Edits - 12 April 2019*

We have received feedback from our readers that some mistakes were made about the land status and history of Endau Rompin in the original write-up. Thank you for reaching out! The original source stating that both Pahang and Johor used State Park gazettes was from page 5 of "Pelan Pengurusan Hidupan Liar Taman Negara Endau Rompin" (2001) by PERHILITAN. We have since corrected the error, adding facts that were generously supplied by our source.

First of all, a big shout-out to our contributor who passed us the document that compiled evidence for the above – the original document submitted is available at the end of the article.

Endau-Rompin was first proposed as Malaysia's second national park in 1976 in the Third Malaysia Plan. In 1987, the Pahang and Johor State Governments announced that two state parks with a total area of 93,000 ha would be created in Endau-Rompin. Johor State Government pushed through in 1993 through the creation of Endau-Rompin National Park through the Johor National Parks Corporation Enactment 1989. Pahang's efforts, however, was less coordinated as there appears to be a National Land Code gazette of 40,197 ha under in 1986, but also another under the Forestry Enactment that gazetted the area as (don't laugh ok) Hutan Simpan Taman Negeri (W.K. PHG. No. 850, 7/12/2000; literally, "State Park Forest Reserve"). Our sources in the public sector has told us that the latter is true, and that the actual state park gazettement has not been completed for the Pahang side - which is probably why we ended up writing this article about impending clear-cutting efforts at the confused but affable Hutan Simpan Taman Negeri. There has, however, been official plans to gazette Hutan Simpan Taman Negeri (31,797 ha) along with parts of Gunung Lesong (6,333.8 ha), Endau (176.5 ha), and Lesong (1,889.7) Forest Reserves together as Taman Negeri Endau Rompin (40,197 ha - Pelan Warta 3442).

These complications arose when both states were unwilling to surrender land to the Federal Authority. This is significant because when states retain control of such timber-rich parks, they also retain the power to excise them for economic activities (read: logging/clear-cutting etc.) when the state is in need of revenue.

For the purposes of this article, I will refer to the Pahang-side (Hutan Simpan Taman Negeri) as Endau-Rompin State Park (ERSP).

ERSP is a well-known, important wildlife habitat. Its preservation is crucial to the continued existence of many threatened species, including species that are endemic to the region. This is in addition to the various ecosystem services it provides. The document submitted to us contained a series of very telling maps, two of which were found on the Pahang State Forestry website:

Comparison of two maps found in Pahang State Forestry’s Website – red circle drawn indicates an area of discrepancy. Maps were cropped and edited to comparable sizes.

The author of the document alleges that between the two maps, a discrepancy of ~6,000 ha of permanent reserved forest (PRF) existed at the northeastern end of the ERSP (figure above), ie. the Pahang-side of the ERSP. The author’s claim is supported by 8 Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIA) reports in 2018 & 2019 that can be found on the Malaysian Department of Environment’s (DOE) portal approving the specified area for logging. Five of these PEIAs were approved by the DOE not just for logging, but clear-felling for agricultural or industrial use “with the permission of from the State Government and Land Office”. This was apparently made possible by declaring these forests as ‘degraded’ forests.

With that out of the way, let’s have a look at some recent satellite images of the area. Let’s first have a look at the overall landscape surrounding the specified area within the Pahang-side of the ERSP.

The alleged area being quietly-excised is contained within the dark-green patch in the middle, approximately under the large cloud. The area does not appear to be degraded (PlanetLabs, Jan 2019).

We compared above image to tree cover lost history (2001-2017) from the global data set:

The dark green patch is Endau-Rompin State Park - it looks untouched saved for a few specks. Can't say the same for neighbouring Lesong Forest Reserve (north).

Now, let’s look at the Pahang-side of the ERSP (~40,000 ha):

This image was from Q4 of 2018 (PlanetLabs), and depicts the Pahang-side of the Endau-Rompin State Park. Does not look degraded either.

Getting to the actual area of interest within the Pahang ERSP now. Here is a roughly-drawn polygon depicting the alleged area being excised, all 6,000+ hectares of it:

This image (PlanetLabs, Q4 2018) shows a roughly-drawn polygon illustrating the difference between the first two maps – approximately 6,500 hectares. Other than the westernmost-tip, only a small, inconspicuous logging road forks out into two from the middle of the polygon’s lower end – this is a definitely still good, highly-biodiverse primary forest!

Contrasting satellite imagery (PlanetLabs, above) to the global tree cover lost data set used on the interactive CFS map, it's pretty clear that the proposed area did not (never) have a history of logging - it's not a degraded site!

I did mention that the polygon was roughly-drawn. As pointed out in the earlier image, the westernmost-tip is the only area that has experienced significant deforestation.

To pass off >6000 hectares of such rare primary forest in this day and age as ‘degraded’ so that it can be clear-felled is preposterous and must be called out. Up until now, most of the forest conversion has taken place in Lesong, as shown below. Rampant land-clearing of this sort should no longer be allowed to take place in primary forests – what more a gazetted state park disguised as ‘degraded’ forest!

For this to be happening right beside the ERSP is bad enough.

The original document, as promised.

*Not an elaborate April Fool's joke