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Malaysia Review 3 (Jan-Jul '21): East Coast Pen. Malaysia - Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang

Welcome to the third installment of the Malaysia review. We put this off a little while because we expected this to be a little more intense than the last two. Some issues we encountered this time around were a few cloudy images and difficulty in visualizing peat swamp areas that were cut – they appear dark brown due to black waters pooling instead of the bright orange characteristic of clear-cut forest areas. We’ll be covering the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia this time.


Before we proceed, here are the raw images used for the analyses for Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3


Refreshers

1. we are using the 2021 GLAD dataset* (up to 13 Jul) along with

2. Planet satellite images (register free account).

3. Remember to take note of the scale bar to make sense of the size of clear-cut areas when viewing slider images

*note: this means forest loss from 2020 will not be included


We will structure each section with

i) a state-level overview followed by

ii) a list of affected forest reserves (FRs) and protected areas (PAs) – if any detected – and

iii) zoom down to explore particularly ghastly-looking areas with the free Flourish slider tool.

Click on the slider on the middle of the images with the Flourish logos (bottom right) and drag the slider either direction to compare Jun 2020 vs Jun 2021 images.


Let’s begin.


Kelantan

In recent years, there has been no shortage of controversy with Kelantan’s permanent reserved forest (PRF) areas, ranging from durian mega-plantations, rubber plantations, orang asli grievances, and just lots of deforestation. If images of deforestation affect you emotionally, I suggest preparing some emotional support before proceeding any further. Let’s begin with an overview of Kelantan (Figure 1).

Figure 1 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with PRF (2011) and Protected Areas in Kelantan (click image to view in high-resolution).


Beginning from the north, impacted FRs & PAs include:

1. Jedok FR

2. Sungai Durian FR

3. Sokortaku FR

4. Sungai Rek FR

5. Jentiang FR

6. Serasa FR

7. Relai FR

8. Lebir FR

9. Gunung Stong Selatan FR

10. Balah FR

11. Berangkat FR

12. Limau Kasturi FR

13. Sungai Terah FR

14. Nenggiri FR

15. Perias FR

16. Batu Papan FR

17. Ulu Galas FR

18. Sungai Betis FR

19. Sungai Brok FR


Here come the sliders


2. Sungai Durian FR

Figure 1.1 Affected areas in Sungai Durian FR.

3. Sokortaku FR

Figure 1.2a Affected areas (southern portion) in Sokortaku FR.



Figure 1.2b Affected areas (northern portion) in Sokortaku FR.



7. Relai FR

Figure 1.3 Affected areas in Relai FR. Portions of this FR has probably been degazetted as there are large-scale oil palm cooperatives operating within its boundaries.


8. Lebir FR

Lebir FR has long been touted as a site for a dam to mitigate the annual floods that the state suffers. It is unfortunate that the solution proposed to mitigate flood damage caused by too much deforestation, is more deforestation. The project received more support in Jul 2019 when Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali announced that the Federal Government will give priority to the development of the site. The sizeable damage we see in four areas below are probably reflective of that decision.

Figure 1.4a Affected areas in Lebir FR (Northernmost).

Figure 1.4b Affected areas in Lebir FR (middle-north).

Figure 1.4c Affected areas in Lebir FR (middle-south).

Figure 1.4d Affected areas in Lebir FR (Southernmost).

9. Gunung Stong Selatan FR

Figure 1.5 Affected areas in Gunung Stong Selatan FR.


11. Berangkat FR

Figure 1.6 Affected areas in Berangkat FR.


14. Nenggiri FR

Like Lebir FR, Nenggiri has also long been discussed as a dam site. This article discusses specifics on TNB’s operations on the site, supporting the likelihood of its imminent demise. It looks bad now, but this is likely just the beginning.

Figure 1.7 Affected areas in Nenggiri FR.


17. Ulu Galas FR

Here we see how the state and FR boundaries of our files are slightly misaligned with those on Planet’s images, which the clearcutting follows strictly. This is just to highlight the slight differences that will occur with datasets using different coordinate reference systems (CRSs) – nonetheless, plenty of deforestation within supposed FR areas.

Figure 1.8a Affected areas in Ulu Galas FR (northern portion).

Figure 1.8b Affected areas in Ulu Galas FR (southern portion).


18. Sungai Betis FR

Figure 1.9 Affected areas in Sungai Betis FR.


19. Sungai Brok FR

Figure 1.10 Affected areas in Sungai Brok FR. Sungai Brok & Sungai Betis FRs form an important part of the CFS-PL3 landscape that connects the Main range (Titiwangsa, west) to the Greater Taman Negara forest complex (east).


*Edit 23/7 - a reader pointed out that we missed Perias FR - thank you!


15. Perias FR

Figure 1.11 Affected areas in Perias FR.


-end of edit-


That was a painful analysis. Many of the affected FRs are directly connected to Central Forest Spine (CFS) linkages, such as

i) CFS1-PL3: Sungai Betis FR-Sungai Brok FR

ii) CFS1-PL7: Lebir FR

iii) CFS1-SL1: Relai FR-Ulu Temiang FR-Sokortaku FR-Jentiang FR


There are plenty of rumours being floated about Kelantan Forestry’s plight. These generally say that so much of the PRFs have been irresponsibly leased on long-term leases (>60 year) that Kelantan Forestry are basically rendered powerless to enforce anything due to said leases. Forestry officers serve in ~5-year cycles per location, and so, newer forestry officers coming into Kelantan often face a rude awakening once they realize how powerless they will be in the state. With Kelantan being one of the poorest in the country, it would be unrealistic to expect the State Government to buy-out those leases. Many of these long-term lease areas have apparently been logged (or are being logged) and left fallow instead of being restored or used to create revenue for the state – a sad State of affairs.


Terengganu

In the East Coast of the Peninsula, Terengganu has always been heralded as one of the most environmentally-progressive states. This is apparent in their recent gazettements for Kenyir and Setiu State parks. It is worth mentioning that since shapefiles of the newly gazetted state park areas are not available (yet), our analysis will focus on the old FR and protected area (PA) alignments. The State Forestry has also been in the limelight recently for the wrong reasons when a single, huge ~500-year-old Chengal log was spotted on a trailer, to which the agency defended was acquired legally. People were understandably upset, but kudos to Terengganu State Forestry on owning up immediately. Let us have a look at the state overview for Terengganu below before we list the FRs impacted (Figure 2).

Figure 2 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with PRF (2011) and Protected Areas in Terengganu (click image to view in high-resolution).


Impacted FRs include:

1. Belara FR

2. Hulu Nerus FR

3. Tembat FR

4. Petuang FR

5. Mercang FR

6. Jengai FR

7. Bukit Bauk FR

8. Rasau Kertih FR

9. Sungai Nipah FR – origin of the huge Chengal log according to Terengganu State Forestry

10. Cerul FR


Time to explore some hotspots.


1. Belara FR

Figure 2.1 Affected areas in Belara FR. We suspect that the FR has been degazetted. Nonetheless, a reminder for all readers to remember to look at the scale for the images (most sliders up till now were on a scale 4x larger than this).

2. Hulu Nerus FR

Figure 2.2 Affected areas in Hulu Nerus FR.

3. Tembat FR

Figure 2.2 Affected areas in Tembat FR. We’re highlighting this area because of its proximity to the Kenyir State Park. Those look like logging tracks.


5. Mercang FR

Figure 2.3 Affected areas in Mercang FR.

8. Rasau Kertih FR

Figure 2.4a Affected areas in Rasau Kertih FR (north). FR is alleged to have been degazetted.

Figure 2.4b Affected areas in Rasau Kertih FR (south). FR is alleged to have been degazetted.



10. Cerul FR

Figure 2.5a Affected areas in Cerul FR. We know that Cerul FR is a FSC-certified concession of the State-linked timber company, Pesama Timber Corporation (cached website – KPKKT’s & PTC’s websites were unavailable at time of writing), and so we thought to explore what forest degradation patterns in a FSC-certified concession looks like.

Figure 2.5b Affected areas in Cerul FR (east).


Moderate levels of deforestation, with the worst-hit FRs likely being degazetted for Terengganu – taking it down a notch after the Kelantan analysis. We cannot stress enough about data transparency – when will Malaysian state forestry departments release updated shapefiles of their forest reserves so we’re not left guessing?


Pahang

Pahang – home of Taman Negara and the reigning Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah, and more recently, to a flurry of royalty-linked mining projects (e.g. at Tasik Chini, Bukit Kenderak, and Kuala Tembeling). For now, let us focus on hotspots within Pahang’s FRs and PAs (Figure 3).

Figure 3 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with PRF (2011) and Protected Areas in Pahang (click image to view in high-resolution).


We will be listing affected FRs beginning from the north. This is the state with the longest list so far, but to be fair, also the state with the most FRs. We’ll let the sliders help us decide.

1. Ulu Jelai FR

2. Ulu Jelai (Tambahan) FR

3. Tekai Tembeling (Tambahan) FR

4. Tekai Tembeling FR

5. Yong FR

6. Tersang FR

7. Tersang (Tambahan) FR

8. Remen Chereh FR

9. Remen Chereh Tambahan FR

10. Berkelah (Jerantut) FR

11. Tekam FR

12. Bukit Kuantan FR

13. Lepar FR

14. Jengka FR

15. Jerantut (Tambahan) FR

16. Krau Wildlife Reserve

17. Kelau FR

18. Lakum (Temerloh) FR

19. Kemasul (Bentong) FR

20. Kemasul (Temerloh) FR

21. Purun FR

22. Pekan (Tambahan) FR – peat swamp

23. Balok FR

24. Pekan (Tambahan) FR – peat swamp

25. Kedondong FR – peat swamp

26. Nenasi (Tambahan 1) & Nenasi FRs

27. Nenasi FR – peat swamp

28. Resak Tambahan 1 (Rompin) FR – peat swamp

29. Resak Tambahan (Rompin) FR – peat swamp

30. Bukit Ibam (Kuantan) FR

31. Bukit Ibam (Rompin) FR

32. Tasik Bera FR – peat swamp

33. Sungai Marong FR

34. Lesong FR

35. Endau-Rompin


There are a lot of sliders coming your way.


1. Ulu Jelai FR

Figure 3.1 Affected areas in Ulu Jelai FR.


3. Tekai Tembeling (Tambahan) FR

Figure 3.2 Affected areas in Tekai Tembeling (Tambahan) FR.


5. Yong FR

Figure 3.3 Affected areas in Yong FR. Highlighted for its proximity to Taman Negara. We covered Yong FR here in Nov 2020.


6. Tersang FR

Figure 3.4 Affected areas in Tersang FR. Looks degazetted.


8. Remen Chereh FR

Figure 3.5 Affected areas in Remen Chereh FR.


10. Berkelah (Jerantut) FR

Figure 3.6 Affected areas in Berkelah (Jerantut) FR.


11. Tekam FR

Figure 3.7 Affected areas in Tekam FR. Wondering what the pattern entails. Could it be for roads or powerlines?


12. Bukit Kuantan FR

Figure 3.8 Affected areas in Bukit Kuantan FR. Small area near the Terengganu border.


13. Lepar FR

Figure 3.9a Affected areas in Lepar FR (north). Badly affected patch.

Figure 3.9b Affected areas in Lepar FR (south).


14. Jengka FR

Figure 3.10 Affected areas in Jengka FR.


16. Krau Wildlife Reserve

Figure 3.11 Affected areas in Krau Wildlife Reserve. Did not expect to see degradation in Krau, seeing that it is an area specifically designated as a Wildlife Reserve.


18. Lakum (Temerloh) FR

Figure 3.12 Affected areas in Lakum (Temerloh) FR. This badly affected FR is likely degazetted.


19. Kemasul (Bentong) FR

Figure 3.13 Affected areas in Kemasul (Bentong) FR. Likely degazetted based on land use pattern.


20. Kemasul (Temerloh) FR

Figure 3.14 Affected areas in Kemasul (Temerloh) FR. Likely degazetted based on land use pattern.


22. Pekan (Tambahan) FR – peat swamp

Figure 3.15 Affected areas in Pekan (Tambahan) FR. This is a peat swamp forest. It is unfortunate that Pahang is still clearing peat swamp FRs, though we cannot be sure if it has been degazetted. This is an instance where the forest loss cannot be easily seen because cleared areas show up dark brown due to the black peat water that pools up, unlike mineral soils that tend to show up bright orange once forest cover is cleared. Unfortunately, the area receives less attention than Kuala Langat North FR in Selangor.


24. Pekan (Tambahan) 2 FR – peat swamp

Figure 3.16 Affected areas in Pekan (Tambahan) 2 FR. Likewise, another peat swamp forest not getting enough love.


26. Nenasi (Tambahan 1) & Nenasi FRs

Figure 3.17a Affected areas in Nenasi (Tambahan 1) FR (east). More peat swamp areas.

Figure 3.17b Affected areas in Nenasi (Tambahan 1) FR (west). More peat swamp areas.


27. Nenasi FR – peat swamp

Figure 3.18 Affected areas in Nenasi FR (south). More peat swamp areas.


31. Bukit Ibam (Rompin) FR

Figure 3.19a Affected areas in Bukit Ibam (Rompin) FR (east). Most likely degazetted.

Figure 3.19b Affected areas in Bukit Ibam (Rompin) FR (west). Most likely degazetted.



34. Lesong FR

Figure 3.20a Affected areas in Lesong FR (north). Inching in on Endau-Rompin State Park.

Figure 3.20b Affected areas in Lesong FR (south). Inching in on Endau-Rompin State Park.


35. Endau Rompin

Figure 3.21 Affected areas in Endau Rompin. This is likely where the Pahang Forestry Director was referring to in response to our 2019 article when he mentioned that there were 3,811.11 ha of concessions given “outside the buffer zone, which is 1.5km from the border of the forest reserve”. It seems we can expect the entire upper-lobe of Endau Rompin in our maps to be cleared in the near future. Indeed, logging concessions in the Endau Rompin State Park forest reserve “has never and will never happen” – we’ll have the good sense to degazette it first.



We omitted the Tasik Chini hot button for Pahang since the affected areas looked like they lay outside of FRs (and may have taken place pre-2021). Still, we were appalled by how much deforestation have taken place in the last 6m or so in Pahang – in the Krau & Endau Rompin landscapes nonetheless.


The caveats of the first two installments apply, no fingers pointed – this is the best we could do with available datasets. And yet, does the legality of logging operations ensure that sufficient forest landscapes are safeguarded against imminent ecosystem collapse and climate change? The biggest threat against Malaysian forest ecosystems is indeed, legal logging operations.