By INS Contributors

If you recall, not so long ago, the Selangor State Government was being hailed as a shining light in leading green initiatives. EcoKnights president Yasmin Rashid was so astounded by the state allocations set aside for improving the environment and reducing global warming that she said “I think no other states in Malaysia have taken such initiatives”.

However, recent developments have caused us to reconsider crowning Selangor as the country’s most green-oriented state. In fact, while there are some good efforts from within the Selangor ruling coalition’s apparatchiks to improve the fast-disappearing green lungs in Malaysia’s most built-up state, others are clearly working towards the opposite directions.

First off, everybody is now talking about Selangor’s decision to degazette 931ha of swamp forest reserve in the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR) for development.

It is not just the trees that we are losing but also the precious biodiversity and biological wealth that those trees hold, not to mention rang asli communities that have lived there since time immemorial.

Despite objections from EcoKnights and the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Selangor state executive councillor for environment and greentech Hee Loy Sian said that if the forest reserve is removed, "we will replace it with better forests". How do you replace 8,000 of natural growth? This is sheer arrogance.

We have barely recovered from shock about the plans to degazette part of the Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve in Gombak.

Residents of nearby Taman Amansiara still remember how in November 2009, a landslide brought down tonnes of earth along an 80m stretch of Jalan Rawang near Taman Amansiara, cutting off the road from traffic headed northbound for a month.

And now, with the Selangor State government applying for the degazettement of the 28.3ha Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve, it seems like it has not learnt the lesson, and history may yet again repeat itself.

Sometimes it is already too late. Shah Alam residents were surprised to find the Bukit Cerakah Forest Reserve overlooking a lake being razed and cleared last year, but then later discovered from the developer that the reserve had already been quietly degazetted some time ago.

This is despite a promised by the Shah Alam mayor Mazalan Md Noor that the lake would be preserved and no hillside development would take place in their area, in accordance with state policy.

Shah Alam is in fact, a repeat offender, having trampled on the environment a few times already. There was a hoo-ha earlier this month when the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) barred reporters from covering a public hearing on objections to the development and land use of the Shah Alam Community Forest, horrifying the Centre for Independent Journalism and Gerakan Media Merdeka.

The council is planning to degazette the forest for different land use and development under the MBSA Local Plan Draft 2035.

If you were to look at it, the Selangor state government is especially voracious for forests. As early as 2009, shortly after coming into power, when they harvested the Rantau Panjang forest, clearing 443ha of forest reserve and replacing them with rubber estates. .

How many more times do we have to go through this? In 2014, a hearing was held on the degazettement of 106.65ha of the Ampang Forest Reserve for the construction of the East Klang Valley Expressway.

In 2016, two hearings were held on the proposals to degazette 30ha of the Sungai Puteh North and South Forest Reserves for the Sungai Besi-Ulu Klang Highway project, and 3.4ha of the Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve for the Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Expressway project.

Finally, we see instances where the Selangor State Government flagrantly bends the rules. In late 2019, the Selangor sent the  Department of Environment (DOE) the terms of reference of the EIA report stating that Selangor Agricultural Development Corporation is planning to develop an oil palm plantation it owned in Sabak Bernam.

However, nothing was said to the DOE about the  Selangor Smart Agro Park (SSAP) project at Changkat Menteri nearby, and no EIA was submitted. If simple and straightforward regulations like submitting and EIA can be dismissed, what else have they been flouting?

It seems strange that when it comes to the ECRL re-alignment, the Selangor State Government cares so much about the 170 million year old  Klang Gates Quartz Ridge in the Hulu Kelang Selangor State Park, when it barely peeped a squeak when the KL Outer Ring Road project threatened to cut a hole in it.

The final verdict? Report Card Performance: F

*The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of INS*