Why is the Ulu Muda water catchment area so important? Because it supplies 80 per cent of Penang’s water requirements, 96 per cent of Kedah’s and 50 per cent of Perlis’.
The Muda River basin has four major dams: the Muda Dam, the Pedu Dam, the Ahning Dam and the Beris Dam. The reservoir of the Muda Dam, which has a catchment area covering 98,400ha, stores most of the basin runoff and then channels this to the Pedu Dam.
The Muda, Pedu and Ahning dams come under the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada) whereas the Berish Dam is under the Drainage and Irrigation Department.
The catchment area for these four dams have been gazetted by the Kedah state government into five permanent reserved forests under the National Forestry Act 1984.
Unfortunately, designating an area as a ‘reserved forest’ does not offer much protection as it merely means the area has been reserved for future logging! In fact, 64.5 per cent of the area of these five reserved forests have been gazetted for timber production and only 32.3 per cent for water catchment, with the remainder being for research, education and recreation.
Check out the satellite images below, analysed by Penang Forum, from 2011 to 2016 to see the damage being done. (Actually, logging in this area was first detected by Mada scientists in the 1980s).
The deforestation has affected the quality and quantity of water stored, making it more expensive to treat the water.
These areas need to be protected under other classifications such as conservation forest, water catchment, recreational forest or protected forest for wildlife.
In fact, PBA wants Kedah to ban all logging in Ulu Muda and to gazette the entire area as a water catchment area. It also wants the federal government to compensate Kedah for the loss.
Meanwhile, a group of young students who visited the Ulu Muda rainforest and are concerned about the rare wildlife under threat have written this letter:
Please help us protect the Ulu Muda rainforest in Kedah
We are writing to express our concerns for the Ulu Muda rainforest that is currently under risk due to devastating logging activities next to Muda River. We want to share our experience of visiting this special, and one-of-a-kind forest that is a jewel of Kedah and something that Malaysia can be very proud to have, to ask for your help in protecting Kedah’s heritage and the biodiversity.
We are students who live in north Malaysia and were introduced to Ulu Muda through a unique programme where we bring groups of other students to experience this incredible forest. We call our project GreenSmiths, and our mission is to develop the leadership of young Malaysians through developing eco-engineering solutions and stewardship towards our earth.
Ultimately, we believe young Malaysians will seek to benefit their communities ways of living by continuously rethinking the way that we live with the Earth, developing solutions for the benefit of the current and future generation!
Recently we brought two groups of inspiring students from the government schools, SMK Bukit Selambau and SMK Tunku Sulong, to the rainforest, where they created videos documenting this rare, beautiful environment. They wanted to share the stories and images of the incredible range of animals and wildlife. They were lucky enough to even witness a whole herd of elephants including young calves – this is incredible!
Places like these are quickly disappearing globally, but we believe Ulu Muda can be preserved and become one of the best preserved original rainforests in the world. The students were amazing: they interviewed local boatmen and took videos and images of the wildlife. Many of them said they wanted to keep this for own children to see in the future, and want to bring other students to experience this amazing forest.
We recognise that climate change, water shortages, pollution, the need for a total revolution in food production, and a lack of sustainability are all serious risks to humanity. We also recognise these issues are complicated – but we believe strongly that together with the amazing local people who live around the forest, and with all Malaysians working together to protect their unique landscapes and environments, we could have something that people all over the world would be envious of: a truly untouched area of forest.
And who knows? There are undiscovered species and potential cures for diseases hidden in these forests. Let’s look to the future!
Please could you help us? We have heard there is serious logging right next to the water catchment area which poses are serious risk to health through water contamination, but also means that this beautiful area that is unique could be destroyed – and our children may never get to experience it.
We also want to thank you as we know there has previously been support and help from members of the Council in Kedah: we believe you care greatly for the people and communities and want the best for a state known for its incredible beauty across the whole of Malaysia.
We would be very happy to bring those who are not familiar to the forest to come and see for themselves the incredible wildlife that exists, and why preserving it for future generations is so important for all Malaysia, but also for humanity. Please join us in protecting Ulu Muda!
Yue Shern, Song, Jon, Jaslyn, Kathryn
Wonderful to see young people so concerned about the environment. That shows us there is still hope to stop the deforestation and restore what has been lost.