PUCHONG residents received a New Year gift from the Selangor state government in the form of a promise not to develop the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve.
In a New Year celebration in Puchong on Saturday morning, Selangor Tourism, Consumer and Environment Committee chairman Elizabeth Wong announced the state’s decision to abort the proposed cemetery project in the forest reserve.
Since April 2004, the residents had been fighting for the project to be scrapped so that the forest would remain a green lung.
In 2008, more than 1,500 residents from Saujana Puchong, Lestari Puchong, Bandar Bukit Puchong, Gateway Puchong and Mutiara Indah submitted a petition, protesting against the development, to the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ).
Forest in the city: The Ayer Hitam Forest Forest in Puchong is believed to have been settled by the Temuan orang asli tribe 400 years ago, and is rich with flora and fauna.
Wong described the state’s decision as a victory for the people.
“The forest reserve is rich with flora and fauna and thus should not be developed,” Wong said.
The forest is believed to have been settled by the Temuan orang asli tribe 400 years ago, and they are now living in two villages nearby.
Orginally, the forest spanned some 4,270ha, but it was degazetted for a variety of land uses over the years.
As of February 2009, 1,217ha had been gazetted by the Selangor government as an education and research forest.
Under the jurisdiction of the Selangor Forestry Department, the forest is on an 80-year lease, dating from 1996, to Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
Wong said the forest reserve was exclusively for scientific research and not open to the public, except with permission from the forestry department.
Nonetheless, following the residents’ demand, the state government is now looking at degazetting a part of the forest reserve for a recreational forest.
“If possible, the site should be a degraded forest.
“We’ll probably cut some trails and make it into a site like Bukit Gasing.
“But we are not going to chop down trees for this, so as not to defeat the whole purpose,” Wong said.
The orang asli, who have vast knowledge of the forest, would be invited to be part of this plan by working as guides or guardians.
Wong added that the effort in retaining the forest reserve was in line with the United Nations’ International Year of Biodiversity, which was launched on Monday in Berlin, Germany.
“It is a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity in our lives.
“We will do more this year to avert the crisis,” Wong said.
Meanwhile, the state government, through the state planners, is looking for a more suitable site for the cemetery project.