Farms

Action on illegal farms
By DHARMENDER SINGH

NEARLY 2,800ha of forest reserve land in Selangor has been cleared illegally for farming activities, resulting in a myriad of environmental and other problems affecting the surrounding areas.

According to Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, the state government has decided to take fast and firm action against the illegal farming activities on the forest reserve land.

He said that action had started yesterday to recover and rejuvenate the illegally cleared 525ha of the Raja Muda Musa forest reserve near Batang Berjuntai.
Coming down: A tractor demolishing a shed during the operation.

Khalid said that action would then be taken to redeem and regenerate the other affected areas.

He said the clearing of forest reserve land by illegal settlers was reported to him by the state Forestry Department several months ago and he had ordered it to take action against those responsible.

Khalid told reporters this after opening a seminar on Increasing Padi Yield in Kuala Selangor yesterday.

I am aware that some illegal settlers in Batang Berjuntai have claimed that they are poor and had cleared the land as they have no other means of earning a livelihood, Khalid said.
Moving in: Officers from the Forestry Department checking on an illegal structure before demolishing it.

But not all of them are genuine claims as some of the settlers had invested large sums to clear the land and start crop planting works, he said.

Khalid said that for those who were genuinely poor, the state government had instructed the district offices concerned to provide them alternative land and also to help them in their farming operation.

He said the action to tear down sheds, shelters and also houses at the illegal farms at the Raja Muda Musa Forest Reserve yesterday was a warning to all those occupying such land in the state.

Khalid said the state government was serious about putting an end to the illegal activities to preserve the forest reserves.

He said the forest reserves were vital as the water catchment areas were feeding rivers that irrigated farms and were also tapped for drinking water.

According to Khalid, the encroachment into the Raja Muda Musa Forest Reserve had to be resolved first as it is affecting the water supply to the farms in Kuala Selangor and Sabak Bernam.

There are about 9,000 farming families in these two districts and we cannot jeopardise their livelihoods for the sake of those who decided to break the law and open farms illegally, he said.

About 300 officers from the Forestry Department, police, Rela, Kuala Selangor district council and district office, Fire and Rescue Services Department, Public Works Department, Veterinary Services Department and the Immigrations Department took part in the operation at the Raja Muda Musa Forest Reserve yesterday morning.

The illegal settlers were not around when the officers moved in at about 9am.

According to Selangor Forestry Department assistant director Mohd Yussainy Md Yusop, the team used two tractors to demolish 22 sheds, two houses and two large animal pens.

We had been worried after the rumours that the illegal settlers were going to try to prevent us from entering the land but I am happy to see that there decided to stay away, Yussainy said.

He said some illegal immigrants were seen working at the site earlier but they were not around yesterday.

Yussainy said the department would need several days to clear the land of the debris from the demolition and also remove all the cash crops.

He said they hoped to start replanting the forest species by the middle of this month.

Yussainy also refuted claims that the department had given approval to the settlers to start farming there and then turned around later and chased them out.

The approval we gave them was as E category farmers.

Our rules require anyone wanting to apply for forest reserve land to get this certification before their applications for land can be considered, he said.

We never gave them approval for the land at this forest reserve and, even if we had, our rules only allow forests species to be planted and not cash crops like tapioca, pineapple and banana, Yussainy said.

link:http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2008/12/5/central/2723995&sec=central

will we see this action for the “illegal” swiftlet farm??