Press Statement By Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng In Komtar, George Town On7.7.2013
Penang Will Support Kedah’s Efforts To Seek Federal Funds To Help Conserve The Muda River Basin And Water Catchment Areas.
Penang will support Kedah State Government’s efforts to seek federal funds to help conserve the Muda River Basin and water catchment areas for the benefit of three states – Kedah, Penang and Perlis. We should be clear that the Muda River does not only benefit Penang. Kedah also draws water from the river for their water supply and irrigation needs. The Muda River is also an important water source for the southern area of Perlis.
As such, the preservation of the Ulu Muda catchment in Kedah is a federal issue because it involves three states’ water supply as well as the conservation of a natural forest area for the benefit of all Malaysians. As noted on the Friends of Ulu Muda (FoUM) website (saveulumuda.com), the catchments in Ulu Muda, which cover an area of 160,000 hectares, has been under threat by prospect of logging since 2002, as well as forest conversions, illegal and unregulated extraction of forest resources and unsustainable tourism development. As such it has been recommended that:-
All logging in the Ulu Muda forests should be stopped immediately, and the Federal Government directive of 18 May 2003, which bans logging at the Ulu Muda Forests, should be upheld;
Since the Ulu Muda forest reserves yield clean water for most of the northern states on the west coast for farming, domestic, tourism and industrial use, the Kedah State Government should gazette the forest reserves as water catchment forests under the National Forestry Act 1984;
For the sake of preserving the rich biodiversity of the forests (plants and wildlife), the protection of the greater Ulu Muda forests should be enhanced by establishing a State or National Park; and
The Federal Government should deliver on its promise to compensate the Kedah State Government for not logging the Ulu Muda forests.
As much as 96% of Kedah’s and 80% of Penang’s water supplies originate from the Ulu Muda forest. The Muda Irrigation Scheme which accounts for 40% of total rice production in Malaysia, also relies greatly on water sourced from the Ulu Muda forests.
Therefore, Kedah should act quickly and get Federal funds to conserve the source of the Muda River. Federal funding is justifiable because the Ulu Muda forests are:
A critical raw water catchment for three states,
An indispensable irrigation resource for Kedah as the ‘Rice Bowl of Malaysia’, and
Green and biologically diverse areas that should be gazetted as a National or State Forest Park for the benefit of all Malaysian nature lovers now and in the future.
If necessary, the Penang State Government will support Kedah’s application for Federal funding to protect the Ulu Muda forests. I am sure the Perlis State Government will also support the application. After all, in Chapter 6, page 305, of the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015), under the heading of ‘Building an Environment that Enhances the Quality of Life’, the Federal Government had stated that it will “undertake initiatives to encourage states to gazette forests, especially the water catchment areas, as protected areas”.
If Kedah is sincere in conserving the Ulu Muda sustainably, it should rightly seek compensation or funding from the Federal Government for two reasons. Secondly, the Federal Government definitely has the financial resources to pay Kedah, especially following the takeover of water assets by the Federal government through Perbadanan Aset Air Bhd(PAAB). PAAB had committed itself to ensuring adequate raw water supply when Penang signed the water migration agreement with PAAB on 2 June 2011, which was witnessed by the Prime Minister himself.
LIM GUAN ENG
Reference: Lim Guan Eng