A Utusan Malaysia (a local Malay language daily) expose on the ecological damage done to the Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam Agricultural Park kicked up a huge hue and cry in Malaysia, and hopefully also stimulated more decisive actions to protect the environment by the Malaysian government.
The environmentally friendly Prime Minister of Malaysia took a hands on approach to the scandal and took to the air for a first hand look the the damaged landscape. and was highly upset by what he saw, a huge difference from the "Semuanya OK" (Everything OK) response by the Mentri Besar (Chief Minister) of the affected State Selangor.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said, “If you do not want to develop the land, give it back to the Government. We will set up recreation parks for the public instead.”
The new champion of the environment also announced various measures to protect the Malaysian environment, among which are:
1. IMPOSING Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirement for any development covering 20ha of land and above. The current minimum is 50ha;
2. FORBIDDING developers from cutting down trees with a diameter of six inches (15.24cm) or more in new housing areas; and
3. RECLAIMING idle land set aside for development and converting it into a recreation area for the public.
Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi will also personally chair a National Committee of
Physical Development meeting on April 1 to discuss changes to existing policies and instruced agencies to monitor and study existing guidelines and laws to make sure they stay relevant.
The hue and cry also promted the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to propose to the Selangor government that it hand over the 886ha park to the ministry to develop and monitor.
The Minister said, "It is the hope of this nation that the beauty of the park be maintained for future generations. By gazetting its status as federal land, no one will lose out.”
The Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry will claim compensation for ecological damage done to the Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam Agriculture Park by developers of Section U10 Shah Alam. “We will ask all 39 developers to pay damages. The cabinet has also told the state government to take stern action against the developers and ensure that they will carry out rehabilitation works,” The Agriculture Minsiter said.
The embattled Mentri Besar (Chief Minister) of the affected State Selangor, Datuk Seri Dr Mohamed Khir Toyo and his councillors were forced to take various damage control measures including:
1. issuing a stop work order to the housing developers to protect the environment
2. announcing a "probe" to quiz developers on how they were given approvals for projects around the Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam agricultural park in Shah Alam.
3. Forming with immediate effect, a technical development committee chaired by state secretary Datuk Ramlan Othman would decide on approval of development projects close to environmentally sensitive areas. Other members of the committee will be from the Anti-Corruption Agency, the police as well as various state and federal heads of department.
4. A new ruling announced by Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo for an indefinite freeze on applications for development projects at places such as the Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam Agriculture Park, Templer's Park, Zoo Negara and Paya Indah Wetlands.
5. Two companies, will be brought to court, will be charged under the Shah Alam City Council Earthwork by-law 1990. Seven other errant developers will also appear in court next week for alleged illegal land-clearing at Section U-10.
What is disturbing, however, is this. A measly RM2,000 - that's the maximum two companies will have to pay for not providing retention ponds and a satisfactory drainage system near the Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam Agricultural Park.
In another development the Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo has
promised to "let the people decide" whether a proposed landfill should take place on Pulau Carey after appeals by non-governmental organisations and environmentalists to the State Government to spare the island.
Pulau Carey, so called ‘heritage island’ is under threat from a proposed landfill to be located in the middle of a mangrove swamp about a kilometre from the Tanjung Rhu beach on the island. If approved, this project could displace an Orang Asli community and destroy the mangrove swamp which could act as a buffer against tsunamis.
Background on the "heritage" Carey Island.