SHAH ALAM, 4 JULY 2022: A community engagement forum was held recently to highlight the importance of protecting and preserving the Shah Alam Community Forest (SAFC) drew keen interest and lively debate from participants.
Jointly organised by non-governmental organisation SACF Society, the forum was aimed at discussing the significance of the forest as well as developing ideas to continue to safeguard the vital green lung.
Participants at the forum included various stakeholders such as residents, hikers, nature-lovers as well as representatives from educational institutions, community-based organisations and nongovernmental organisations.
SACF Society founder and secretary Alicia Teoh said the event served as a platform to establish a two-way communication between advocates and the public to work together to protect the forest.
“It is clear from the forum that the participants from diverse backgrounds unanimously desire the preservation of SACF for public health and environmental sustainability. They are also very aware of the Selangor government’s key role in this matter.”
Teoh added that there was an urgent need to protect SACF as a proposed development could see some 60% of the forest cleared for a mixed housing project and other uses.
It was reported that Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS) is undertaking a project called Bandar Sierra Alam, leaving only 34.52ha of the 174ha primary forest left to be called “PKNS Community Forest”.
SACF honorary treasurer Dr Teckwyn Lim said the Selangor government was misleading the public as the land is still a forest reserve.
“It has yet to be excised as there was no gazette notification in the Selangor State Government Gazette.”
One of the participants, Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam president Damien Thanam Divean, said that the event was a good opportunity for more people to become involved in community-led activism.
“What is lacking in Malaysia is a highly organised community forest management.”
“SACF is doing a very good job in that scope to protect their patch of community forest by educating the public, conducting biodiversity surveys, engaging with environmentalists and running workshops.”
“Such efforts should be acknowledged and further funded by the government instead of planning to develop such an important area for housing, graveyard and roads.”
President of Friends of Bukit Kiara, Ir Dr Kriban G Naidu, commended the stakeholders’ forum as an incredibly useful coming together of ideas and understanding of what is at stake when urban green lungs are threatened.
“We debated about who the beneficiaries and stakeholders are, considered the benefits of green spaces and documented the outcomes of loss. What was most striking is that the lessons from the SACF journey are clearly applicable to all CBOs in this space and the need to develop common agendas was powerfully demonstrated.”
“We congratulate SACF on this effort and look forward to further sharing in the near future.”
During the forum, participants expressed their concern that more natural disasters like flooding are likely to occur if the forest is destroyed, causing widespread infrastructure damage.
This would affect taxpayers who are essentially the primary stakeholders in all governmental decisions concerning the environment.
One of the ideas generated by participants to help with the preservation of the forest was for the community to consistently engage with lawmakers to ensure the public’s voices are included in the due consideration process.
Participants also highlighted the importance of harnessing the collective power of existing pressure groups to create a unified effort to achieve its targets.
Others called on policymakers to use their political will by adapting the carbon budget as a core component of the nation’s green policy as well as creative use of social media to generate more awareness.
Participants concluded that the government must prioritise environmental protection. Political parties and candidates will be assessed by their commitment towards climate change action in the upcoming GE15.
Funded by the United Nations Development’s Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, the forum was held on June 25 at Third Space in Bandar Bukit Raja, Klang.