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No illegal logging in Tawau, says Sam

Published on: Monday, August 04, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah Forestry Director Datuk Sam Mannan on Sunday denied any illegal logging activities in Tawau, with the exception of small timber (bantalans) involving two or three trees occurring sporadically, believed to be the work of squatters.

He said arrests and prosecution were made from time to time on these people.

"Therefore, the allegation on illegal felling and flooding in Tawau does not arise at all.

At the same time, to eliminate sporadic small timber felling, the squatter issue must be resolved," he said in a statement.

He was responding to the claims by Kalabakan Member of Parliament Datuk Abdul Ghapur Salleh that illegal logging activity in Tawau was to be blamed for the flash floods that affected Tawau town recently.

Sri Tanjung Assemblyman Chan Foong Hin also asked whether the present forest clearing activities to pave way for the construction of the geothermal power plant had reduced the capacity of Tawau's main water catchment, resulting in the flash floods.

According to Sam, all forest reserves in the vicinity of Tawau town were for protection or recreation and that no licences have been issued for logging purposes.

"In the past, two protected areas - Ulu Kalumpang and Andrassy Forest Reserves - were badly encroached for illegal oil palm covering some 4,000ha of good forests.

"The encroached areas have been retrieved back to the full control of the Forestry Department and the suspects arrested, charged in court and the illegal oil palm destroyed.

"The 4,000ha have largely been replanted, protected and managed at great cost to the Government.

"This illegal clearing, believed to be staged and managed by locals using illegal immigrants, may have accelerated flooding as years gone by," he said.

At the same time, Sam said the Forestry Department had rented out about 20 hectares of open and degraded land at Andrassy Forest Reserve for buildings and development of part of the geothermal project.

"No logging occurred therein due to the poor condition of the site save for replanting of transplanted trees on the 20 hectares," he said, adding that the development of the geothermal project at Tawau Hills that resulted in timber production was largely due to the need for road access.

"The timber produced are fully accounted for and disposed off legally.

The developer has all the proper permits from the landowner, i.e. Sabah Parks.

"We do not know the genesis of the photos (accompanying Ghapur's report) of the logging trucks and the cargo carried, as published.

"If from the Parks area, then they are legal and accounted for," he said.

As to the cause of the flooding of Tawau town, Sam said the Department was made to understand that the expert authority was investigating the matter.