As posted by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at Che Det on November 10, 2014
1. As I was being driven along one of the magnificent roads in our country, I saw a stream of lorries loaded with logs passing in the opposite direction.
2. I asked my companion who was from that area as to who the logs belong to.
3. He turned and smiled conspiratorially and whispered the owner’s name. I could hardly hear him but it would seem he was afraid of being heard. He was clearly scared although apart from the driver and my ADC there was nobody else in the car.
4. Vast stretches of our forests are being cleared but nobody seems to know for whom the logging is done. But what is obvious is that our most valuable heritage – the great rain forest is being destroyed.
5. There are many reasons for cutting down the trees. Firstly of course is to extract timber legally and illegally. Then there is the clearing for development of rubber and palm oil plantation. These are very big, totalling millions of hectares over the years.
6. Small time farmer clear hillsides to plant ginger and other vegetable. Each farm is small but the total area for ginger is big.
7. The mining for iron ore and other minerals has begun again. Huge forest areas are being denuded as open cast mines expand and expand in area.
8. Living space also requires forest area to be cleared. As towns expand, the poor sell their suburban kampongs and move to forest areas where legally as well as illegally low cost houses are erected.
9. Between all these reasons for clearing the forest it is said that 70% of our forest have been cleared.
10. So what happens? This country is in the rain-forest region. Rainfalls are very heavy. In the past the rain falls on the thickly leafed trees of the forest and the thick undergrowth and much rain does not reach the ground. On the ground the trunks and exposed roots cause the water flow in any own direction to be slowed. So much of the water seeps into the ground or dries up.
11. Some of the water flows to lower ground and form tiny streams, which in turn form bigger streams which flow into the rivers. The speed of flow is slow obstructed by roots of trees and shrubs and rocks. Erosion of the ground is limited.
12. As the rain water now falls directly on the bare earth and immediately flows rapidly towards lower ground, the volume grows along the way. The rivers become swollen, rising rapidly and flow downstream. The massive amount overflows the banks and floods the surrounding land. The ground softens and landslides occur.
13. This is the origin of floods and landslides. No one can deny that the deforestation is causing this. Many are going to die and many have died.
14. We are fortunate in that we are free from typhoons. Our neighbours are not so lucky. We need to clear some forest for living space. But greed has overcome us and we are clearing too much of our forests too quickly.
15. First there is a need to stop illegal clearing of forest, to stop corruption that goes with it. Then we need to look again at legal clearing. Do we really need to make money from logging. Do we need to give out concessions for this? The people who get the concessions are not really poor. They should make more money than they already have some other way.