The Pahang Forestry Department (JPNP) said they have found no activities of logging or land clearance at Sungai Telemong after photos of mass wooden debris floating out of the river near Karak surfaced during the recent flash floods
According to Bernama, the department said site checks and aerial surveys using drones found no indication of logging activities at the Lentang Forest Reserve, government land, and alienated land near where the debris appeared at Jalan Bentong-Karak and the Sri Telemong bridge.
JPNP director Datuk Dr Mohd Hizamri Mohd Yasin said there was no indication of logging as the trees and logs had no signs of being chopped
The department suspects that the wood waste was uprooted and came from outside the forest reserve, carried by strong river currents caused by heavy rainfall.
"Heavy rain for three days since 16 December caused Sungai Kerau (also known locally as Sungai Telemong) to rise to an unusual level and resulted in a water surge phenomenon. The rising river water resulted in swift currents," Hizamri said during the site visit, as quoted by New Straits Times.
"Since the fast flowing water was travelling downhill, it resulted in an extreme water column impact, which swept along wood debris, large trees, and even caused landslides."
In a statement last night, 29 December, the department added that Lentang Forest Reserve has been gazetted as a water catchment area since 2002, which means it is a protected forest and no logging activities have been allowed in the area.
Hizamri said the public should not put the blame on the government as they have been always trying to safeguard the environment and look into the needs of the community.
Earlier, 45 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had urged the federal and Pahang governments to launch an independent inquiry on the appearance of the wooden debris
According to a joint statement by Sahabat Alam Malaysia, the mass sea of timber debris had clogged Sungai Telemong and led to floods and destruction of several villages last week.
They added that 10 lives have been lost to date.
The NGOs said the incident warrants a thorough and immediate investigation, especially into the "extensive logging and clearance of forests at steep hills along the main range and completely inadequate erosion and sediment controls in these developments".
Speaking to New Straits Times on Monday, 27 December, Sabai assemblyperson Kamache Doray Rajoo also raised questions about the wooden debris that is said to have caused the worst flood in the area in decades.
"My question is where did these logs or wood debris in Sungai Telemong come from? How did it end up there? The authorities need to investigate and explain the truth to the people," she said.
"Everyone is aware about the usual floods but this one incident at Telemong, with tonnes of washed up wood and debris, resulting in houses being covered with thick mud, this is unusual."
JPNP said further action will be taken to remove the wooden debris as soon as possible
The department added that further checks will be conducted again with helicopters in early January to get a clearer picture of the issue and the location of the water surge in the forest reserve.