Clogging Rivers, Choking Lives

Published: 24 February 2015

The day after the workshop at Kampung Cenaweng in Grik, we took a boat ride to visit the flood-affected settlements in the Temenggor Dam area. But the first place our Temiar friends wanted to show us was the Sara River where it meets the lake proper.

The sight was utterly distressing. Log remnants and other timber debris floated like a wet blanket across the whole width of the river. The river cannot be used to travel to areas upriver where the Orang Asli have their fields, or where they used to forage, hunt and fish.

This river was once an angler's haven. And an important natural resource that assured the Jahai and Temiar communities' in this area a superior quality of life – both materially and spiritually.

The heavy rains in December caused the water-level in the dam to rise. This set the logging debris and timber discards flowing down the river until the flow was slowed by its entry into the lake. In no time, a 'log' jam was created.

No one is taking responsibility for this. Hence no apparent attempt to do something about it.

Certainly the loggers are not going to go out of their way to clean up the mess. After all, the logging was apparently done in accordance with the standards and criteria of the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) – standards that are supposed to guarantee resource continuity, environmental sustainability and respect for the rights of indigenous and local populations.

We still have a long way to go before we realise what a treasure we are losing – and what disasters our decisions can cause.

CN-COAC | 24 February 2015

This is how the river was like in 1996. 


Logging in the area was intensified only in the last few years. The other 'more accessible' areas, such as nearer to RPS Banun, were logged first. 


You can't but feel a sense of despair upon seeing the mess caused by logging activities.


Logging is still going on in this "permanent" forest reserve.


What most people do not realise is that in Malaysia, 'permanent forest estates' or PFEs are actually forests set aside for productive or commercial logging. 


So, in reality, there is really nothing permanent in permanent forest estates in Malaysia. Except perhaps the assured right for some to exploit its ancient timber.


One cannot help but feel sad at the way this area is managed. Or rather, poorly managed.



For sure, the logging is still going on in the area. This photo was taken close to the log jam, in the neighbouring inlet.


The logs are coming from hillocks a few kilometres away, not on the Sungai Sara.