KUANTAN: The Pahang government has defended the clearing of some 404ha of land beside a water catchment area in Hulu Sempam near Raub for a Musang King durian plantation.
State executive councillor Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin said the government was looking forward to making Pahang the hub for Musang King in the region.
The Musang King durians, he said, were not only meant for export as such plantations were great tourist attractions in themselves.
He said tourists were willing to book entire lots just to taste these durians.
“It depends on how you look at it. For me, I am viewing this positively.
“I am very much looking forward to making Pahang the Musang King durian hub in the region,” said Mohd Sharkar, who is in charge of the state Tourism, Environment and Plantations portfolio.
The clearing of land in the Hulu Sempam area in Raub, he said, was completely above board.
The Star had reported on Tuesday that the plot, which borders the Batu Talam forest reserve, was being cleared for Musang King trees.
A check with the Pahang Forestry Department confirmed that the project was owned by the Perbadanan Setiausaha Kerajaan, a state-linked company.
A logging licence had also been awarded for another piece of land adjacent to the plot.
The department also said the project was located outside the boundaries of the forest reserve and did not need its permission.
The project, however, has been met with concerns by environmental organisations such as WWF-Malaysia, which pointed out that the area has been identified as Environmentally Sensitive Area Rank 1 in the Pahang Structural Plan 2050 draft.
The group said the area was also a confirmed habitat for the critically endangered Malayan tiger, of which there is less than 300 estimated in the wild.
Mohd Sharkar said in order to meet the increasing demand for Musang King durians, the state government had given its approval to embark on the plantation project.
“Of course, when we plant something, we have to chop down trees to do that. This is normal.
“However, this is done on government land and we have gone through the proper procedure in approving the project. It is absolutely legal,” said Mohd Sharkar.