ALOR SETAR — Kedah will probe claims that at least 30,000 acres (12,140ha) of hill land between Kulim and Baling have been turned into the “world’s largest Musang King durian farm”, as claimed by a man in an undated video.

The area to be cleared is about two and a half times bigger than the size of Putrajaya.

In the clip, a man is seen claiming that the Gunung Inas area would soon be the “largest durian farm ever”, with 500 Musang King saplings already planted.

Gunung Inas is located in southeast Kedah, between Baling in the north and Kulim in the south, with the Perak border not too far away in the east.

Speaking to FMT, Kedah menteri besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor said this issue was an old one that he inherited from the past administration, adding that it was addressed last year.

He said after he took over as the menteri besar last May, he had ordered the durian planting works on Gunung Inas to stop after it caused mud floods in the valley two months later.

Sanusi said the land clearing was also suspected to have affected a river serving 3,000 villagers.

“I have ordered the relevant agencies to revert with an immediate status report,” he said when contacted.

Last July, it was reported that Sanusi had ordered a company planting durians on a 600ha site near Gunung Inas to plant cover crops and timber trees there, after the Kupang sub-district in Baling was flooded following a downpour, bringing swathes of mud from the cleared hills.

In December 2019, the then Kedah Environment Committee chairman, Simon Ooi Tze Min, had revealed that the owners of the site had obtained environmental impact assessment (EIA) approval in 2013, including the nod from the state Forestry Department.

This came after the Kupang district was flooded back in 2019. Ooi had said then that the authorities would investigate if the hill clearing had caused the flash floods.

Meanwhile, Sahabat Alam Malaysia president Meenakshi Raman said durian plantations should not be allowed in forested areas as this would result in the destruction of pristine rainforest.

“Already, the country is facing controversy over oil palm and forest destruction, and now it has to contend with durians.

“The forests are our natural carbon sinks and we must do all we can to mitigate climate change by not allowing more forests to be cleared. The claims in the video must be investigated,” she said.

Environmental activist Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said the ultimate power to stop such land clearing was with the menteri besar.

She said the state government should come clean on whether any EIA approval was given and if there was one, who had approved it.

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