Protecting the Integrity of Kuala Gula Mangrove Forest


The mangroves forests within the State of Perak are distributed between the four coastal districts, namely Hilir Perak, Manjung, Larut Matang and Kerian. A large expanse of the mangrove, approximately 40,711 ha, is found in the Larut Matang District, which constitutes 19 forest reserves stretching from Kuala Gula in the north to Panchor in the south. The reserves include 34,769 ha of productive forest and 5,942 ha of non-productive forest. Some 95% of the mangroves are tidal swamps dominated by Rhizophora spp, with considerable local variation in quality. The area is of great economic importance for forestry and fisheries production. The mangroves and tidal flats around Kuala Gula in Kerian District are very important for local communities as they support very important coastal fisheries. There area is also of key importance for resident and migratory birds and other wildlife. Some portions of the area are a world re-known site as stopover area for migratory birds during the northern winter months and the area has been designated as an internationally Important Bird Area (IBA). Due to the number of birds been observed at this area,

Jabatan PERHILITAN has setup a ranger office here to do enforcement and also research. About 50 years ago a portion of the coastal mangroves at Teluk Rubiah just north of Kuala Gula was converted for a new village protected by a coastal bund. However due to erosion the bund was breached and the village was abandoned with most of the population moving to Tanjung Piandang to the North. This abandoned area is inundated daily by the tides and forms a key coastal habitat for mangroves, wildlife and fisheries. Currently, this area is heavily utilized by the local community as a fishing ground and/or tourism activities.


GEC and Perak Forestry Department supported the establishment of Sahabat Hutan Bakau (SHB) Kuala Gula in late 2006 to spearhead local mangroves rehabilitation actions. Seed grant was contributed by YBhg Tan Sri Razali Ismail to initiate consultations and dialogues with local community members in Kuala Gula in 2006. Since July 2007, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) has been partly supporting the SHB programme through the national programme on mangrove rehabilitation. SHB currently comprised of 40 members mainly fishermen and women who are committed to support the rehabilitation of mangroves forest in their village area. The programme aims to support empowerment of local communities towards rehabilitation of a mangrove forests ecosystem which can lead to both improved livelihood and welfare of the local communities and at the same time can protect and enhance the surrounding environment. Awareness and education on the functions and values of mangrove ecosystem among key stakeholders also need to be implemented to support sustainable resource management.

SHB members are actively involved in the nursery maintenance and mangrove planting activities. To date their nursery has a holding capacity of 30,000 seedlings and can produce on average 1,000 seedlings in one month for planting purposes. From 2007- 2013, SHB through its on-going public education activities has produced about 100,000 seedlings and planted them in an area more than 40 distributed in a larger area of 500 area at Kuala Gula including the abandoned village area and adjacent lands.. No less than 160 different groups have been involved with SHB mangrove replanting programme with total number of participants reaching nearly 10,000 people; mainly including schools and higher learning institutions, but also includes other community/ environmental groups like Fishermen Association and Eco-Warriors.


The land status of the current rehabilitation sites by SHB Kuala Gula is an issue of concern as some parties have previously expressed their interest to develop the area. Discussion with the Kerian District Office was initiated in year 2009 in order to clarify the land status. Discussions at ththis time with thhe district office indicated that most of the titles of the formal village were considered to have lapsed and no longer be valid. This concern was also raised during the National Mangrove Technical Meeting to seek further assistance in securing the rehabilitation site. An official letter was sent to the District Office (on 22nd August 2009) to propose the rehabilitation site as a buffer zone to protect the coast of the Kerian District (Annex. 3). Perak State Forest department has expressed their willingness to provide assistance in resolving the land issue. In September 2013 a meeting of the National mangrove technical committee was held in Perak and a site visit was made to Kuala Gula. At this time it was again proposed that better protection be provided to the protected mangroves. Subsequently the Perak State Secretary, Deputy State forestry Director and District officer visited the site and agreed to the gazettement of a new Forest Reserve to include the mangrove area that has been planted. This new forest reserve is in the final stages of gazettement.


Recently, a company called Sejati Manis Sdn Bhd (SMSB) has started work on a portion of the mangrove forest to which they claimed to have ownership, to be converted into shrimp ponds. The company claims to own 100ha of mangrove land in 38 lots and plans to convert all of this to prawn ponds. According to Sahabat Hutan Bakau members, this company has started work on 3rd February 2014 to clear the land and has only stopped on 10th February following protests by the local community, an article in Sinar Harian (local newspaper), and visits by various government Agencies, NGOs and others. The chronology of the events is as Table 1.

On 6th February, three Global Environment Centre (GEC) personnel, accompanied by a Forest Ranger from Jabatan Perhutanan Negeri Perak (JPNP) and two Sahabat Hutan Bakau’s members have visited the area. Photos from site visit can be seen in Annex 1. Based on measurements at the time of the visit, the area of mangrove cleared up till 6 February is approximately 2.28 ha in size. The coordinates of the cleared area are;

1. Lat : 4°57'19.55"N Long: 100°26'3.33"E ;
2. Lat: 4°57'20.09"N Long: 100°25'56.64"E ;
3. Lat: 4°57'23.41"N Long: 100°25'58.47"E

The location of the encroachment activities is within SHB mangrove tree planting activities site and about than 50m from tree seedlings planted by Y.Bhg. Dato’ Prof. Dr Hj Abdul Rahman bin Hj Abdul Rahim, The Director General of Forest Department Peninsular Malaysia (FDPM) in September 2013. It is a concern that if this encroachment is not stopped, it will get to the seedlings planted by Y.Bhg. Dato’ as well as other extensive replanted mangrove areas. The cleared area itself, as can be seen in photos in Annex 1 below, is also one of the many planting sites managed by SHB.

At the same time, Perak State Forest Department (PSFD) is in a process of gazetting a portion of the area are as a forest reserve to enable the area will get a better protection under National Forestry Act, 1984. The area which is currently cleared by this company is in the area formerly occupied by the village in Teluk Rubiah which was abandoned due to the natural erosion of the man-made bund.. The village was abandoned for more than 30 years and it is understood that the previous land titles have been revoked. It is suspected that whatever land title claimed by the company is based on this revoked title. The district office and state government has been supporting the local community efforts to rehabilitate the mangroves in the village area and more than 100,000 seedlings have been planted since 2007, in an area of about 300 ha with the participation of more than 10,000 people. In addition mangrove regeneration has been encouraged and the new mangrove forests protected.


Although the company SMSB has stopped its operations for now – it is likely that it will try to continue its efforts to clear the mangroves in this area and develop aquaculture ponds. If this is allowed to happen the main impacts are likely to include:
  • Loss of significant areas of mature and regenerating mangrove forests
  • Loss of critical coastal habitat of international importance for migratory birds and resident protected bird, mammal and reptile species.
  • Loss of value of the area for ecotourism (Kuala Gula is one of the 10 designated ecotourism sites in Perak State)
  • Destruction of natural tidal habitat and fishery habitat
  • Loss of income from the many fishermen (especially the poorer inshore fishermen) that harvest large amounts of fish, prawns and crabs in this habitat.

Disruption of coastal protection function of the mangroves increasing the chance of coastal erosion and damage to the coastal bund protecting inland plantations operated by Sime Darby Plantations Sdn Bhd and other companies.

In addition to the potential losses of current values for the site – the other justification for not permitting aquaculture development at the site is as follows:
The proposed project size is according to the project proponent more than 100 ha. Any development of Land-based aquaculture projects accompanied by clearing of mangrove swamp forests covering an area of 50 hectares or more requires a mandatory EIA study. It is clear from the proposed project size as stated by the proponent is larger than 50 ha and so an environmental impact assessment is mandatory. 

The proponent has started work to initiate the aquaculture project without having prepared an EIA and so is guilty of an offence. 

The claim to ownership of the area is apparently based on former land titles for an abandoned village which has been covered by the sea for 30 years. These former titles are no longer valid/have been extinguished according to the District office. 

The former titles were for agriculture crops on village land. A change in land use would be required for these areas to be converted to aquaculture ponds. It is understood that there was no request for a change in land use. 

The mangroves are in a region which has been subject to serious coastal erosion in the past with significant areas to the north negatively impacted by coastal erosion especially after mangroves are cleared for aquaculture ponds. Allowing the development will increase coastal erosion risk. 

The Forestry department id in the process to gazette a forest reserve to protect the mangroves which are being cleared.


It is recommended that the relevant government authorities ( including Forestry Department, Fishery Department, Department of the Environment and State and District Land Office) review the matter and clarify the legality of the proposed development and cancel any permissions or approvals that may have erroneously been given.

The respective state departments should expedite to provision of protected status to the area – either as Forest reserve, wildlife sanctuary or other appropriate status.
Further support should be provided to the SHB and local community in Kuala Gula to support their work to protect and rehabilitate mangrove resources.


Thanks are provided to the following for their assistance with the work in preparing the report and assessing the related issues:
Department of the Environment
Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia
Kerian Land and District office
Perak State Forestry Department
Sahabat Hutan Bakau (SHB), Kuala Gula
Sime Darby Plantations Sdn Bhd


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