Save Peninsular Malaysia's Rainforests
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Over the past few years, large swathes of rainforests within Permanent Reserved Forests (PRF) in Peninsular Malaysia have been cleared to make way for Latex Timber Clone (LTC) rubber plantations. According to statistics from the annual forestry reports published by the Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia, the area within PRF in Peninsular Malaysia planted with rubber trees increased from 1,626ha in 2006 to 17,433ha in 2007 – an increase of nearly eleven-fold in one year! Even more alarming is the government’s target of 375,000 ha of timber plantations by the year 2020.
Most of the forests that have been cleared were important for the well-being of the rakyat, as they served as water catchments, flood retention zones, carbon sinks and provided many other valuable goods and services. All of these forests were also important for biodiversity, especially those that held populations of threatened/endangered species, were situated at the borders of national parks or functioned as wildlife corridors that linked important habitats.
A new LTC plantation in a PRF in Kuala Krai, Kelantan
Rubber plantations and other forms of non-forest land use should not be allowed within PRFs, as they cannot be construed as “forests”, and are poor providers of the important goods and services outlined above. The economic benefits from logging and plantations are minute compared to the long-term costs of losing natural forests and the services they provide. For example, the damage due to the devastating floods in Johor and the cost of flood mitigation, run into hundreds of millions of ringgit and much of this could have been avoided if more forests have been retained in the State. We must realise that conserving biodiversity is not just good for plants and animals, but also crucial to our very own survival.
As such, in this International Year of Biodiversity 2010, and following:
- the vision of our National Policy on Biological Diversity “To transform Malaysia into a world centre of excellence in conservation, research and utilisation of tropical biological diversity by the year 2020”;
- the pledge by the Prime Minister of Malaysia in 1992 that the Government of Malaysia undertakes to ensure that at least 50 per cent of our land area will remain permanently under forest cover;
- the objective of the National Policy on the Environment, which is to achieve “Conservation of the country’s unique and diverse cultural and natural heritage with effective participation of all sectors of society”;
- the objective of the National Forestry Policy to “Protect the environment as well as to conserve biological diversity, genetic resources and to enhance research and education”, and
- the 8th strategic reform initiative of the New Economic Model, which is to “ensure sustainability of growth” by placing strong emphasis on preserving our natural resources by applying appropriate pricing, regulatory and strategic policies to manage non-renewable resources sustainably,
we, concerned Malaysians, urge our government to undertake the following:
- Review the National Forestry Policy and the National Forestry Act 1984 in order to: a) Incorporate measures for greater long-term protection and landscape-level management of natural forests; b) Strengthen measures for biodiversity conservation and economic valuation of ecosystem services; c) Improve transparency and avenues for public participation in forest management including the degazettement process for Permanent Reserved Forests and in the approval of development projects within these reserves; d) Adopt a definition of forests that incorporates the biodiversity values of tropical rainforests in Malaysia and that excludes forest plantations or any form of monocultures.
- Review the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Order 1987 to include forest conversion of above 50ha on any land (whether forest reserve, state land forest, hill land, lowland etc.) under the list of prescribed activities that require Detailed Environmental Impact Assessments (DEIAs).
- Hasten the incorporation of federal government-led Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes to provide financial incentives for state governments to maintain forest cover.
- Investigate alternative and innovative sources of revenue streams from natural forests, which do not require the clearing of forests and loss of biodiversity.
- Immediately halt all forms of conversion of natural forests in order to maintain and eventually increase the present forest cover of Peninsular Malaysia.