KOTA KINABALU: A prolonged El Nino-induced dry spell in Sabah has led to the state Forestry Department warning of potential forest fires if no preventive measures are being taken.
Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said the dry spell had been observed since February.
“The conditions could lead to a situation similar to that in 1997 and 1998 when 130,000ha of forest reserves were destroyed by fire,” he said yesterday.
Those living near forest reserves should take steps to prevent fires from being intentionally started in their areas, he said.
Mannan added that illegal hunting, shifting cultivation and land development near forest reserves were among the main causes of fires.
He said preventive measures should also be taken at peat forests such as the Binsuluk Forest Reserve at Klias and Kuala Abai in the Kinabatangan district.
“Fires in peat forests are difficult to extinguish,” warned Mannan, adding that those caught starting fires in forest reserves were liable to a jail term of up to seven years and a RM100,000 fine.
In another development, he said about 3.6 million hectares or 49% of Sabah’s total land mass had been gazetted as Permanent Forest Reserves under seven classes: Class I is Protection Forests, Class II Commercial Forests, Class III Domestic Forests, Class IV Amenity Forests, Class V Mangrove Forests, Class VI Virgin Jungle Reserves, and Class VII Wildlife Reserves.
More information is contained in the department’s recently released Fact Sheets of Forest Reserves in Sabah.
Mannan said the publication includes data such as newly gazetted areas, reclassifications and excisions as at Dec 31.
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