KUCHING: The Sarawak Government has announced it intends to have 1.5 million hectares of totally protected areas (TPA) eventually.
Second Resource Planning and Environment Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the new target was 500,000 hectares more than the previous aim of one million hectares.
“The Government is working towards increasing permanent forest estates (PFE) and TPA - not just to maintain what we already have. Our target is to have six million hectares of PFE and 1.5 million hectares of TPA,” Tengah said on Saturday at the state level celebration of the United Nations’ International Day of Forests here.
“The 1.5 million hectares of TPA will include new national parks, nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. The Chief Minister has also said existing TPAs should be enlarged,” he said.
Since last year, state Government officials have been saying as many as 20 new national parks and wildlife sanctuaries could be created, including extending current ones like Kubah National Park.
But it was not until Tengah’s speech over the weekend when it was made known just how much more of Sarawak’s 12.4 million hectares landmass would be protected.
The state currently has 30 national parks, six wildlife sanctuaries and eight nature reserves, according to the Sarawak Forestry Corporation.
These encompass about 602,035.8 hectares of land, not including 229,789 hectares of protected bodies of water.
In January 2014, Bruit National Park near Mukah was extended, while Gunung Lesong National Park, in Sri Aman, was created. More recently, the Tun Ahmad Zaidi Nature Reserve, in Sibu, was also created.
National parks and forest reserves can be opened to the public but wildlife sanctuaries are not.
In a related matter, Tengah also announced standard operating procedures of the Forest Department, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation and Harwood Timber Sdn Bhd would be revamped.
“To ensure all the agencies in timber carry out their role as intended, the state Goverment has agreed to restudy their SOPs. This is to ensure there will be no conflicts between roles and responsibilities. This is for better management,” the minister said.
To improve public environmental awareness, Tengah said tree planting activities would be organised with the private sector and non-governmental bodies.
At the same event, Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem invited the private sector to join the newly announced Special Task Force Committee on Illegal Logging and Monitoring Enforcement and Preventative System.
On the campaign against illegal logging, Adenan said: “Weak enforcement, basically, that is the problem. The best deterrent is not so much the penalty, it is the certainty of being caught.
“People do things because they are certain never to be caught. But if they are certain to be caught, that is the deterrent. That involves enforcement. So, I’m sorry lah, but this is what’s got to be done. We have to take a firm stand now, otherwise we’ll have to take a desperate stand later on.
“At first, they thought I do not mean business. Now they know. At first they thought I was just an idle threat. Everyday we carry out raids. It is like opening up a can of worms.”