TWO non-governmental organisations have urged the Sarawak government to end peatland destructions that are taking place rampantly there.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and Friends of the Orangutans (Foto) said large-scale development and cultivation of peatlands were damaging tropical peat swamp forest resources and its natural functions.
SAM council member Mohideen Abdul Kader said Sarawak has about 1.6mil ha of peatland and by early 2000, the state had lost some 100,000ha peatland to oil palm plantations.
“Besides being rich in biodiversity, tropical peatland plays an important role in regional and local water cycle, climate and landscape stabilisation,” he told reporters during a press conference in George Town, Penang, on Tuesday.
Besides that, Mohideen said tropical peat soil was like a giant sponge, soaking up water and helping to mitigate flooding.
He added that despite the peatland’s important functions, deforestation of it for conversion to agriculture and timber plantations was still being carried out widely.
Foto director Upreshpal Singh said that peatland is a fragile and unique ecosystem, and development on peat causes severe environmental impacts.
He added that communities living near the peatlands have also informed Foto that their livelihood have been affected severely since the peatland destruction started.
“We have also met Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem in October last year, to provide evidences on the peatland clearing.
“He assured us about his desire to protect Sarawak’s natural resources, however, until now, no action has been taken against the clearings,” he claimed.