KUCHING: Environmental groups have expressed delight with Sarawak Chief Minister’s announcement to curb illegal logging by halting the issuance of concession licences temporarily.
“The action by Tan Sri Adenan Satem is very much welcomed,” said Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia director Dr Melvin Gumal in a statement recently.
“The issue of illegal logging has been festering for many years. Such wanton destruction of the forest affects the wildlife within. Efforts to stop illegal logging will go a long way towards conserving wildlife as the habitat is protected,” added the 2014 Whitley Award winner.
Other statements of support - albeit tinged with cautious optimism - were also issued by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Malaysia Nature Society (MNS).
Last Thursday in Sibu, Sarawak’s timber town, Adenan said had to “act tough” on illegal loggers before matters went further out of hand. The CM was speaking at the second “Seminar on Integrity for Sarawak’s Enforcers” held jointly by the state Government and Malaysian
Aside from no more new concession licences, Adenan said current licence holders were required to report to the relevant authorities on any illegal activity within or outside their concession areas.
“When they seek to renew their licence or to extend the time period, we will see how much they have carried out their responsibility,”
Adenan was quoted as saying. Last month, at the first integrity seminar in Kuching, he had announced the arming of 50 Forest Department enforcers.
WWF-Malaysia chief executive Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma praised Adenan’s recent moves but continued to urged for a third-party auditing system to be implemented.
Dionysius also said, while it was good to rope in current licence holders to provide information, the authorities also “needed to take
prompt actions upon receiving reports of such activities”.
“Sarawak should also go for an independent auditing on timber to improve management... enhance transparency and strengthen the state’s credibility in long-term improvements.”
MNS Kuching chairman Anthony Sebastian called the ceasing of new concessions a necessary move. “Loss of timber revenue is not the only issue at hand - Sarawak continues to suffer from poor credibility in high-end markets throughout the world, and bringing illegal activities to a complete stop is a key first step towards rectifying this.
Ultimately, Sarawak’s goal is to open up better and bigger markets for its timber. Illegal activities stand in our way.”
However, Anthony, a conservation consultant, said this “critical issue” was “more complicated” than simply to link licensing with enforcement efforts.
“Rampant illegal logging and smuggling are not always linked to timber license holders. There are other players in this game and efforts need to be strategically directed at all the drivers of illegal logging to be effective.”