1km buffer zone imposed to protect Mulu National Park

KUCHING: A 1km buffer zone will be imposed along the common border between Mulu National Park and a provisional lease (PL) area issued to a plantation company, says a Sarawak assistant minister.

Urban Planning, Land Administration and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Len Talif Salleh said this was part of measures to ensure the integrity of the national park's boundaries and prevent any encroachment or disturbances.

He said a 200m buffer zone from the national park's boundaries had already been set up in line with an environmental impact assessment report approved by the state Natural Resources and Environment Board.

"For this particular area, the common border shared with Mulu National Park is about 5km, of which 3km are in the highlands and 2km are in the lower lands.

"For this particular stretch of boundary between the national park and PL area, we are going to issue a directive that a 1km buffer zone will be imposed," he told the Sarawak Legislative Assembly when replying a question from See Chee How (PKR-Batu Lintang) on Thursday (May 2).

Len Talif also said the area approved for plantation activities did not overlap with the area gazetted for Mulu National Park.

However, he said the state government was taking steps to ensure that the activities of the plantation company, Radiant Lagoon Sdn Bhd, do not affect Mulu's status as a world heritage site or damage its ecosystem.

"These include continual monitoring through air and ground surveillance by the state Forest Department and Sarawak Forestry Corporation to make sure there is no encroachment into the national park," he said.

In recent months, the company had been confronted by Berawan, Penan and Tering indigenous groups in the area. They resorted to setting up blockades to protest from forest-clearing activities in the national park's vicinity.

To a supplementary question from See on whether logging operations had been halted for government agencies to investigate claims of encroachment into native customary rights (NCR) land, Len Talif said there was no official claim of NCR in the PL area.

"As a matter of practice, before the issuance of any PL, the Land and Survey Department has to follow certain procedures to ensure that no NCR area will be included in the PL area," he said.

On an international Save Mulu campaign which See said had attracted over 45,000 signatures so far, Len Talif said hoped none of the signatories were locals, as they would be "digging their own graves" as oil palm was a "lifeline" for rural areas.

He said the state government had set aside three million hectares of state land for oil palm, comprising plantations and smallholdings.

"At this point in time we have planted 1.6 million hectares, so we are still far behind the target area," he said.

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