‘Rethink our forested areas’

PETALING JAYA: The campaign to plant 100 million trees in the next five years is a good initiative to improve the country’s forests in terms of quality and quantity, say experts.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) president Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail said tree planting needed to be done throughout the country but areas must be identified for such purposes.

“We need to identify places and plant the right trees for the right purposes. We need to reassess the size of our forested areas in the country and define the areas clearly, not just the forest but also the purpose of it.

“For example, considering water catchment areas for their capacity and sustainability, wildlife habitat, riparian zones, green areas for residential and urban areas, mangroves, among others, ” he said.

Prof Ahmad said this when asked to comment on the 100 Million Trees Planting Campaign 2021-2025, which is expected to be launched today.

Prof Ahmad said forest classifications needed to be reviewed and defined properly.

He said Malaysia had always been on the forefront and was committed to many environmental issues such as climate change, global warming and biodiversity, among others, and as such, tree planting was a must “before it is too late”.

Prof Ahmad said more people needed to support the campaign.

He said some areas needed trees planted as it could help solve the environmental problems there, such as to help reduce erosion, protect coastal areas from erosion and preserve the habitat for marine life.

He also hoped that both federal and state governments would have a parallel vision in keeping enough forested areas in the country.

“Every state must keep enough green areas. Those states that do not have enough forested areas can identify the areas and plant the trees, besides keeping and improve the existing forest that they have, ” he added.

Environmentalist Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed hoped that only local species plants would be used for the campaign.

“It should be local species and not some naturalised South American or African species, ” he said.

Prof Maketab added while it was a good initiative to plant trees, it was also pertinent to ensure proper monitoring and care were given to the trees.

“This is not a photo opportunity where the saplings are planted and left and forgotten. Most will die without proper monitoring and care, so they need to be monitored, cared, and dead and diseased plants need to be replaced, ” he added.

Prof Maketab also felt that the initiative should also involve local communities as it would empower them.

He said job opportunities could also be created by assigning locals to monitor and replace the dead or diseased plants.

“Local communities can create and manage small nurseries instead of giving the contracts (to maintain the trees) to big companies, which would transport saplings a long distance and hire foreigners to take care of their nurseries, ” he added.

Prof Maketab said that in the long run, the initiative would also be good for the wildlife as habitats were rehabilitated.

The 100 Million Trees Planting Campaign is to spread awareness to Malaysians on the importance of preserving the country’s forest areas.

Muhyiddin will plant the first tree, which will be the national tree merbau.

The official theme of the campaign is Greening Malaysia: Our Trees Our Life.

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