GATEWAY TO MALAYSIA’S NATURAL HERITAGE


Sime Darby Property unveils the Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre

ENVIRONMENTAL, social and governance (ESG) practices have been increasingly recognised by organisations as more than a responsibility, that they are opportunities to build a sustainable business and a key differentiator to enhance relevancy and improve stakeholders’ trust.

In the current business landscape, one of the key aspects that are given priority by reputable organisations relates to their contribution towards conservation actions, including preservation of rainforests where its rich biodiversity is essential to the well being of the people and the planet.

Preservation of rainforests is the most cost-effective defence that we have against the loss of biodiversity and climate change.

Rainforests play a practical role in keeping the planet healthy, as they are natural air filters, regulate the flow of water, prevent soil erosion, the habitat for animals and plants, as well as provide a source of medicine and natural resources that support livelihoods of the indigenous people.

With deforestation today caused by commercial interests such as logging, cattle ranching, industrial agriculture, mining, power generation and energy production, the long-term health of rainforest ecosystems has been degraded and this only depletes natural assets.

Dubbed as the Gateway to Malaysia’s Natural Heritage, the 0.44ha Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre is to be used for conservation actions, research and development, environmental education, eco-tourism and other green initiatives.Dubbed as the Gateway to Malaysia’s Natural Heritage, the 0.44ha Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre is to be used for conservation actions, research and development, environmental education, eco-tourism and other green initiatives.

With these issues in mind, Sime Darby Property Bhd (SDP) set up the Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre (ERKC) as one of its ESG initiatives in their sustainability agenda.

The ERKC is located in Sime Darby Property’s township City of Elmina in Shah Alam and adjacent to the Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve.

Dubbed as the “Gateway to Malaysia’s Natural Heritage”, the 0.44ha ERKC is to be used for conservation actions, research and development, environmental education, eco-tourism and other green initiatives.

Additionally, ERKC will host workshops and hands-on interactive classes for residents, students and the public to learn about tropical rainforests, wildlife, tree planting and the environment.

“Without a doubt, the launch of this new facility in the City of Elmina will certainly chart a new milestone in SDP’s sustainability journey towards continuously building sustainable townships and communities for future generations,“ said Sime Darby Property group managing director Datuk Azmir Merican at the official launch of ERKC on Monday.

Selangor Ruler, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah graced the event, together with Tengku Permaisuri Selangor, Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin and Raja Muda of Selangor, Tengku Amir Shah. The royalty visited the Elmina Living Collection Nursery (ELCN) and there they planted seedlings of Malaysia’s national tree – the merbau.

“In our role as a responsible corporate citizen, SDP is committed to be a ‘Force for Good’ towards enhancing sustainable developments and practices not just in our offices, but also in our townships and assets,” said Azmir.

“That is why we have consistently emphasised sustainability as a hallmark and signature of everything we do at the company – be it initiatives, programmes or efforts.”

As a sustainable property developer, SDP is committed to making conscious environmental impacts and delivering on these commitments via its company-specific 2030 Sustainability Goals, which are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

‘SDP is committed to be a Force for Good towards enhancing sustainable developments and practices not just in our offices, but also in our townships and assets,’ said Azmir.‘SDP is committed to be a Force for Good towards enhancing sustainable developments and practices not just in our offices, but also in our townships and assets,’ said Azmir.

The company is guided by its sustainability strategy which is anchored by four main imperatives – decarbonising its operations and products; shaping inclusive and resilient communities; implementing good biodiversity practices; and, maintaining a socially responsible organisation.

“Through these strategies and targets, coupled with our people’s strong passion and hard work, I am confident that SDP is on the right track towards achieving the sustainability agenda of adopting ethical ESG practices for shared prosperity with our stakeholders,” said Azmir.

“Biodiversity is perhaps one of the best ways to solve our problems, by maintaining ecosystems not just so animals and plants can flourish but so humanity can survive. Healthy forests and oceans are essential and rewilding of the majority of these spaces is our key to survival.”

In 2019, Sime Darby Property partnered with the Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre (TRCRC) to develop the ERKC and the adjoining 4ha ELCN to be a genetic store for the production and conservation of native tree species including those categorised as endangered, rare and threatened under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

From the start of its operations in October 2020, TRCRC has successfully nurtured 187 species of plants including over 35,000 seeds sowed and more than 10,000 tree saplings stored in its holding area.

The seedlings that have been planted at the ERKC are also farmed out to other areas in Selangor for conservation efforts, with over 1,000 trees grown in this facility planted near the Klang Gates Dam and along the Klang River.

Since 2011, Sime Darby Property has planted over 120,000 trees within its townships to help mitigate the effects of climate change.

The ERKC also demonstrates SDP’s circular economy practice such as the reuse of building materials, which in turn helps to eliminate waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems.

“I am confident that the ERKC will live up to its role as a premier centre of environmental conservation and help safeguard the biodiversity of endangered and threatened plants – aligned with our aim of producing up to 50,000 IUCN red-list trees by the year of 2030 and planting them at our townships and developments,” said Azmir.

Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah planting a merbau at the Elmina Living Collection Nursery. – BernamaSultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah planting a merbau at the Elmina Living Collection Nursery. – Bernama

As of last year, more than 21,000 of these trees have been planted in SDP’s developments.

“It is our hope that the ERKC will one day become the nation’s foremost knowledge centre in conserving and preserving Malaysia’s biodiversity, and be a role model for international conservation efforts,” he said.

TRCRC executive director Dr Dzaeman Dzulkifli added: “It is my hope that with the ERKC initiative everyone who comes to visit can improve their environmental literacy and learn about the intricacies of nature and our dependence on it.”

Speaking to newsmen later, Azmir said: “We partnered with TRCRC so that we can get expertise and inputs to help us in our conservation efforts. Our main objective is to provide a one of its kind facility, in partnership with an NGO, with the idea of educating, and can get this knowledge over to the people of all ages.

“It is necessary to pass this knowledge to the children because they will be our future. It is so important for children to understand the impact and difference they can make once they appreciate nature, once you know you will be able to do something.”

He said the ERKC activities are funded by SDP’s philanthropic arm Yayasan Sime Darby.

“We educate on conservation and it is activity-driven, which does not involve much money. It is the impact that we are after,” Azmir added.

Sime Darby Property deputy chief operating officer (township development) Appollo Leong said that the ERKC cost about RM2mil.

“We minimised the cost as we reuse a lot of recycled materials from another location. We dismantled one of our showrooms so we are able to reduce the costs.”

Leong said that the ERKC would be a source of forest tree species that the developer could plant in its townships.

“In a normal landscaping nursery, you will not be able to find these rare, endangered and threatened species. When we first started planting these (rainforest trees), we had difficulty sourcing them.

“With this initiative we will have a constant supply of forest trees, so that we can plant in our townships,” Leong said.

Selangor Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) director Dennis Ten Choon Yung lauded SDP’s initiative, saying: “This centre will get full support from us, as we must protect the habitat of wildlife.”

Harbir Gill, chief composter of Ground Control Sdn Bhd, one of the exhibitors at the launch, said his company provided compost-based soil blends for seedlings at the ERKC.

“Forest seedlings react better with compost soil,” he said, adding that the company also conducts composting classes at ERKC.

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