KOTA KINABALU: The forestry sector’s development in Sabah, especially forest plantations, should not be viewed as a contributor to deforestation, says Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor.
This is because, according to the Chief Minister, it is carried out in compliance with the forest plantation development plan approved by the Sabah Forestry Department as well as thorough environmental protection requirements.
According to Hajiji, the claims by certain quarters that the development of the forestry sector in Sabah, especially forest plantations, has involved significant deforestation and affected forest cover were inaccurate.
Without naming these parties, he said, the accusers should have done more careful research of the facts and understood the context of forest management in Sabah.
“The Sabah government has identified a small portion of degraded forest reserves with an area of approximately 400,000ha for that purpose, as stated in the Action Plan on Forest Plantation Development 2022–2036.
“From a positive point of view, the development of forest plantations is one of the strategies of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) to restore declining forest productivity, reduce the dependence of the local timber industry on the supply of logs from natural forests, and ensure a sustainable supply of raw materials,” he said.
Hajiji said this in his speech delivered by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Joachim Gunsalam at the launch of the state-level International Day of Forests 2023 at the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) in Sandakan on Thursday.
On forest management, the Chief Minister said the Sabah government has always been committed to maintaining 50% of the state’s forest cover, in line with the Sabah Forest Policy 2018.
At the moment, Hajiji said, Sabah still maintains 64% of the state’s forest cover.
This involves 3,848,597ha (52%) of gazetted forest reserves and other protected areas.
To strengthen the state’s forest management and subsequently protect its important treasure, he said, Sabah has gazetted up to 1.9mil ha (26.4%) of forest areas as Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) in order to reach the target of 2.2mil ha or 30% of state land, by 2025.
“Along with that, the Sabah Forestry Department is drafting a Statewide Forest Master Plan, which will provide an action plan guideline for the management of forest resources for the next 25 years for forested areas throughout Sabah.
“Through this master plan, the Sabah government will ensure that all Ecological Sensitive Areas (ESAs) remain protected while not neglecting sustainable development for the well-being of Sabahans,” Hajiji said.