UNDOUBTEDLY biodiversity and water resources are closely interconnected in a complex ecosystem. Our country’s rich biodiversity, including its vast tropical rainforests, plays a crucial role in the regulation and conservation of water resources.
According to Bank Negara’s (BNM) 2022 annual report, Malaysia is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including water stress by extension.
The report outlined interactions between biodiversity and climate change, noting that “nature-related risks refer to risks from the decline or loss of ecosystem services, biodiversity, and natural assets (such as water and forests).”
One key takeaway from BNM’s report is the importance of mindfulness when it comes to how we use our natural resources, as overuse not only harms our communities but also our economy in the long run.
Unfettered activities like illegal logging have a direct negative impact on the environment, from depleting natural forest covers to polluting our waterways. These actions lead to the loss of habitats and fragmentation of ecosystems.
Forests are also Mother Nature’s defence system; they reduce soil erosion, prevent landslides, and regulate the flow of water since they act as a sponge that absorbs rainfall and stores it within the soil, preventing it from flowing too quickly into rivers which can cause flash floods.
And when it comes to the water cycle, trees regulate precipitation, evaporation and flow. For instance, our forest canopy is responsible for storing and releasing water vapour, which affects our rainfall.
Protecting our natural heritage
In recognising the importance of forests in preventing natural disasters, the government has implemented various measures to protect our forests, such as the National Forest Policy 2021 which is geared towards sustainable management and conservation of our forests.
In addition to these policies, the government has also implemented reforestation programmes to restore degraded areas, which help to increase the capacity of forests to absorb water and reduce the risk of flooding. These initiatives are not only beneficial for protecting vulnerable communities but also support the country’s efforts to combat climate change by increasing carbon sequestration.
More than just mitigation measures, there’s been steps towards investing in our natural capital and natural heritage sites over the last decade.
For instance, Royal Belum State Park – one of Malaysia’s most iconic national parks located in the northern region of Perak – spans over 117,500ha and is home to the “other Malaysians” that include the Malayan tiger, Malayan tapir and Rafflesia flower just to name a few.
The park is located within the Belum-Temengor forest and is one of the oldest rainforests in the world, estimated to be over 130 million years old. The forest complex spans over 300,000ha, covering parts of Perak and Kelantan, making it crucial in protecting the water catchment areas for the surrounding communities.
The Royal Belum State Park is also part of the Central Forest Spine (CFS) initiative, which was first established in 2014 with support from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The goal is to connect the fragmented forest reserves in Peninsular Malaysia to create a continuous forest corridor to improve wildlife migration, genetic exchange and ecological resilience.
Other forest complexes under CFS include the Greater Taman Negara Forest Complex and Endau-Rompin-Sedili Forest Complex.
The Star also reported that a total of 250,250.33ha of forests in Selangor have been gazetted as permanent reserves to date which is equivalent to 31.65% of the entire Selangor.
“The gazettement was done under the Enactment (Application) of the Selangor Forestry Act,” said State Tourism, Environment and Green Technology, Orang Asli Affairs Committee chairman Hee Loy Sian at the Selangor State Assembly sitting on Aug 2, 2022.
Earth Day serves as a timely reminder of our responsibility to protect and preserve the environment – conserving our flora and fauna is an integral part of this effort, as it helps maintain biodiversity and ecological balance.