Crucial forests and marine life saved by EFT


PETALING JAYA: Federal funding allocated to various states has played a pivotal role in safeguarding critical forests and marine ecosystems from destruction, making it crucial for state governments to fully utilise such incentives.

Introduced in 2019, the Ecological Fiscal Transfer for Biodiversity Conservation (EFT) has effectively preserved vital areas serving as primary water sources and fishing grounds, which are also sources of income for coastal communities and food for the public.

According to the Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability Ministry, more than 90,000ha spanning across Kedah, Perak, Perlis, Penang, Selangor, Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak have been gazetted as permanent forest reserves via the EFT implementation.

“These areas provide essential ecosystem services, including water catchment areas and habitats for a diverse range of flora and fauna,” it said.

Furthermore, under the EFT, more than 250,000ha of coastal areas in Johor, Melaka and Sarawak have been gazetted as marine protected areas, it said, emphasising the importance of conserving marine and coastal biodiversity ecosystems such as mangrove forests, seagrass beds and coral reefs.

“Besides preventing erosion, these areas are important ecosystems that serve as habitat for fisheries and support the livelihoods of the fishing communities,” the ministry said.

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It said various states had utilised EFT incentives for state-level enforcement activities to complement initiatives like the Biodiversity Protection and Patrolling Programme to combat wildfire, poaching and illegal logging issues.

“In line with the EFT guidelines, states can also use EFT to promote sustainable forest management practices,” it added.

The ministry said EFT had bolstered enforcement and assessing their precise impact on reducing illegal logging would require a “comprehensive evaluation” in line with Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) principles.

“These include compliance with the annual allowable cut and the national forest management certification standard, as outlined in the Malaysian criteria and indicators for SFM,” it added.

The ministry also said it is currently undertaking a study in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme Malaysia to measure the effectiveness of EFT.

Since 2019, RM550mil has been allocated to the EFT, with this year’s allocation amounting to RM200mil.

Earlier this week, Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said one of the new approaches for state governments to enhance the impact of EFT includes implementing large-scale biodiversity and forest conservation projects through a blended finance approach.

This entails mobilising additional funds for the state government and strategic partners in addition to the EFT allocation.

Other measures include providing additional EFT incentives to states that amend their respective Forestry Enactment to align with the National Forestry Act (Amendment) 2022.

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