I REFER to the article “Extra 100,000 ha of forests to be gazetted” (The Star, Oct 30).
I highly welcome the announcement by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel of such effort but at the same time wonder about its implementation.
Forests come under the full jurisdiction of state governments and only they can gazette areas as forest reserves.
I am also sceptical about the statement that gazetting extra forest reserves could counter illegal logging.
Would gazetting alone be sufficient to curb illegal activities without consistent patrolling and enforcement?
Despite the welcoming announcement that an additional 100,905 ha are to be gazetted as forest reserves (FR), it is terrifying that things are also happening the opposite way.
There are rampant conversions of FRs especially into timber latex clone (TLC) rubber tree plantations nationwide.
Based on statistics provided at the Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, the total area of forest reserves to be converted is 439,489 ha for the whole of peninsular Malaysia.
That is more than six times larger than Singapore which is 71,000 ha in area! Kelantan is leading in the statistics with 199,000 ha of conversion while Perak is second with 100,000 ha.
Although the status of the land remains as FRs, what difference
does it make when all the natural forests and biodiversity are wiped out on such a massive scale?
Strangely, these conversions into TLC rubber plantations are mostly occurring in FRs and not much on other lands which are not being used productively.
What is more terrifying is that there are even wildlife reserves being converted into such plantations, especially in Johor.
Are we in such critical condition that even protected areas need to be planted with crops that were not even native such as rubber tree from tropical South America?
It is often mentioned that logging would cause much disruption to our fragile ecosystems but these conversions are far more destructive and cause permanent loss of natural resources and biodiversity.
I am not against sustainable logging where only selected sizable trees are harvested with proper control but totally wiping out our precious biodiversity through complete conversions should not be allowed.
We are proud to acknowledge ourselves as one of the few biodiversity rich countries in the world. However, we also seem good at destroying it. It is also sad that there are still many biodiversity species in this country which are not documented.
There are also species with potential direct benefit to mankind being wiped out even before they can be documented.
The federal government may come up with policies and plans for forest reserve and other protected area expansions but all that will only be in vain as only the state governments have the authority. Some are guilty of doing massive conversions silently.
I would like to urge both the state and federal authorities to work hand in hand to end the conversion of FRs and other protected areas for the benefit of the future generations.