Access international funds to save our vital forests

Necessary: An aerial view made in March 2019 of Ulu Muda Dam and the surrounding Ulu Muda Forest Reserve. The forest is vital as a water catchment area. — ZAINUDIN AHAD/The Star

SAHABAT Alam Malaysia (SAM) calls on the federal government to urgently expedite efforts to secure international funds to help states protect and conserve their forests. Forests are vital in mitigating climate change effects and protecting biodiversity, and should not be allowed to be logged or used for other purposes.

SAM makes this call in view of reports in the media on Tuesday that quoted Kedah Mentri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor as saying that 40 forest concession holders have to be paid RM1bil in compensation or be given replacement forest areas to log due to the withdrawal of their concessions in permanent forest reserves by the previous government.

We appeal to the Kedah state government not to provide loggers with replacement forests but instead to seek federal government assistance in securing international funds that are available for forest protection and conservation.

Such international funds include the Green Climate Fund, the Adaptation Fund and the Global Environment Facility. These funds support developing countries in meeting their climate change and biodiversity objectives, which bring global benefits. Such funds recognise the need to pay for the ecosystem services provided by developing countries such as Malaysia that have tropical rainforests that act as carbon sinks in absorbing greenhouse gases, protect water resources, and maintain biodiversity. The funds can only be accessed with the support of the federal government.

The federal government must urgently access these funds and channel them to states that are rich in forests resources such as Kedah, so that Malaysia will be able to meet its international commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change as well as the Convention on Biological Diversity.

It is critical that the water catchment forest of Ulu Muda and its surrounding area (known as the Greater Ulu Muda Forest) be protected, as the sustainability of water resources is critical for the supply to millions of people. The forest serves the water needs of an estimated 4.09 million people in three states: About 96% of raw water in Kedah, 70% in Perlis and more than 80% in Penang comes from Ulu Muda.

These water resources are also vital in supporting the country’s rice bowl, which the Kedah MB has promised to protect.

Logging in the past has damaged areas in this vital forest reserve. We therefore appeal to the new Kedah state government to urgently gazette the Ulu Muda forest as a water catchment forest if this has not already been done, and not allow any activities within the area that would threaten its life-

supporting functions. Otherwise, we will be facing a serious water crisis in the coming years, aggravated by climate change impacts.

We reiterate that the federal government must take measures to compensate the Kedah state government for keeping its forests intact for the larger public good, in exchange for the loss it will suffer due to compensation claims from the loggers.

We call for no further delay in acting to save and protect the Ulu Muda forest, as well as other forests in Kedah that should not be given as replacement logging concessions. We should not be inviting future disasters, including from impending climate and water crises, that can result due to the destruction of our remaining forests and biodiversity.


President, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)

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