THE Friends of Ulu Muda (FOUM) is a coalition of organisations and individuals working to protect the 160,000ha Greater Ulu Muda Forest. This forest plays an important role in supporting the livelihoods and well-being of the people of Kedah, Penang and Perlis. It is an irreplaceable part of Malaysia’s – and the world’s – natural heritage.
Recently, the Kedah state government announced its intention to give out replacement logging concessions to avoid legal claims from 40 logging companies amounting to RM1.5bil. However, the true value of the Greater Ulu Muda Forest is much greater than RM1.5bil in terms of its socioeconomic value and its role in preserving the identity and heritage of Kedah and surrounding regions.
The forest is key to the prosperity of the northern region of Peninsular Malaysia, as it supplies water to support agriculture, industry, tourism and households. The Muda, Pedu and Ahning dams regulate the supply of water for 4.2 million people (“Logging at Ulu Muda Forest Reserve back in focus”, The Star, May 30; online at bit.ly/star_ulu) and support economic activities that together bring an estimated annual revenue of RM150.5bil to Kedah, Penang and Perlis.
Irrigation with water from the Greater Ulu Muda Forest enables double cropping in the padi fields of Kedah and Perlis, which contribute up to 50% of the nation’s rice production. In view of the Covid-19 crisis and the resulting disruption of rice imports, Kedah can play a vital role in strengthening Malaysia’s food security. However, the destruction of the Ulu Muda forest may jeopardise padi production and the livelihoods of 48,500 farmers.
The Greater Ulu Muda Forest harbours priceless beauty and important biodiversity. It is home to many threatened wildlife species such as the Asian elephant, Malayan sun bear, Malayan tapir, Malayan pangolin, agile gibbon, hairy-nosed otter, clouded leopard, sambar deer, and well over 320 species of birds. It is one of only two sites in Malay-sia where all 10 species of Malay-sian hornbills can be found. Ulu Muda is also a viable tiger habitat recently surveyed in the National Tiger Survey. Furthermore, the area is an important carbon sink, increasing the resilience of the nation against climate change.
FOUM understands that protecting the Greater Ulu Muda Forest and securing the state’s income is a challenging task. FOUM believes that sustainable financing mechanisms such as Payments for Ecosystem Services, coupled with heightened commitment and accountability, are appropriate steps moving forward, as they would enable the Kedah government to earn sustainable revenue in the long term from the area’s ecosystem services. Funds may also be sought from international agencies, the federal government, and other parties to help Kedah to protect the area while maintaining a source of revenue.
FOUM hopes the Kedah state government will prioritise the protection of the Greater Ulu Muda Forest and consider the wellbeing of the rakyat, state and environment.
Our members are ready to offer support in terms of technical expertise and advice on the development of a sustainable and environment- friendly plan to protect the Greater Ulu Muda Forest and help support the post-Covid 19 recovery in the region.
FRIENDS OF ULU