By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Nov 18: The home-grown RT-Paulownia trees, unique for its fast-growing and regenerative capabilities on top of its good wood qualities, can contribute to sustainable forestry in Sarawak to satisfy growing demand for wood, support the timber industry and create economic opportunities for farmers, while minimising environmental impact.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg commended TSG Green for exploring and bringing in the Paulownia tree species to Sarawak which has subsequently been cultivated into a local-breed variant that has adapted very well to the local tropical climate.
“This is similar to the model in Norway and Finland where they plant pine trees. I observe that this is a suitable (model) seeing how Scandinavian countries grow wood in an economic and sustainable way where raw materials are produced from planted forests.
“We (Sarawak) have similar policy where our degraded forests can be replanted and one of the fast-growing tree species is Paulownia other than our indigenous tree species especially in our permanent forests,” he told a press conference after a tree-planting ceremony and officiating at the opening of TSG Green RT Paulownia Tissue Culture Laboratory at Titanium Tower here today.
While there are other fast-growing tree species for sustainable wood, Abang Johari emphasised the Paulownia has been proven to grow well in Sarawak’s tropical climate and soil with adoption of technology and proper care.
“At the plantation site in Samarahan the soil is not good, but it can still grow well.”
He also noted that the Paulownia tree is a multipurpose species that will benefit reforestation, as well as supporting a sustainable timber industry as the wood harvested can be used to produce many products and contribute to the fight against climate change as it can trap carbon dioxide.
With its fast-growing and regenerative capabilities in which the lumber can be harvested within three to four years and the tree stump can regenerate up to six cycles, Abang Johari pointed out that it will definitely sustain the need for raw wood materials in Sarawak in the long run.
“If the price is not too expensive, it can also be used for our affordable housing as well as for roof trenching.
“So there are many benefits. Furthermore, the leaves can also be used as animal feed which is suitable in our efforts to develop our agriculture and livestock breeding industries.
“The leaves that fall onto the ground can become fed to cattle. In addition, it can also become organic fertiliser for plants,” he said.
This initiative, Abang Johari added, will contribute to the State government’s efforts in planting 35 million trees by 2025.
“People in the rural areas can also take advantage and plant this tree species.”
Meanwhile, TSG Green founder and executive chairman Chris Chung pointed out that the organisation aspires to supply at least 10 per cent of the Licensed Planted Forest (LPF) land with RT-Paulownia trees to help the government’s initiative to plant 35 million trees by 2025.
“We are looking forward to collaborating with smallholders as well as the local communities as they now have the option to plant the RT-Paulownia apart from other crops such as oil palm.
“We will remain in line with the Chief Minister’s vision and leadership on sustainability — environmentally, economically and socio-economically,” he said.
Chung emphasised that there is a high demand for Paulownia wood in Japan, China, South Korea, Europe and even the United States of America due to its high durability, strength-to-weight ratio as well as moisture resistance and low energy conductivity properties that make it less susceptible to shrinking and swelling.
“These remarkable qualities make RT-Paulownia wood ideal for the downstream segment from building materials to interior decoration, furniture, fire door panels, musical instruments, water sports materials and many more possibilities,” he added.
“We will work towards realising the vast possibilities for Sarawak. We are confident that RT-Paulownia can put Sarawak on the world map, as a leading supplier of sustainable timber,” he said.
Earlier, Abang Johari visited the TSG Green Nursery and R&D Centre situated in Kota Samarahan.
Assistant Minister of Urban Development, Land Administration and Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh, Forest Department Sarawak director Datu Hamden Mohammad and TSG chief operating officer Jacque Chian were among those present. — DayakDaily