Forestry director denies Rimba Watch’s report, cites AG’s report confirming S’wak has 7.65 mln ha or 61.4 pct land area covered in forest

File photo for illustration purposes only.

KUCHING, March 22: Sarawak has 7.65 million hectares (ha) or 61.40 per cent of total land area covered in forest as the Sarawak government has never neglected its commitment to balance development with environmental sustainability, especially in maintaining forest areas.

Refuting a report by Rimba Watch that suggested “an alarming loss of forest cover in Malaysia” based on study projections made by Global Forest Watch published in a national daily, Sarawak Forest Department director Datu Hamden Mohammad said this data was confirmed by the Auditor General (AG) 2021 Series 2 Report on the Special Audit of Forest Management and Environmental Impact, Activities of Ministries/Agencies and Compliance Audits of Ministries/State Agencies published on Jan 6, 2023.

“The AG Report also concluded that forests in Sarawak have been sustainably managed to provide socio-economic benefits while maintaining environmental sustainability.

“The estimation made by Rimba Watch was based on the perception of the current trends during the opening of land for development. We do not deny that Sarawak is rapidly developing towards becoming a developed region by 2030.

“Indeed, there are areas of land that have been opened up for the purpose of developing various sectors such as agriculture, urban development, housing, industry and so on. However, Sarawak strives to balance development with environmental sustainability,” he said in a statement today.

Based on the Sarawak Land Use Policy 2012, Hamden stressed that seven million ha of forest areas have been dedicated as permanent forest (six million ha) and fully protected areas (one million ha).

Moreover, he emphasised that environmental sustainability is the main agenda in Post-Covid-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) 2023 by the Sarawak government in its aspiration to steer Sarawak towards being a progressive region by 2030.

Among the other measures that have been taken included conserving and rehabilitating degraded forest areas with large-scale tree planting programmes throughout Sarawak under the Greening Sarawak campaign and Greening Malaysia with Sarawak committed to plant 35 million trees during the 12th Malaysia Plan.

“From 2021 to now, Sarawak has successfully planted 21,091,995 trees. Various planting campaigns and programmes have been carried out vigorously with the cooperation of all parties.

“To reduce deforestation rate, the Forest Management Certification was made mandatory for all Long-Term Forest Timber Licence areas. So far, a total of 18 Forest Management Units (FMUs) with an area of 1,476,244 ha have successfully obtained the certification while a total of six Forest Farm Management Units (FPMU) with an area of 94,966 ha of FPMU area have obtained the certification by the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) which is recognised by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) which is based in Geneva,” he explained.

In addition, Hamden pointed out that logging licensees have also been required to carry out enrichment planting by planting trees in their respective concession areas at an appropriate rate to replace the trees that have been cut down.

To reduce dependence on timber sources and keep forest areas from being explored, he said Sarawak is leveraging on carbon trading as the new economic sources with Forests (Forest Carbon Activity) Rules 2022 drafted and approved while a Carbon Study Permit issued to operators of carbon license areas.

“Sarawak has also adopted advanced technology which has been widely used to ensure that forest areas in Sarawak are carefully and systematically monitored with Continuous Monitoring and Surveillance (COMOS) to combat illegal logging and detect forest violations with the help of sophisticated DA42-MPP aircraft technology.

“In addition, this advanced technology is also used for forest restoration programmes, especially in remote and hard-to-reach areas, for example in deploying tree seeds using seedballs and drones (SARABOM project),” he said.

With all these efforts, Hamden emphasised that Sarawak will be able to maintain its forest cover and environmental sustainability for the wellbeing of the people. — DayakDaily