Fresh, clean air could be Sarawak’s next big product

Abang Johari (right) planting a tree as a symbolic launching of Sarawak Forest Landscape Restoration Programme at the Sabal Agroforestry Centre.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, June 15: Sarawak is planning to produce a new product – bottled fresh air for human consumption, to tap into a new and niche market that could help people in heavily polluted countries like China.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg pointed out that although Sarawak may not have such a need, pure and fresh clean air was very important to developed countries plagued by pollution.

“Take for example major cities like Shanghai and Beijing, a bottle of fresh oxygen is sold between RM57 to RM176,” he addressed a press conference after launching the Sarawak Forest Landscape Restoration Programme at the Sabal Agroforestry Centre near Simunjan here today.

The ‘Mensawa Kunyit’ species is among the tree saplings being nurtured at the nursery at Sabal Agroforestry Centre.

“At the same time, this would also give Sarawak the opportunity to explore the pharmaceutical industry or market by exploiting resources of the state,” he said.

Furthermore, he added that Sarawak had the technology for the purpose and was presently in the phase of identifying the right destination market.

On forest restoration efforts in Sarawak, Abang Johari highlighted that the state government was targeting to revive degraded forests in the state within five years.

“The restoration programme will target logging areas which have been degraded and swampy areas rich in ‘ramin’ trees in the past,” he said.

“Under the plan, some five million trees need to be planted starting next year until 2025,” he added.

Thus, he said scientific research in production of tree saplings that can grow fast was important in order to achieve the desired outcome for Sarawak.

“With the collaboration with corporate bodies like Shell Bhd, the plan can be achieved,” he added.

Abang Johari also announced the Belian tree (Eusideroxylon zwageri) as Sarawak’s heritage tree that could be propagated but not for export.

He also revealed that a new department, the Wildlife Department will be set up to enable more focused efforts on wildlife development and conservation.

The programme today also witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on preservation and conservation of the environment in Sarawak between the Sarawak Forest Department and  various parties including Shell Bhd, Sarawak Energy Bhd and Japan-Malaysia Association.

The joint collaboration was aimed at developing a 560,000-hectare of land with potential for land conservation in the state. — DayakDaily