Sarawak stepping up fight against illegal logging, deforestation — Awang Tengah

Hamden (left) and Awang Tengah looking at exhibits at UPM Bintulu yesterday (March 23, 2019).

KUCHING, March 24: Sarawak is declaring war against illegal logging and irresponsible deforestation in the state.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said enforcement would be beefed up jointly with federal agencies to curb these illegal activities.

In addition, the state would enhance its Sarawak Timber Legality Verification System (STLVS), which involves licencing, harvesting, transportation, manufacturing and marketing of logs and wood-based products.

Tightening of the system would include verification by a third party and to intensify enforcement to ensure compliance and to curb illegal activities involving wood-based products.

“To ensure compliance with the STLVS, the state government has come up with a standard, where a third party will be appointed to audit those with timber licences registered with the STLVS panel to audit their logging areas.

“After auditing and the timber company passed, it would be granted the STLVS Statement of Compliance certificate by the auditor and the STLVE Audit Certificate of Completion by the Forest Department,” Awang Tengah said at the state-level World Forest Day celebration at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) in Bintulu, yesterday.

He stressed that all timber companies must comply with this new standard by next year. After that, only timber products from STLVS certified timber companies would be able to market their products.

Meanwhile, Awang Tengah also said the state government would continue to transform the state’s timber sector and balance the delicate line between conservation and the timber industry.

He said obsolete laws and policies would be reviewed in line with current development and best practices while taking into account all forest functions from the economic, environmental and social aspects.

However, he shared that the state government would also need to consider the interest of all stakeholders, including forest industry investors, supporting businesses, timber workers, those communities who live or work in the neighborhood of forestry activities, consumers of timber, environmental services providers, special interest groups like educators, researchers, and the public at large.

“An estimated 100,000 Sarawakians are depending on the development of the timber industry for their livelihood. We will continue to equip forest agencies with various skills and embrace the latest technology in the conservation and management of our forest resources,” he assured.

Hamden (front, right) and Awang Tengah (watering tree) engaging in the World Forest Day tree planting ceremony.

Meanwhile, state Forest Department director Hamden Mohammad revealed that the state had the country’s widest forest coverage, which is at 64 per cent or 12.4 million hectares.

He said the Forest Department had also declared 2.06 million hectares of Totally Protected Areas of the state forest in the state, which involves 45 national parks, 15 natural reserves and five wildlife sanctuaries.

Hamden also acknowledged and highlighted efforts by the state government to protect the state’s forest by stopping the renewal and issuance of timber licences.

“As of January 31, 2019, only 141 timber licenses are still valid, compared to 477 licences in 2014,” he revealed.— DayakDaily