Urbanites urged to plant trees to mark International Day of Forests

Stutong Forest Nature Reserve is one of the few green lungs found in Kuching City and it is popular among joggers.

KUCHING, March 19: World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) is calling on urbanites in the state to plant a tree to mark the International Day of Forests that is celebrated globally this Wednesday, March 21.

Its Sarawak Programme Leader Dr Jason Hon said this year’s celebration is themed ‘Forests and Sustainable Cities’, which emphasises the importance of forests and trees as part of the urban landscape, to co-exist with humankind.

He said urbanites should do their part in greening their cities and towns as trees provide many benefits such as reducing temperature and noise pollution, removing harmful pollutants in the air and storing carbon which helps to mitigate the impact of climate change.

“In WWF-Malaysia, we also hope that local authorities, particularly those involved in urban planning and developers will set aside more areas as public parks or nature reserves as green lungs for cities,” he said.

The recent news that Canada Hill and its surrounding areas in Miri City might be gazetted as a green lung is a much welcomed move, he said in a statement in conjunction with International Day of Forests.

Dr Hon said the benefits of having forests and trees are endless. In Sarawak, it is not uncommon to have trees in home gardens, which provide their owners with fruits and herbs and even beautifies the dwelling. The direct benefits of having trees are so clear, but there is more to it.

He further explained that according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations , strategic placement of trees in urban areas can cool the air by up to 8 degrees Celsius, reducing air conditioning needs by 30 per cent.

Forests in and around urban areas help to filter and regulate water, contributing to high-quality fresh water supplies for hundreds of millions of people. Forests also protect watersheds and prevent flooding as they store water in their branches and soil.

Trees also improve the local climate, helping to save energy used for heating by 20 to 50 per cent, provide home and food to wildlife including birds and insects.

Planting trees in urban areas like Kuching City help to improve the local climate and provide homes and food to wildlife including birds and insects.

Dr Hon pointed out that the third week of March is a significant time as World Water Day is observed on March 22, and Earth Hour on March 24. The messages from these green days are closely intertwined and ultimately, having healthy standing forests will help to conserve water and mitigate climate change.

According to FAO, forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people — including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures — depend on forests for their livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter.

Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80 per cent of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.

Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate — 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. Deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

The global community recognises the importance of coming together to halt the loss of forests. Countries have pledged to plant more trees, but efforts to stop the continued degradation of remaining forests should be stepped up. Dr Hon applauded the Sarawak government’s efforts in increasing its protected area coverage, pushing for compulsory forest management certification and consideration for an integrated watershed management plan.

“We need an urgent collective approach by all, to create a greater sense of appreciation for our environment and our forests, to acknowledge the vital services that our forests have served us. Those living in the cities can initiate their own tree planting activities within their home gardens or neighbourhood, to be in line with this year’s theme. By doing so, we are sending a clear message, that transcends upwards to the government, that we want nothing less than a sustainable living space that is cleaner, greener and healthier.”

The International Day of Forests is held annually on March 21 to raise awareness of the importance of forests to people and their vital role in poverty eradication, environmental sustainability and food security. Sustainable management of all types of forests are at the heart of unlocking challenges of conflict-affected, developing and developed countries, for the benefit of current and future generations. — DayakDaily