Sunday, September 27

‘We develop, not destroy’

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KUCHING: The Tropical Peat Research Laboratory (TPRL) Unit under the Chief Minister’s Department aims to establish facts with which to support the growth of the oil palm industry in the state.

State secretary Datuk Amar Mohd Morshidi Abdul Ghani said through the laboratory the state government hoped to make people more aware of the fact that oil palm plantations do decrease carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“We do not destroy the country but develop the land for the benefit of the people. We do not blindly follow what other people say so we do research and establish the facts,” he said.

That, he said, was why the laboratory wanted to make the people aware of the matter and be committed to developing the state.

The state secretary was speaking at a Hari Raya Aidilfitri gathering after he visited the laboratory at Jalan Badruddin here yesterday.

Morshidi pointed out that what the unit did also showed the government’s commitment to oil palm plantation owners throughout the state.

“It is said that 65 per cent of peat land in Malaysia is in Sarawak. It makes up 13 per cent of the total state’s land mass.

“We shall make good use of this peat land for the benefit of the people and the country,” he said.

Earlier on, the director of the unit, Dr Lulie Melling, said her team had started several projects since the unit was established in June 2008. These include studies on physical and chemical properties of a tropical peat dome, carbon flux from different types of peat soil planted with oil palm, nitrogen fertilisation on greenhouse gas emission from peat soil, fertilisation treatment on microbial diversity of tropical peat land for oil palm development and carbon pools under bilateral.

“We are very happy to announce that a laboratory has  been set up to analyse greenhouse gas, peat soil, plants, water, and carry out microbial analysis.”

Dr Lulie said the unit had also completed constructing and installing the ‘Eddy Covariance Tower’ at three locations namely Sibu Plantation, Betong Logged Over Forest and Maludam National Park.

She added that their collaborators from Hokkaido University had also completed the ‘Eddy Covariance’ training on maintenance, data downloading and handling.

Despite these achievements, she felt that her research and development (R&D) team still needed to enhance their methodologies.

“During the construction of this laboratory, we found that we needed to increase the space to ensure that our analyses were done properly.

“On top of that, we need to increase the number of researchers especially with the increase in the number of global issues that need to be addressed via research verifications,” she said.

She thus suggested the state government follow the procedures of the various universities and companies in retraining and post-graduates training.

As an example, she mentioned the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) which offers scholarships and three to five-year bonds upon completion of studies to work with the organisation.

“This is actually the fastest way to get credible R&D results and also scientific publications.

“Environmental and ecological research in the humid topics especially in the tropical peat swamps not only requires scientific drive but field endurance and survival skills,” Lulie  said.

Among those present were Land Development Minister Dato Sri Dr James Masing and former state secretary Datuk Amar Wilson Baya Dandot who is now Regional Corridor       Development Authority (RECODA) chief executive officer.