Monday, August 10

Len: Revenue proves sustainability of state’s forestry

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KUCHING: The timber industry has been generating revenue of RM700 million in the last two to three decades which goes to show the sustainability of the state’s forestry, says Assistant Minister of Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh.

Saying that many international critics refused to understand the state’s forest policies, he asked how Sarawak could register millions of ringgit of revenue if its forest was not sustainable.

“We will not be able to collect so much revenue in the last 20 to 30 years if our forest is not sustainable. The revenue actually reflects its sustainability,” he said when representing Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan at a lunch talk held in connection with the 8th Malaysia Heads of Mission Conference here yesterday.

Reading Awang Tengah’s text of speech, Len Talif said the state’s timber industry was a major revenue earner after petroleum and petroleum products.

But contrary to numerous allegations by international critics, Sarawak did not log or clear-fell its forests indiscriminately.

He said the state government had acted on the recommendations of the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) Mission to Sarawak in 1989/1990 to reduce the annual timber production to 9.2 million hectares. Besides, it also increased the range of natural forests and habitats for the protection of wildlife.

As of yesterday, Sarawak had 48 totally protected areas (TPAs) comprising national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves covering 809,900 hectares.

By 2020, another 29 TPAs with an area of 274,610 hectares would be established.

“The first national park in Bako was established in 1957. Our strategy on conservation in the permanent forest estate is to preserve areas of forest that are not suitable for logging and to be managed as wildlife corridors and forests of high conservation value.”

According to the definition of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 84 per cent of land in Sarawak was still forest-covered, mainly by mixed dipterocarp forest in the hills, he said.

Awang Tengah said that 84 per cent was a lot more compared with 48 per cent in South America, 44 per cent in Europe (mainly Scandinavian countries), 33 per cent in North and Central America, 30 per cent in Germany, 20 per cent in Africa and 10 per cent in France, England, the Netherlands and Denmark.

In spite of all the accusations, Awang Tengah said Sarawak had set a strong foundation to attract investment. Under Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), he said 10 core industries with the highest economic impact on the state had been identified – the main ones being hydropower and natural gas.

“Investment climate is favourable due to political stability, racial harmony, plentiful natural resources, pro-business government, adequate human resource, good infrastructure and amenities and free from natural calamities,” he said.