S’wak Forestry Dept refutes Rimbawatch projection of forest loss in state

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Sarawak Forestry Department director Datu Hamden Mohammad in a statement said the projection made by Rimbawatch was based on the perception of trends on the opening of land for development in the state. — Photo by Mazidi Abd Gani

KUCHING (March 22): The Sarawak Forestry Department (SFD) has denied the projection by Rimbawatch that the state will lose more forest area based on the study made by Global Forest Watch.

SFD director Datu Hamden Mohammad in a statement said the projection made by Rimbawatch was based on the perception of trends on the opening of land for development, while not denying that Sarawak is rapidly developing towards a developed state by 2030.

“Indeed, there are areas of land that are opened for the purpose of developing various sectors such as agriculture, urban development and housing, industry and others.

“However, Sarawak strived to balance this construction with environmental sustainability, especially in maintaining forest areas in Sarawak.

“Based on Sarawak Land Use Policy 2012, has set seven million hectares (ha) for the purpose of forest land use which is permanent forest reserve (six million ha) and for the Fully Protected Areas (one million ha),” he said.

He was rebutting the projection by Rimbawatch published in a local daily on March 21 entitled ‘Alarming Loss of Forest Cover’.

Hamden added, based on the Auditor General’s Report 2021 Series 2 on the special audit of forest management, an Impact on the Environment, Activities of Ministries/Agencies and Compliance Audits of Ministries/State Agencies issued on January 6 this year has concluded that forests in the state is managed in a sustainable way to provide socio-economic benefits and maintain environmental sustainability.

“This report confirms that the forested area is 7.65 million ha, which is 61.40 million ha of the whole state of Sarawak.

“Environmental sustainability is the main agenda in the Post-Covid-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) 2030 towards a progressing Sarawak. Among other measures that have been set is to conserve and rehabilitate degraded forest areas,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said among programmes carried out to ensure forest conservation and rehabilitation efforts in the state include large scale tree planting programmes statewide, through the Greening Sarawak campaign and the Malaysian Greening campaign (MGC).

“Under the MGC, Sarawak is committed to planting 35 million trees during the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025). From 2021 till present, Sarawak has successfully planted around 21,091,995 forest trees, and various planting campaigns and programmes have been carried out vigorously with cooperation of all parties.

“Apart from that, to reduce the deforestation rate by using low impact logging (RIL – Reduce Impact Logging) methods. For this reason, Forest Management Certification (FMC) is mandatory for all long-term licensed areas (Long term Forest Timber License).

“Thus far, a total of 18 Forest Management Units (FMU)  with an area of 1,476,244 ha have successfully obtained FMC, while a total of six Forest Farm Management Units (FPMU) with an area of 94,966 ha FPMU area has obtained FMC by Malaysia Fimco Certification Council (MrcC) which is recognized by the Geneva based Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC),” he said.

Hamden also said logging licensees have also been required to carry out enrichment planting by planting trees in their respective concession areas at an appropriate rate to replace trees that have been cut down.

“Following this, this effort is seen as to reduce the dependence of the state’s income from timber sources to new economic sources such as carbon trading.

“Many efforts have been carried out towards the realisation of carbon trading initiative. This will indirectly keep the forest areas from being explored. The Forests (forest carbon activity) Rules, 2022, was drafted and approved by the State Legislative Assembly in 2022, and a carbon study permit was issued to operators of carbon license areas,” he said.

He also explained that advanced technology such as the use of forest and geospatial technology, will be used in forest management and conservation.

“Advanced technology has been widely used to ensure that forest areas in Sarawak are carefully and systematically monitored. It has helped forest enforcement to be implemented more effectively and efficiently.

“Apart from that, the Continuous Monitoring and Surveillance (Comos) method has been used in Sarawak to combat illegal logging and detect forest faults with the help of sophisticated DA42-MPP aircraft technology.

“In addition, this advanced technology is also used for forest restoration programmes, especially in remote and hard-to-reach areas, for example the method of spreading tree seeds using the seedballs and drones (Sarabom project),” he said.