Sunday September 23, 2012
Need for better forest governance
By ZORA CHAN
KUCHING: State governments in the country must have conservation elements in their programmes for sustainable development.
This is to support the country’s aspiration of having more than half of its land area under forest cover, said Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Paul Low.
If state forests continued to be opened for agriculture or other land use unsustainable ways, it would leave the country with below the 50% level that it previously committed during the Earth Summit in 1992 and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2008, he said.
“For Malaysia to be able to sustain its forest resources, the country must have an adequate forest base, that is, having sufficient area of land under permanent forest.
“The state governments need to support our commitment to the international conventions,” he said during the launch of “Transparency International Malaysia’s Forest Watch Initiative in Sarawak” here yesterday. Deputy state forest director Wan Shardini Wan Salleh launched the one-day event.
Low said the country still had considerable areas of land under forest although rapid development had cost the country most of its fascinating lowland rainforests.
He said land development with sustained socio-political equilibrium held the key to the nation’s speedy growth.
“If socio-political equilibrium is not balanced by environmental security, there will be no balanced development; in other words, no sustainability in national development,” he said.
In Sarawak, Low said, Transparency International Malaysia had been working with the Forest Department to the state’s support forest governance processes.
He said it provided capacity building programmes on the usage of geospatial technology in forestry to various agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) since July last year.
Urging the public to visit the Forest Watch Initiative at www.timalaysia-forestwatch.org.my, Low said their support was pivotal in forest governance in Malaysia.
“The initiative provides a platform for the public to have direct communications with the authorities involved in forest governance,” he said.
“On the website, the public can report illegal, suspicious or dubious activities in forested areas.”
The initiative is an important component of Transparency International Malaysia’s Forest Governance and Integrity Programme.
It is an avenue for the public to participate in Malaysia’s forest go-verning process. This means the public can be the “eyes and ears” of the forests.
In Sarawak, the Forest Watch Task Force comprising the Forest Department, Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission Sarawak, Institute of Foresters Malaysia and Transparency International Malaysia will meet regularly to review reports by the public and provide feedback.
In his speech, Shardini said the state government welcomed Transparency International Malaysia’s initiative as it opened the doors to the people to participate in forest governing processes to ensure sustainability.
He said two-third of Sarawak’s landmass of 12.34 million ha was still covered with forests.
“Sarawak has also set a target to gazette a million ha of its natural forests as Totally Protected Areas such as national parks, nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries as genetic bank and for biodiversity conservation,” he said.
“Our strategy is to retain existing natural forests, create man-made forests and rehabilitate logged-over forests.”