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Nik Nazmi: Let us first verify claims Malaysia set to lose 2.3 million hectares of forest

Publish date: Wed, 22 Mar 2023, 10:49 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Ministry needs more time to fully review and verify the findings of an environmental group that Malaysia is set to lose 2.3 million hectares of forest nationwide.

Its minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad was quick to thank the group, RimbaWatch, but cautioned that this was likely only an estimation.

He said the ministry needed to fully review and verify RimbaWatch's findings before it is able to concur or dispute the prediction.

"We are unable to respond on the findings without fully reviewing and verifying the study. However at the ministry level we have embarked on several measures to safeguard our forest reserves.

"Forest conservation is a core part of achieving Malaysia's commitment to Sustainable Forest Management (SFM)," he said in a statement.

Nik Nazmi added that United Nations Global Forest Resource Assessment Report 2020 listed Malaysia as one of the countries recognised as a High Forest, Low Deforestation country amongst 25 other developing countries.

NRECC and its agencies are continuously taking proactive measures to strengthen forestry management in the country.

In its report on Tuesday, RimbaWatch had claimed 2.3 million hectares of forest had been earmarked for deforestation.

This, it said, was an area larger than the size of Perak, Penang and Melaka combined and 100 times the size of Kuala Lumpur, and would lead the nation's forest cover to drop to 47 per cent.

This is below Malaysia's commitment to maintain 50 per cent of its land as forest cover.

Nik Nazmi said among the ministry was undertaking several steps, including identifying and increasing permanent reserve forests (PRF).

"For example, currently, the ministry is in the final stages of processing the gazettement of the first PRF in the Federal Territory of Labuan.

"(We are also) increasing allocations for Ecological Fiscal Transfer (EFT) for biodiversity conservation in 2023 to RM150 million, a 150 percent increase since its implementation in 2019; implementing the various strategies under the Malaysia Policy on Forestry (MPF); charging offenders of 90 cases of illegal logging under the National Forestry Act 1984 in Peninsular Malaysia; the Forest Ordinance 2015 in Sarawak and the Sabah Forest Enactment 1968; and, setting a moratorium for new forest plantations within PRFs," he said.

Other efforts, he said, are using the Forest Monitoring Using Remote Sensing system (FMRS) in the peninsula as well as the Continuous Monitoring of Surveillance (COMOS) system in Sarawak and the iForSabah application in Sabah, equipped with Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.

He said these also used high-resolution satellite images to detect any changes in permanent forest reserves and empowering indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) via the Social Forestry Strategic Plan of Malaysia 2021-2025, rehabilitation of coastal areas, employment of community rangers, establishing nurseries, ecotourism, and recreational parks.

"These efforts require a cohesive multi-stakeholder collaboration, therefore we welcome and value the continuous feedback of civil society, academia, the private sector, state governments and the general public in fine-tuning as well as improving the outcomes of our work."

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