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State buy-in needed for forest master plan

Publish date: Sat, 25 Mar 2023, 09:31 AM

PETALING JAYA: There are some good bits in the government’s master plan to link the eight major forests in the Central Forest Spine (CFS), but other aspects need greater clarity or should just be dropped, say environmentalists.

They said more must also be done to future-proof the blueprint.


For instance, they said some of the actions proposed under the master plan, such as the building of new dams and ensuring that mining and quarrying activities are carried out in a controlled and sustainable manner, should not be allowed.

Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia (Ecomy) president and chief executive officer Andrew Sebastian said that while the master plan is an important conservation tool to protect biodiversity in the peninsula, especially Malayan tiger habitats within the CFS, the plan is not without flaws and loopholes.

He said all state governments involved in the CFS Ecological Network Master Plan (PIRECFS) must now show their full commitment by ensuring no further loss of natural forests through human activities.

This is because the law clearly states that all land-related matters, including state forest covers, fall under the jurisdiction of the state governments.

The states are therefore responsible for the implementation of the proposals contained in PIRECFS, he added.

“And there is no such thing as sustainable mining or quarrying.

“These activities are extractive and detrimental to the environment and the habitat surrounding it.

“Allowing these things to take place would be contrary to the objectives of the master plan.

“The human element should be taken out completely,” he said.

To ensure that state governments comply with PIRECFS and protect the critical core conservation areas properly, the Federal Government should provide incentives to recognise their efforts, said Andrew.

However, he added that there has been a lack of political will from the Federal Government to do this so far.

“That’s something that is very crucial to be addressed before any plan, including the CFS, can be successful,” he said.

He added that while there is no place for activities such as dam development, mining or quarrying within the CFS, sustainable forest plantation projects, which have also been proposed in the master plan, might be able to work outside the critical areas.

However, the concern is that there would be a lack of strict enforcement in the matter, said Andrew, adding that there are instances where oil palm plantations expanded into forested areas and converted them into agricultural land, or of mining taking place in forest reserves.

“We don’t see evidence of strict enforcement in the peninsula,” he said.

Andrew also said the ecological linkages proposed in the master plan, which will connect forest areas or forest islands that are divided due to forest fragmentation, are an excellent idea.

“As state governments hold the key to land issues in the states, I think it’s very crucial that they get involved in the plan, allocate resources and monitor such areas against encroachment and poaching and keeping them away from any development plans,” he said.

Ecological Association of Malaysia president Dr Ahmad Ismail said the master plan is a good initiative and contains important strategies to, among others, manage tiger habitats and improve connectivity between forests to facilitate wildlife movement.

However, he warned that the plan may be difficult to implement without first addressing basic issues such as a strong mutual commitment between the federal and state governments in executing it.

“The federal and state governments must talk about the implementation of the CFS. This has been mentioned many times, but there are no clear statements that all agencies and politicians can share,” he said.

“Perhaps all the agencies involved must monitor the agreements and strategies in place.

“It’s the same with the proposed activities such as forest plantations and mining. Everything needs to be looked at in detail,”

Ahmad added that more studies are needed on the proposal to connect the divided forests.

“The idea is to link all fragmented forests so that wildlife is not trapped in isolated forest islands. When we link the forests, then animals can move to the main range of the forest.

“All plans must come out from clear objectives and detailed scientific studies.”

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