SIBU — The Sarawak government has never compromised on matters pertaining to environment even though various development activities, including forest clearing for agriculture, are being carried out on this Land of the Hornbills.
Assistant Minister of Urban Development, Land Administration and Environment Datuk Len Talif Salleh said despite criticisms made against Sarawak by nature lovers and some foreign countries for allegedly having a high deforestation rate, the state, which is under the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government, managed to preserve 63 per cent of its land as forest area.
“We are still lagging in development, but will not pursue it at the expense of the environment. That is why the three pillars, namely economic development, social inclusivity and environmental sustainability have to be balanced,” he told Bernama.
He said the state land-use policy was clear where out of 12.4 million hectares of forest areas in Sarawak, six million hectares were reserved for permanent forests, one million hectares were for Totally Protected Areas (TPA), and four million hectares for agriculture.
Of the four million hectares, he said, two million hectares were targeted for oil palm and the rest for other crops, such as pineapple, rubber, sago and black pepper.
So, Sarawak is clear on which areas need to be explored efficiently, he added
“In this context, we already have a good approach compared to any of the so-called developed countries having a larger area for agriculture and forest cover area of less than 10 percent,” he said.
He said based on the state’s land use policy, Sarawak could still open up forest areas for agricultural purposes, but the state would not reduce its forest area to less than 57 per cent.
“So from 63 percent, we have a balance of six per cent for us to plant oil palm and other crops,” said the incumbent Kuala Rajang Assemblyman.
Not only that, Sarawak is also the largest contributor to the country’s total forest area, which is 42 per cent or 7.7 million hectares of the whole of Malaysia, he said and cited the country’s commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“Malaysia’s commitment to UNFCCC stipulates that 50 per cent of our land area will be under forest cover, where Sarawak is a major contributor,” he added.
Len Talif said to conserve and preserve forests, the approach used by the state government now was to reduce tree felling in natural forests, apart from enhancing industrial plantation forests for the timber industry.
“It means we don’t need a large area for the timber industry now where one million hectares will be dedicated to planting fast-growing timber which can help supply raw materials for our timber industry,” he said.
Sarawak is currently leading the 100 Million Tree Planting Campaign under the Greening Malaysia programme with a total of 6,791,146 trees planted since its launch earlier this year. A total of 10.4 million trees have been planted last year.
Under the GPS administration, Sarawak has gained international recognition for its efforts to protect and preserve flora and fauna and biodiversity resources recognised under the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Convention on Wetlands of International Importance and the East Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP).
The state government also collaborates with various organisations and institutions in and outside the country to strengthen the protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife, among them are Heart of Borneo, Research for Intensified Management of Bio-Rich Areas of Sarawak (RIMBA Sarawak), Global Environment Facility. (GEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). — BERNAMA