Forest land cleared for logging must be replaced, Putrajaya tells state govt

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar speaks to reporters during a press conference at FRIM in Kepong Janaury 16, 2019. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar speaks to reporters during a press conference at FRIM in Kepong Janaury 16, 2019. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 18 — State governments that are planning on degazetting permanent forest areas for logging purposes must also prepare an equivalent area of size and value as replacement, said Water, Land, and Natural Resources Minister Dr A. Xavier Jayakumar today.

He said the state government should also shoulder the restoration costs for the replacement area.

“The ministry wishes to encourage all state governments to start using and implementing these degazettement standard operating procedures (SOP) in the near future, as they were tabled during the National Land Council meeting on August 2,” Dr Xavier said during a press conference at the ministry’s headquarters.

Two other SOPs were also mentioned, including the requirements for state authorities to hold public hearings whenever a decision on degazettement is to be made and for the degazettement announcement to be made simultaneously with the replacement area announcement.

“The ministry has studied and taken the necessary steps to tighten the degazettement process, via amendments to the National Forestry Act 1984, which will be tabled in Parliament next year.

“As it stands, 55.3 per cent of Malaysia’s landmass is covered by forests, amounting to 18.27 million hectares. Of this amount, 11.62 million or 35 per cent has been gazetted by state governments as permanent forest estates, which are handled through sustainable forest management,” he said.

However, Dr Xavier pointed out that the federal government can only recommend their state counterparts adapt the SOPs, and not force them to do so.

Once the amendments to the Act have been passed, it needs to go through the respective state assemblies to come into force, as matters related to forest management and preservation fall under state government jurisdiction.

“Right now Selangor has already begun using the SOPs, so I am asking Pahang, Perak, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak to adopt them as well.

“It is vital for the federal and state governments to co-operate in preserving and restoring our forests, given their role in countering global climate change and maintaining environmental stability,” he said.

The minister also recommended other SOPs for the consideration of state governments, including replanting two trees for every one that is cut down, and to contribute to the ecological biodiversity fund which will go towards restoration efforts.

“Based on previous reports made via federal government initiatives, as well as field examinations, the ministry has identified nearly 32,500 hectares in the Peninsular which need to be restored via replanting.

“The total costs to do so is estimated to be RM812.5 million, with the application for the allocations to do so in stages having been proposed as part of the 12th Malaysia Plan,” Dr Xavier said.

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