Nov 21, 2011

Sarawak implements long-term policy to produce 15 million cubic meters of tropical timber by year 2020

Some foreign writers, in pursuing narrow agenda, are still writing erroneous and misleading articles about forestry in Sarawak. A  U.K based writer, who pretends to be knowledgeable about Sarawak, writing in a blog, claims that Sarawak has cleared of all its forests areas to plant palm oil.

A syndicated group that writes in a Switzerland-based blog claims that the State has logged all the forests areas and dislodged the nomadic Penans from the settlements. Little do they know that the small group of nomadic Penans does not have permanent homes.  They live up to their name as a nomadic tribe by wandering in a small group over a wide area, sometimes in areas bigger than Switzerland or Belgium.

Regrettably, the small group of nomadic Penans still depends completely on the forest for all their needs.  Efforts to bring them to lead a more settled life have not been successful. Hence, the State government has to set aside 12,800 hectares (128 km sq) of primary forest for them to practice their traditional way of life.  In addition, they are allowed to consume the forest resources for domestic use in Gunung Mulu National Park with acreage of 52,900 hectares or 529 km sq.

Forest Plantation

The forest covers 10.338 million hectares (103,380 km sq) or 84% of the total land surface of Sarawak. The areas comprise of Hill Mixed Dipterocarp Forest with the total acreage of 9.69 million hectares (96,900 km sq); Peat Swamp Forest, 1.28 million hectares (12,800 km sq andMangrove Forest, 93,000 hectares (9,300 km sq)
 
Out of the total, 710,884 hectares (7,108 km sq) are being conserved as totally protected areas as follows:   22 National Parks - 517,704 hectares (5,177 km sq); five Nature Reserves - 945 hectares (9.45 km sq) and four Wildlife Sanctuaries -192,235 hectares (1,922.35 km sq)

Currently, there are about 1 million hectares of land comprising the State land and the Native Customary Rights land have been cleared for palm oil plantations.  A further one million hectares are earmarked for future development. However, the State government is committed to achieve the goal in a sustainable manner. Necessary steps are being taken to balance the establishment of palm oil plantations with reforestation programs.

Understandably, an increase in demand for palm oil from overseas is fuelling the development of plantations in Sarawak, stimulating government subsidies to small land owners, regenerating many rural areas and providing employment for many local peopleBesides, the State government has been taking proactive activities to promote reforestation program among local timber industrialists.

Actually, it has initiated programs, based on a long-term vision, to establish forest plantations in the State. So far, 45 licenses for Planted Forests have been issued covering an area of 2.8 million hectares (28,000 km sq). From this, 1 million hectares (10,000 km sq) will be planted with fast growing species. It is estimated that about 15 million cubic metres will be produced annually from these plantations.

Ultimately, Sarawak will be able to reduce dependency on natural forest and make timber industry more sustainable and that the state’s biodiversity protected. The government is confident that in future, a large part of Sarawak’s timber production will come from forest plantations.  Sarawak, since it started the Reforestation program in 1981, has been able to plant about 24,173 hectares (241.73 km sq) of deforested areas with Acacia mangium, Kelampayan, Sentang, Meranti, Durian and Rubber.

Malaysia is being recognised as one of the 12 mega diversity nations in the world and Sarawak as one of the 25 biological hotspots. The State can boast of the following plant and animal species:

·          247 species of trees – no other tropical rainforests anywhere in the world show such abundance and diversity of a single family of big trees
·          280 palm flora, representing 10% of the world’s total
·          185 species of mammals in Sarawak
·          10,000 – 12,000 flowering plant species in Borneo
·          530 bird species in Borneo; and 154 snake species in Borneo


One of the most stupid things that foreign writers have been writing is to blame the so-called disappearance of orangutan in Borneo to the excessive logging of forests in Sarawak. Obviously, they are very ignorant of the fact that Orangutans can only be located in specific areas. IN Sarawak, they can be sighted at Lanjak-Entimau Wild Life Sanctuary, Batang Ai National Park and Ulu Sebuyau National Park.  These areas, gazette as totally protected areas, have total acreage of 250,000 hectares (2,500 km sq) or three times the size of Singapore.  Besides, Sarawak has two wildlife centres each at Semenggoh and Matang for the study and rehabilitation of orang utans that have been found injured, orphaned or kept as illegal pets.

Contrary to what western writers, who have no business to poke their nose in the affairs of Sarawak, write about the local forests, they are well protected.  In this respect, the Forest Department Sarawak, established in 1919, is collaborating with other government agencies such as the Sarawak Forestry Corporation and Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation to ensure that the forests are maintained and preserved.


Tree planting projects in Bintulu

Chief Minister, Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, in his speech during the 20th anniversary dinner of Sarawak Forestry Corporation says attempts by certain unfriendly NGOs to carry out smearing campaign do not have impact because they have been carried out based on unfounded allegations.

More importantly, the State has been making conscientious efforts to conserve the sustainable forest policies not only for ourselves but also the generations that will come after us. There is also a strong realization among the industrialists that the forest industry cannot become stagnant with the production of only 9.2 million cubic metres of timber every year if it is produce a lot more excellent people working in the timber industry. Therefore, ways and means have to be found to enhance the yields from forests.

Pehin Sri Abdul Taib says the State government is implementing a long-term policy to produce at least 50% of timber to be exported from the cultivation of quick growing species of trees.  The target is to have at least 15 million cubic meters of tropical timber by the year 2020.  However, it has yet to decide whether the development of planted forests will continue to be done entirely by efforts of local industries or open to people at the international level to participate in it.

He says the timber industry has undergone a very healthy transformation unlike in the old days when the industry comprised mainly of minor operations done small timber people. Now the industry is being operated by big people, who can afford to have long-term policies and think more imaginatively on how to grow the timber industries as they have got much bigger stake in their success.

Obviously, the industry has a clear cut leadership coming from people who own large tracts of concession of few hundred thousand hectares. This is very healthy development.  It means that the administration of forests can be improved greatly by the positive contribution from the big operators and not only that from the government.

Pehin Sri Abdul Taib says Sarawak has embarked on a series of programs to generate more than 20,000 megawatts of electricity by the year 2030. Therefore, the State will have the advantage of producing cheap electricity to set up a mechanical pulp and paper plant in an area of roughly 100,000 hectares of planted forests.  

Forest Plantation

He says the State will be able to set up at least three of such plants and will be able to play a significant part in producing mechanical pulp. Therefore, the State has more reasons to promote the tree cultivation programs as part of the industrialization program in the migration from medium income to high income economy toward the year 2020 and beyond.

He congratulates Sarawak Forestry Corporation for its ability to maintain a balance between the preservation of forestry system and the development of programs to diversify forestry products and other natural resources.  Obviously, SFC has been able to play greater roles in highlighting to wider public the value of conserving the forests, Orang Utans and all the flora and fauna that Sarawak has richly been endowed with. For example, SFC makes conscientious efforts to rescue the flora and fauna before the build-up of the water level of Bakun Dam.

Pehin Sri Abdul Taib also congratulates SFC for its success in getting international cooperation to conserve Kuala Lawas as the breeding ground for turtles. This is by no means an easy job as turtles are great wanderers and they wander all the way to South Africa and other parts of the world. In this respect, any efforts to enhance contribution towards the conservation of animals or flora and fauna should be appreciated as noble efforts by all.




Sarawak Monitor 
12th November 2011

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