Forest-use: The Public Wants A Say

#FORESTFILES: PART 4

Juggling between development and environmental conservation is difficult when it comes to forest-use. But there are ways to be more inclusive. This is Part 4 of Forest Files.

MALAYSIA has had decades of continuous economic and population growth since independence.

In 2019, the country achieved a gross domestic production (GDP) of about RM1.5 trillion, more than a hundred-times the GDP in the 1960s. The population almost quadrupled over the same period.

However, before Malaysia industrialised in the 1980s, it exploited its natural resources, including its most accessible at that time: primary forests, some of the oldest in the world.

(Public participation allows citizens affected by forest-use change to voice out; pictured at the North Kuala Langat Forest Reserve degazettement townhall are [clockwise from top] Kg OA Pulau Kempas’s Tonjoi Bin Pipis and Batin Raman Pahat, and Kg OA Busut Baru’s Rosnah Anak Senin. Pics by Shakila Zen/KUASA)

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Revenue and Power Drive Forest Area Changes

#FORESTFILES: PART 3

To understand forest-use dynamics in Peninsular Malaysia, one must know how state governments – the sole authority on land use – perceive forests. This is Part 3 of Forest Files.

IN AUGUST 2019, when then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched a forestry exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, he took the audience down memory lane.

“At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, as the Prime Minister of Malaysia back then, I made a pledge that Malaysia is committed to maintain at least 50 percent of our land mass under forest cover,” said Mahathir.

(Photo: Logs, like these harvested from a permanent reserve forest in Johor, are an important source of revenue for many state governments. Pic by YH Law.)

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Excision – The Main Threat to Forests in Peninsular Malaysia

#FORESTFILES: PART 2

Decades ago, rampant logging looked set to decimate forests in Malaysia. That is no longer the case but a less familiar force is driving forest change – one over which state governments have full control. This is Part 2 of the Forest Files series.

THE 1970s were the golden age of logging in Peninsular Malaysia, veteran loggers told Macaranga.

Then the federal government came up with the National Forestry Policy in 1978 and the National Forestry Act in 1984 to promote sustainable forestry in the country.

(Photo: A new road snakes through a permanent reserve forest bloc in Johor which was last logged in the 1970s. Composite pic by YH Law.)

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Forest Loss: Under Whose Watch?

How much forest loss is too much? And are the drivers of this loss the same as in the past? In Forest Files, Macaranga examines the dynamics and mechanics of forest-use changes in Malaysia. Our four-part In-Depth series focuses on Peninsular Malaysia, where more forests were lost in the last 30 years than in East Malaysia.

In Part 1, we look at how much forest we actually have, forest-use policies, and forestry decision-makers. In Part 2, we consider a key driver of forest loss – excision from permanent reserve forests. Part 3 asks what drives decision-makers and we end with Part 4 on how citizens could influence forest-use.

(Photo: A bird’s eye view of the protected primary hill and lowland rainforest of the Royal Belum State Park, 2003. Pic by SK Chong/Sasyaz Holdings)

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Discoveries Support Urgent Protection for Batu Caves

Scientists make new findings, not necessarily all good, in the iconic Batu Caves, confirming its status as a natural treasure.

FOR THE millions of tourists who thronged Batu Caves in pre-Covid-19 times, and even for the residents who live nearby, the limestone hill is known only for its colourful Hindu temple and the Thaipusam festival.

Overshadowed is the hill’s scientific importance. Batu Caves is actually the best-studied limestone hill in Southeast Asia with many valuable natural history characteristics which are threatened.

In fact, is there even anything of scientific value left to conserve? The answer is a resounding “yes” according to a recent scientific expedition.

(Photo: Collecting Epithema parvibracteatum, endemic to Batu Caves and critically endangered; Ruth Kiew is second from left; Nur Atiqah Abd Rahman is on the left. Pic by SL Wong)

Continue reading Discoveries Support Urgent Protection for Batu Caves

How to Fit a 15-storey Hotel in Fraser’s Hill

Planners are drafting a new plan for Fraser’s Hill, an environmentally sensitive area. How should development proceed there?

FRASER’S Hill will get a new development concept plan soon. The Raub District Council, which oversees development in Fraser’s Hill, Pahang, has appointed town planner Iktisas Planners to come up with the plan. 

The consultant told Macaranga they aim to finish the concept plan in November, and declined to comment more.

The new concept plan adds a new dimension to recent events that have focused discussion on how Fraser’s Hill, an environmentally sensitive area, should be developed.

In particular, some residents and concerned citizens are opposing the building of a hotel there which has been approved by the Council.

(Photo: The iconic clock tower greets visitors to Fraser’s Hill, a destination popular for its cool weather, nature and colonial-style buildings. Pic by : Pashmina Binwani)

Continue reading How to Fit a 15-storey Hotel in Fraser’s Hill

What Conservationists Want In Budget 2021

ACCORDING to the Parliamentary schedule, the Malaysian government will table Budget 2021 in the Parliamentary meeting on 6 November. 

The Budget would reflect the government’s plans to carry the country out of the pandemic woes of 2020. 

Malaysians have had a troubled year. Our lives, economy and national policies were derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic and unexpected changes in the Federal government and state governments of Johor, Melaka, Kedah and Sabah

Many conservation groups struggled to keep finances and operations running.

Amidst the turbulence, Malaysians continue to see our environment degrade: pollution of rivers and coasts; clear-felling and degazettement of forest reserves for economic activities; human-elephant conflicts; and poaching. 

Continue reading What Conservationists Want In Budget 2021

Stop the Playbacks If You Love Helmeted Hornbills

Hornbill researcher and conservationist Ravinder Kaur saw unethical bird photographers at work in Pahang. She shares her experience and concerns.

A MONTH ago, I had just returned from a field trip in Pahang to watch a pair of Helmeted hornbills (Rhinoplax vigil), one of the most endangered hornbill species in Southeast Asia.

The calls of the bird lingered in my ears as I unloaded my car upon return. But the birds themselves did not plant it there.

Rather, over four days in the field, I had been exposed to photographers’ incessant playbacks of the Helmeted hornbill calls from their speakers.

They were using such recorded playbacks to lure the Helmeted hornbills for a photo.

(Photo: Helmeted hornbill, a critically endangered species threatened by poaching and deforestation. (Sanjitpaal Singh / JITSPICS.COM©)

Continue reading Stop the Playbacks If You Love Helmeted Hornbills

“The Pandemic Killed Everything We Had Planned”

In their own words, conservationists share their their struggles during the Covid-19 pandemic. Part of Macaranga‘s Taking Stock series, these stories were written based on interviews; all interviewees approved the text.

DR WONG SIEW TE, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

THE PANDEMIC killed everything that we had planned for this year.

We have one major source of revenue – visitors. There are other sources, of course: donations, bear adoption programmes.

But with job losses and the economy deteriorating, it has affected a lot of our supporters.

(Photo: To generate income, Wong Siew Te is offering live virtual tours of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre . Pic: BSBCC)

Continue reading “The Pandemic Killed Everything We Had Planned”

Covid-19 Woes Continue for Conservation

Dire finances and stunted activity continue to plague Malaysia’s conservation sector because of Covid-19. Macaranga surveys the landscape in our Taking Stock series.

FROM GAPS in research to the loss of funding and conversely, wider outreach, Malaysian conservation organisations of every size have been impacted by Covid-19.

But what exactly are these impacts? How have the organisations adapted to this crisis? And have they strengthened their resilience against future shocks?

(Photo: Educational activities involving volunteers and groups have been disrupted [Malaysian Nature Society Facebook])

Continue reading Covid-19 Woes Continue for Conservation

A Malaysian Environmental Journalism Site