A roundtable discussion organised by Jaringan Selamatkan Hutan Simpan Kledang Saiong was conducted to discuss ways to strengthen forest management in Malaysia.
At this time:
- Although reported by the administration that 55% of Malaysia’s land surface is covered with forests, a large part is interpreted as state forests and production forests that can be approved for logging
- The power to issue logging licenses or permits is concentrated in the hands of the menteri besar. The menteri besar is also the one who appoints the director of the state forestry department
- Although it is stated that an environmental impact assessment study should be done before a forest area is approved for a forest plantation project, this mechanism fails to protect the forest because the environmental impact consultant usually sides with the party that pays for him or her – in this case, the logging company
- The interests of the Orang Asli community are not protected in the National Forestry Act 1984. Therefore, forest areas that are very close to Orang Asli villages are often granted logging permits or their land use is changed to agriculture without the knowledge and permission of the nearest Orang Asli villagers
- Most of the areas that were logged through the cuci mangkuk method – all timber trees in an area are logged – for the excuse of creating “plantation forests” failed to be developed as plantation forests. Licensed companies disappear after reaping the profits from the logging phase
- Logging has and is destroying water catchment areas, increasing river sedimentation and flooding, triggering mudflows, destroying the habitats of wild animals, threatening many with extinction, triggering clashes between wild animals and rural communities, causing hardship to Orang Asli villages, destroying the country’s biodiversity and many other negative effects
Among the things discussed in this roundtable discussion are measures to handle the weaknesses in the forest management system listed above, including:
- Review the classification of permanent reserve forests as production forests. Change the classification of some permanent production forests to flood-control forests, water-catchment forests, wildlife protection forests and other protection forests
- Create a mechanism of checks and balances on the process of approving logging licences or permits at the level of each state. The executive body established for this purpose should be free from the influence of the menteri besar and the director of forestry, and should have the power to refer any logging project to the state legislative assembly to be debated first
- The power to appoint environmental impact assessment consultant experts should be transferred to the Department of Environment
- A new classification for forests should be enacted and forest areas near Orang Asli villages should be classified as communal forests that cannot be approved for any commercial activity until the villages’ application [for the land] to be gazetted as Orang Asli reserve land is settled
- The moratorium on forest plantation projects must be enforced and should include projects that were approved before December 2022, but have not yet been implemented
- A rehabilitation or compensation fund should be established at the state level, and logging licence holders should contribute a portion of their gross income to this fund to cover the cost of cleaning the river, and pay compensation for any damage caused by floods or attacks by wild animals as a result of the logging
The organising committee of this roundtable session will update the list of measures above by including the recommendations put forward in the roundtable discussion.
They will also prepare a working paper that will be distributed to all environmental NGOs that were present for comments and additional points before submitting it to the environment and climate change minister.
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It is our hope that our efforts will help strengthen the forest management system in Malaysia.
Jaringan Selamatkan Hutan Simpan Kledang Saiong
Members: Kinta Valley Watch, Kuasa, Peka, Persatuan Ekologi Perak, the Socialist Party of Malaysia and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
This network was established in February 2019 to address commercial projects in the Kledang Saiong Range