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Profiteering, make-believe sustainability undermining Malaysia’s future

Deforestation in Malaysian Borneo - Photograph: Rhett Butler/mongabay.com.

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Sustainable development means protecting the ecological balance while enjoying what nature provides, writes JD Lovrenciear.

The case of the fast-dwindling wildlife in the Belum-Temenggor forest due to sanctioned deforestation is not an isolated one-off case or part of a government agenda at work.

For decades we have seen how virgin forests have been cleared in the name of bringing economic wellbeing and fuelling national development. But this process has destroyed our natural forest heritage, which has played a primordial role in protecting the flora and fauna and maintaining the ecological balance.

Replanting hectares of forests with cash crops to support the government’s national economic performance and corporate success won’t bring our virgin forests.

While human beings have cleared forests since time immemorial, the arrival of forest-clearing methods on an industrial scale – unlike tribal cultivation patterns – makes it tough to promote sustainable development.

Must we rely on a profiteering economy which plunders virgin forests on an industrial scale? Will keeping clumps of ‘protected’ forests while endless hectares of forests are uprooted for ‘national development’ result in a precarious future for the nation?

We cannot have incoming governments only looking at short-term gains that help gloss over their economic performance. Governments must demonstrate today how they have protected nature and seek other creative routes to build the national economy.

Over-harvesting from our natural heritage – be it timber, wildlife or minerals – is not good governance. It amounts to devastating our natural heritage in the name of progress.

Sustainable development means protecting the ecological balance while enjoying what nature provides.

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If we cannot sustain the life found in our forests, then do not encroach on the wealth hidden in our rainforests.

Continuing to do so while taking comfort in statements like “more than 50% of our forests are still protected” is an irresponsible mark of governance. Equally irresponsible would be to suggest that people cannot live on trees and hunt for a living.

We need to decide quickly what kind of future we are going to have – determined by our geography.

We cannot preach business ethics, accountability and, transparency and claim to be champions of fighting corruption and kleptocracy when forests are being destroyed through a profiteering economic agenda.

Little do we realise that even after achieving independence, economic colonialism has continued as our God-given rainforests are plundered without viable sustainable measures in place.

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