PETALING JAYA: How many of us are aware that massive deforestation in Malaysia has now covered a size larger than a European nation? Well, it has.
A new global forest map jointly developed by Google has revealed the massive deforestation in Malaysia occurring between 2000 and 2012. During the period, the country's deforestation totalled a whopping 47,278 sq km, an area larger than Denmark.
Oil palm estates recorded a growth of nearly 50 per cent or 17,000 sq km, indicating that Malaysia's forests are increasingly being converted for industrial oil palm plantations.
Commenting on the findings, Malaysian Nature Society (Terengganu branch) chairman Haji Wan Md Adnan Wan Ismail said this proves that logging has gone unchecked in Peninsular Malaysia as well as Sabah and Sarawak for the past decade.
Claiming that the activity was even carried out within 50 metres of main rivers, Wan Adnan said that protection of riparian zones or buffer strips has seldom been taken into consideration by logging operators in Malaysia.
"Such an act will inevitably lead to landscape instability," Wan Adnan told theantdaily.
He lamented that the logging impact within these zones has added to sediments being washed into rivers and streams.
"Eventually, it will lead to loss of aquatic life and landscape resources," he said, adding that mangroves were also cleared to make way for development and agriculture.
The nature lover from Terengganu was sad that some oil palm companies chose to cut down healthy rainforest rather than using already cleared land.
"They profited from the timber and simply ignored regulations that sustainable plantations should abide by," he said during a telephone interview.
Although it may be expensive, he advised that the restoration of the forests should be done through the use of native tree species.
According to environmental science and conservation news site mongabay.com, Malaysia's rainforests are under threat as almost 15 per cent have been cut down from 2000 to 2012.
Malaysia's rate of deforestation during the period was nearly 50 per cent higher than the next runner up, Paraguay (9.6 per cent). Its area of forest loss was ranked ninth after Russia, Brazil, the United States, Canada, Indonesia, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Australia, claimed the news portal.
Under the Federal Constitution, the 13 state governments have jurisdiction over agriculture, soil conservation and forest resources, with cabinet ministers only offering advice, technical assistance as well as research.
In order for policies and initiatives to be harmonised, the National Forestry Council was established as a platform for the federal and state governments to discuss issues pertaining to forest management.
In 1993, the government agreed to make amendments to the National Forest Act whereby higher penalties and longer imprisonment were introduced to curb illegal logging.
Analysts, however, said that the problem should be treated from its roots as it involves a large amount of money that is driving forest offenders to commit the crime.
~ The Ant Daily