Tuesday, February 25, 2014

‘Confidential’ maps on deforestation now online


 | February 25, 2014
The interactive Sarawak Geoportal includes an overview of concessions granted for logging and palm-oil plantations as well as raw data on the rapid deforestation in the state.
mapdeforestationKOTA KINABALU : Switzerland-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) has launched a new interactive internet-based geoportal that would help track use and misuse of any land in Sarawak.
The site has Sarawak’s confidential official maps, detailed information on land use changes and rainforest destruction in Malaysia’s largest state, said BMF director, Lukas Straumann.
According to Straumann, a large database containing hitherto confidential 1:50,000 topographic maps of Sarawak has gone online with the launching of the comprehensive Sarawak Geoportal yesterday.
“The online tool includes an overview of concessions granted for logging and palm-oil plantations as well as raw data on the rapid deforestation of Sarawak.
“Important geographic data on Sarawak, such as the exact location of villages, roads, rivers, the use of land and vegetation types are freely available to public scrutiny.
“The Sarawak Geoportal, which is based on data digitised over five years by BMF helps understand the environmental, social and political developments in Sarawak, and that data can be over-layed with Google topographic and satellite maps,” said Straumann in a statement.
He further said that BMF had launched this online tool to challenge the Sarawak state government’s secretive dealings with important land use information.
“All this information should have been made public by the Sarawak government long ago”, said Straumann, adding that the data had been deliberately shut away in order to facilitate the land grab by the political elite under outgoing Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.
“We expect that the next government will release all relevant land use data to the public. The importance of public access to environmental information has been recognized by the United Nations’ Aarhus Convention,” he said.
Sarawak’s indigenous people are rarely informed in a transparent way about government projects that involve their native lands. Recently, indigenous communities affected by the construction of the controversial Murum dam only learnt about their resettlement shortly before they had to move.
Straumann said the Sarawak Geoportal also provided evidence-based information on deforestation, a process that is typically misrepresented by the Sarawak government for political reasons.
“According to 2009 satellite imagery analysed by Sarawak Geoportal, a maximum of 11% of the area of Sarawak remain covered by primeval forest,” he added.
Sarawak Geoportal is accessible under: http://www.bmfmaps.ch/EN/composer/#maps/1001
To learn how to use the Geoportal, the public can watch an introductory video on: http://www.bmfmaps.ch/IGIS_UserVideo.mp4

~ Free Malaysia Today

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