Thursday, November 20, 2014

Illegal logging penetrated wildlife sanctuaries


BY VICTORIA BROWN




PETALING JAYA: Illegal logging is prevalent across Malaysia and has even penetrated protected areas like wildlife sanctuaries.
“Samunsam wildlife sanctuary was completely decimated by illegal loggers and this has been happening over the past ten years,” said chairman of Malaysia Nature Society Kuching Anthony Sebastian (pic).
“The entire sanctuary is gone, all that’s left is its borders. That should not be happening,” he told The Star in an exclusive interview.
Police personnel checking illegal logs seized during a raid on a sawmill in Bintawa, Kuching. File pic

Sebastian who is also the chairman of the international board of directors for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) said that if we do not act now, illegal logging could have dire consequences to our environment, wildlife, culture and economy.
However, even though some of our ‘most vital areas’ have been logged, our forests will eventually regenerate, although it will take 60 to 100 years to do so.
“But our forests will never be the same. We have already lost so many species and we will lose more,” said Sebastian.
The Government also has a vested interest in the curbing of illegal logging due to massive forestry asset loss.
“We have come to a point where if we do not protect our assets, we will have nothing for the future,” said Sebastian.
“The timber industry requires its assets, we call them Permanent Forest Estate (PFE), and this is what ensures that Malaysia will always be a timber producing country.
“What’s happening in Malaysia, and in Sarawak particularly, is that our PFE has been wiped out, and a lot of it has been logged illegally,” he said.
Sebastian said that Malaysia is losing her tropical forests at a tremendous rate with illegal loggers “practically throwing away” valuable hardwood and illegal sellers selling them off at a fraction of the price.
“We need to address the problem (of illegal logging) from multiple levels,” said Sebastian.
“We can’t just be sending out enforcement officers across Malaysia to catch illegal stockpiles and confiscating them, for example. The illegal loggers will just change their tactics, they won’t stop.
“We need a much more comprehensive solution, where find out who the buyers are, who the middlemen are, who supplies the machinery,” he said.
Sebastian said that the public can also help to report on suspicious logging activities on Transparency International Malaysia’s Forest Watch Project website.
“Citizens can play a part in stopping illegal logging by submitting reports that will go into a database which is linked to all the forest departments in Malaysia, which will then be reviewed,” he said.
Sebastian lauded Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s tough stand against corruption and illegal logging in the state.
“I think that it is high time that the state government made a strong stance on illegal logging. This is as strong as it gets, and I applaud it.
“The Chief Minister is essentially saying enough is enough. We have all the wonderful laws but if we don’t enforce them there’s no point in having these laws,” he said
If you would like to submit a report on any suspicious forestry activities such as illegal logging, visit http://www.timalaysia-forestwatch.org.my/.
~ The Star

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