LOGGING ON

Malaysia 2016 | SABAH | FOCUS: FORESTRY

A raft of new policies is encouraging a revival of afforestation—benefiting both the economy and the environment. Regionally, Malaysia is at the forefront of this initiative.

Logging in Malaysia has proven to be quite damaging, where aggressive policies toward agro-industries have left their toll on the natural resources of the country. In recent years attitudes have changed and conservation of the environment has become a priority, leading to a sustainable approach to agro-industries. Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) has aided the continuation of trade but, in general, deforested land is challenging to rehabilitate. RIL is a managed method that allows logging to continue—the domestic timber industry still needs supply. After mapping out the area for processing, specific routes are built throughout the forest so that skid trails are minimized. Similarly, some land can be worked, while other sites are set aside for preservation. This allows bio-diversity to recover in those areas, eliminating a net loss of biodiversity across the whole unit of land.

The Sabah government have created Forest Management Units (FMUs), a licence that is issued to companies. FMU holders should each be able to produce 600,000ha of plantation. Providing this volume is strategically and sustainably managed by the respective companies, it is expected that they can produce 13 million cubic metres of wood per annum, this is equivalent to 10 times the amount of wood that could be produced from that same 600,000ha if it were growing naturally. The effects of these plantations can be fourfold: to replenish the damaged rainforest, to supply the timber industry, and the produce can also go toward biomass energy. This also ensures space for these companies to conduct projects in the community in order to improve the infrastructure in the rural villages near where they work.

Areas of the rainforest have been earmarked as Class 1 Protected Areas, and subsequently these have been used for research and education purposes. These include the Danum Valley, Maliau Basin, Imbak Canyon, and Selam, and these areas alone cover an area estimated to be seven times the size of Singapore. These areas are used for research by the Sabah Parks Authority, the University Malaysia Sabah, and the University College Sabah Foundation. Key changes are in the works as a result of inventive and pragmatic thinking on how to simultaneously preserve and make a creative use for the rainforest. The government aims to have 2.2 million ha of land covered by TPAs by 2025-30, which equates to 30% of Sabah's land area. Currently 1.5million ha are protected under TPAs.