Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Sabah invests heavily in silviculture, forest rehabilitation, tree plantation: Director
Sabah has in recent years been investing aggressively for the future of the environment, while the Forestry Department continues to explore new and tangible sources of income from the forests, said its Director Datuk Sam Mannan. Due to conservation requirements, he said the Forestry Department had acknowledged that Sabah’s annual harvest from natural forest must be reduced to attain sustainability.
This, he said, would result in the reduction of the State’s forest income considerably in the next 20 years.
“However, the future owners of these forests, 20 years or so, down the road, will once again enjoy the fruits of our labour today - our investments in silviculture, forest rehabilitation, tree plantations, and so on,” said Mannan yesterday. “This generation will not benefit directly from the efforts but it will be equally, if not more satisfying, to visualise that we will be making a difference in creating green wealth for the future.”
While stressing that loving the forests and environment is one thing, he reckoned that doing something positive and effective for it, is entirely another matter.
“The environment cannot live on love alone... In recent years, we have been investing aggressively for the future of the environment…love must pay,” said Mannan in his welcoming address at the two-day International Conference on “Nature Conservation in Sabah: The Quest for The Gold Standard” here. In order to attain the objective of natural wealth sustainability, he pointed out: “It is important that we pick conservation brains from all over the world, to share their experiences with us, from which, we can learn and make things better.” Among the conference’s participants were from WWF, UNESCO and the GRASP (Great Apes Survival Projects) team from Paris, FAO/UNDP, the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC), the Royal Society, New Forests of Australia, Borneo Tropical Rainforest Foundation (BTRF)/Switzerland, The Leap Foundation in conjunction with the Alexander Abraham Foundation and Arcus Foundation, Lancaster University, University Malaysia Sabah (UMS), JICA, The East Malaysia Planters Association, PACOS and HUTAN. Manan also disclosed that the Forestry Department would soon be entering into a Memorandum of Intent with the Borneo Tropical Rainforest Foundation, a Trust based in Switzerland, to explore carbon trading.
“With global warming and climate change being the agenda of the world, it is fortuitous that we open ourselves to the market possibilities given that rainforests are most efficient carbon sinks in the world,” he said. On the Forestry Department’s silviculture operations in the forest reserve areas, Mannan revealed that the annual growth could be boosted nine times from one cubic metre per hectare to nine cubic metre per hectare. “At RM1000 per cubic metre for certified timber this is an income of RM9000 per hectare. “It has also been shown that because of management, a logged over coupe can yield more the 2nd time, than what was 1st harvested, and these are encouraging results,” he said.
However, Mannan pointed out that all these efforts mean investments for which Sabah alone could not sustain it.
“If conservation is a global issue, then its costs and burden must also be a global issue. If our efforts shall serve the world, then the world must also serve us. If we have a good story to tell, then the world must listen. The information divide between perception and the reality must be closed,” he said. Mannan said that he made a recent calculation on how much the State Government directly benefits from an alternative land use, in this case, oil palm. He said that Sabah, with 53 percent of its land area with the security of tenure under forest reserves, parks and other conservation areas, would return about RM530 million directly to the State coffers this year or RM140 per hectare per annum or 3.8 million hectares.
He said that this would drop to no more than RM3O per hectare in the next 20 years. In comparison, Crude Palm Oil (CPO) sales tax returns RM1000 per hectare or 33 times more for at least 20 years, based on CPO price of RM250 per tonne when it is even more now, said Mannan.
“Therefore, there is a clear and present danger that if conservation does not pay, then conservation will be under threat.
“One can use shadow process, argue about intangible benefits, bio-diversity ownership prestige, future values and soon, but in a real world, this may not be realistic. There must be something better and tangible. “Intangibles and ideals will not fill up the rice bowl. Apart from timber what then is there? Is there life after timber harvesting?” he asked. Stressing that it is for this reason that the Forestry Department continues to explore new and tangible sources of income from forests, Mannan reckoned that new ideas must come now and not tomorrow in reference to the signing of Memorandum of Understanding between NewForest of Sydney, Australia and Rakyat Berjaya Sdn Bhd.