Oil palm firms urged to be at forefront in riparian reserve conservation
Effort towards rectifying conservation issues along the Kinabatangan riparian reserve should be a common initiative between the Government and palm oil companies. Tourism Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, who stated this, yesterday called on the oil palm companies to be at the forefront in the conservation of the riparian reserve, stressing their roles are significant in ensuring the success in checking encroachment and replanting natural forest along the reserve. “I rather hope that if we do this, we do it because everyone wants to be involved, not just because the Government is forcing them. They should have the same ownership of that initiative as the Government because what is good for the environment is also good for them,” he said this to reporters after officiating the closing of the international conference on Nature Conservation in Sabah: The Quest for Gold Standards here. Speaking at the ceremony earlier, Masidi said palm oil companies were found encroaching riparian reserve and planting their crops right to the river bank. Apart from disconnecting the reserve which serves as the route for the wild animals to migrate between reserve forests, planting crops along the riparian also means pesticide and other chemicals used by planters can easily end up in the river and damaging its ecosystem, he said. He disclosed that the ministry together with relevant departments, including the Land and Survey, are going all out to conduct a massive operation to check on encroachment along the riparian next year. The effort would be one of the answers to the problem of disconnected wildlife corridor linking segmented reserve forests in and around Kinabatangan. “The problem has been allowed to get worst in the past where everybody thought it was alright to plant along the river. I think it was more on the ignorance of the law. “However, some land owners have already expressed their willingness to voluntarily cut down their trees that were planted inside the riparian reserve,” said Masidi. He said there had been some positive signs among the planters with many of them wishing to comply with the rules, saying the only reason why they had ‘accidentally’ encroached the reserve in the past was because other people were also doing it. “I hope to call for a meeting by next month with all the land owners, especially big companies, with the hope of getting them to rectify the problem voluntarily. “As I said we will use the enforcement of the land law which prohibits them from planting anything on the riparian reserve only as the last resort,” he said. He added there is punitive provision of the law in regard to encroachment of riparian reserve. However, the ministry would have it amended to provide heavier penalties if necessary. “If I’m not mistaken, the penalty is quite high, and if it is not high we will make sure it is amended to make it high enough to act as a deterrent,” he said.