03/25/2022, 18.08
MALAYSIA
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Borneo reforestation project covers 400,000ha

by Steve Suwannarat

Plan includes creating production capacity for six million cubic metres per year of commercial timber. The objective is to develop the local economy while limiting illegal deforestation. The country’s natural forest lost 4 per cent in a decade. The pandemic has provided an opportunity for environmental revitalisation.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – The government’s plan to reforest 400,000 hectares in Sabah, one of two Malaysian states (the other is Sarawak) on the island of Borneo, has begun.

The Action Plan on Forest Plantation Development 2022-2036 by the Sabah Forestry Department includes reaching a production capacity of six million cubic metres per year of commercial timber.

Last Monday, World Forestry Day, local authorities laid out their goals: developing the local economy through sustainable environmental management and limiting illegal deforestation and its negative repercussions.

The government is aware that deforestation has intensified in the past few years, degrading the environment, as evinced by data collected by Global Forest Watch, which monitors global forests in near real-time.

In 2010, Malaysia had 20.3 million hectares of natural forest, covering about 87 per cent of its land area. Ten years later, the percentage was down to 83 per cent, a net loss.

Amid political divisions with parties vying for voters’ support, many official plans to manage the situation have been adopted and several are still being implemented.

One, the National Greening Campaign, aims at planting 100 million trees in one year, and Sabah is a model for the excellent results achieved so far.

Despite the challenges, two years of pandemic have also witnessed various reforestation projects start up again in Malaysian Borneo. One is the Regrow Borneo in Sabah along the lower Kinabatangan River, Malaysia’s second longest river.

Started in 2020, the community-based project stands out not only for tree planting, but also for the search of the most suitable species to reconstitute the forest and riverine environment with “ethical, transparent, and research-led” methods.

In an area largely converted to farming, the presence of endemic plants and animal species is still significant. The goal is to reconcile human activities and the original environment.

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