THE MALAYSIAN NATURE SOCIETY (MNS) CALLS FOR NATURE CONSERVATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION TO BE KEY ISSUES OF THE GENERAL ELECTIONS
The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) notes with serious concern the recent cases of environmental mismanagement that have been highlighted by the media, and calls on all political parties to pledge real action to halt unsustainable development.
The recent case of the 14 poisoned pygmy elephants and the continued widespread deforestation points to fundamental weaknesses in forest management in States run by both the ruling and opposition coalitions. In the upcoming general elections, MNS will encourage the public to support candidates and parties who pledge (within 100 days after elected to office) to rectify these weaknesses by putting in place the appropriate measures to ensure the following:
1) For state forest enactments to be amended to include mandatory public consultation prior to the excision of forest reserves;
2) All forest clearing and logging done within the Permanent Forest Reserves (PFR) and Stateland Forests must be in compliance with spatial plans and land use policies of the country (such as the National Physical Plan and the Central Forest Spine Masterplan);
3) Natural forests classified as Environmentally Sensitive Areas Rank 1 and 2 (as described under the National Physical Plan) should not be cleared. These areas include the steep land areas above 300m, water catchments, wetland areas including rivers, lakes and coastal mangrove forests, and protected areas. All the unsustainable and/or incompatible developments taking place in these areas must be stopped or removed to safeguard the environment and the country’s rich biological biodiversity, including protecting human life and livelihood.
4) Local communities must give their free, prior and informed consent to clearing and logging activities near their settlements, and in the case of indigenous communities, on their tanah adat (traditional land). Encourage and promote the empowerment of such communities to take responsibility for using their forest wisely, through increased participation of stakeholders in the management of said forests.
5) Highways must not be allowed to cut through the protected areas such as national parks, states parks, wildlife reserves and protected forest reserves (including water catchment forest);
6) To halt the development of forest plantation in PFR with non-native tree species and agriculture crops, and to review current practice of establishing such forest plantation within the PFR;
7) To promote forest rehabilitation programmes, especially along road and river reserves, in urban parks, identified wildlife corridors and degraded forest areas;
8) The federal government must provide fiscal incentives for state government to comply with the national policy of maintaining 50% natural forest cover.
9) To be stewards and champions of wildlife conservation and promote strict application of legal provisions and penalties.
10) Moving forward, the role of forests in providing the ecological services and/or life support systems (quality water, clean air, flood retention, soil protection, refuge for biological diversity, etc) to grow our country’s economy (at national, regional and local levels) must be acknowledged, and as such, Regions / States / Districts with large forest areas need to be adequately compensated through ‘Payment for Ecosystem Services’
Much of Malaysia is covered by so-called ‘permanent forest reserves’ but present state enactments allow for such forest reserves to be excised without public consultation (with the exception of the states of Sabah and Selangor). In all states, the law allows for natural forest in Permanent Forest Reserve to be cleared for mono-culture tree plantations. In some States, the authorities have even allowed oil palm and rubber plantations to be set up inside these so-called Permanent Forest Reserves.
Much of the logging and development taking place is not in compliance with the zonation specified by spatial plans such as the National Physical Plan. Areas zoned as “critical linkages” for wildlife corridors are being cleared in violation of the Central Forest Spine (CFS) Materplan that has been approved by the National Physical Planning Council.
Furthermore, key sites that are identified as ‘Environmentally Sensitive Areas’ (ESAs) in local structure plans are often ignored when forest clearing and logging activities commence. State Parks, Virgin Jungle Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Water Catchment Forests and Coastal Mangrove Forests are also not safe from development, with an increasing number of highways and commercial development being established in these nominally protected areas.
Finally, MNS would like to draw attention to the fact that in order for sustainable development to take place it is necessary that the general public is consulted and their view is taken into consideration. In this respect, the rights of the local communities (such as the Orang Asal of Malaysia) are respected and their views taken into account prior to the commencement of land clearing or logging activities in areas nearby and/or on their tanah adat.
It is with these concerns above that MNS has decided to take a proactive stand today, to demand all politicians and political parties to make public their green manifesto commit towards the preservation of Nature and the Environment. MNS notes with concern that regardless of political regime or alignment, Malaysia's natural resources are still badly managed and consistently degraded and threatened. MNS hopes that the Malaysian public will support this important call to lobby for the conservation and protection of Malaysia’s natural heritage (focusing on biological diversity and sustainable development), and make the up-coming General Elections a truly GREEN ELECTION.
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Prof Dr. Maketab Mohamed President Malaysian Nature Society
For more information, please contact: Balu Perumal, Head of Conservation: firstname.lastname@example.org Andrew J Sebastian, Head of Communications: email@example.com Tel: 03-22879422 Fax: 03-22878773 URL: www.mns.my