- The Ulu Muda rainforest is one of the last large, continuous tracts of forest in the Malay Peninsula, providing vital habitat for countless species as well as water for millions of people in northern Malaysia.
- Satellite data indicate deforestation activities are intensifying in the greater Ulu Muda landscape, including in protected areas such as Ulu Muda Forest Reserve.
- Sources say the forest loss is likely due to legal logging.
- Conservationists worry that the loss of Ulu Muda rainforest will have detrimental impacts on the region’s biodiversity and water security, as well as contribute to global climate change.
Illegal logging activities are still rampant in almost all the states in Malaysia, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said today. However, he assured that the Forestry Departments of the affected states were closely monitoring the situation.
- Critics of a government plantation scheme have slammed the program following revelations that only a fraction of forest reserves cleared for plantations over the past decade have actually been replanted.
- An investigation by environmental news site Macaranga found that only 5% of the 77,331 hectares (191,089 acres) of forest reserves cleared in Pahang state for plantations between 2012 and 2020 were replanted.
- A Pahang state opposition lawmaker has called the program a “cover-up” for a logging scheme, while an environmental activist has criticized the government for its lack of accountability.
Culprits convicted of plundering, damaging or starting fires in the nation’s forest reserves will be punished with heavier fines and longer jail terms.
Illegal loggers, for instance, are looking at a minimum of five to 20 years in jail and fines of up to RM1mil if convicted.
Two logging companies were acquitted by the Sessions Court on a charge with conducting illegal logging in a forest reserve in Tongod from 2016 to 2017.
The Kelantan state government has admitted that illegal logging and encroaching occur in the state’s permanent forest reserves but it is not as serious when compared with other states.
“Illegal logging does occur (in Kelantan). There are villagers who want to open orchards, plant durian trees and oil palm, so they cut down trees in forest reserves,” Kelantan deputy menteri besar Nik Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah said.
Effective Jan. 3, the state of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo has ended a ban on exporting unprocessed logs.
The ban was put in place in 2018 in a bid to bolster the state’s timber processing industry; critics warn that overturning it will lead to an increase in both legal and illegal logging in the state’s remaining forests.
A Sabah DAP lawmaker has panned the government’s decision to lift the ban on timber exports, which has been in place since 2018.
Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin said the move could trigger a recurrence of illegal logging activities, with little enforcement to prevent it from happening.
The Pahang state government has been urged by the opposition to conduct an immediate investigation on what was claimed to be illegal and uncontrolled logging in the state.