Illegal logging could cost M’sia RM800-900mil yearly

(The Star) – Malaysia stands to lose between RM800mil to RM900mil annually if illegal logging is not controlled, Transparency-International (TI) Malaysia president Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan said Wednesday.

However, he believed illegal logging was “pretty much under control” in Peninsular Malaysia, although more attention needed to be paid to east Malaysian states.

He urged state governments to quickly move to designate and gazette selected areas for forest conservation to prevent them from being allocated for forestry activities.

“We are concerned about ensuring areas designated for conservation are quickly marked off and gazetted,” he said after the launching of the Forest Watch and Public Awareness Campaign on Forest Conservation here.

He added that it was vital to determine in policy how much forest was allowed for either plantation or development.

“Yes, there are sporadic areas where legal loggers may extend beyond their boundaries. But I think that the issue of forestry conservation also has to be tackled at the policy side,” he said, adding that he believed the state governments were carrying out their enforcement responsibilities against illegal logging in their respective states.

The Forest Watch project allows anyone to monitor the forest and track illegal logging activities at will, through simple, easy-to-use Google techniques.

“The Forest Watch Project is developed to engage the public as the eyes and ears of the forest through the use of Google Earth Geospatial Technology (satellite, imagery, aerial photography and GIS 3D globe),” he said.

“The public can then assess and report irregularities through the new website,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigations director Datuk Mustafar Ali said the commission took the issue of corruption in forestry activities very seriously.

He added that MACC had received around 88 complaints last year from various parties including non-governmental organisations and the public.

Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department director-general Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Abdul Rahim said the Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Ministry was in the final stages of revising the National Forestry Act to include new provisions for higher penalties, imprisonment and strict liability.

“The ministry has also established the 1NRE Enforcement team comprising various enforcement departments within NRE to conduct integrated enforcement operations,” he read in a speech text on behalf of NRE Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas.