Rainforest Journal

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Forest Reserves are not “Permanent” in Malaysia

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It is with a heavy heart that I post this blog post, after waking up today and reading this piece of news concerning the massive destruction of the lowland forest at the Lesong Forest Reserve in south Pahang. As you can see from the video, this is actually rare forest habitat on lowland, undulating terrain, and contrary to the Pahang State Government’s excuse that “the forest is low quality forest” you can actually see that the logs being pulled out are HUGE (The best yield forests are always lowland forest below 300m altitude). This apparently contradicts their “low quality timber” statement! What is more depressing is this area is adjacent to the northern part of the beautiful Endau Rompin National Park, that I recently came back from.

Why would it matter to you?

For those not yet well versed with Malaysia’s forestry practices, what they frequently do nowadays is to clear fell an entire forest area (chop down everything), and then replant the entire place with palm oil or other commercial crops. Gone are the days when we followed a systematic cyclical logging system. The trend is to chop down everything and replace it with oil palm/another crop/plantation.

I have noticed this trend in Malaysia recent years. The logging is either very severe, because they cannot wait 20-30 years for the trees to regrow a little, and so subject the production forests to faster and faster logging cycles, or they simply clear-cut everything and plant the area with oil palm. The result is of course, the “permanent” forest estate quality throughout Malaysia becoming more and more degraded as time goes on. And then finally, they use the excuse that the low quality timber is the reason to chop down everything and turn it into an oil palm plantation, because it doesn’t yield any more good timber!

It doesn’t matter if it is a classified “Permanent Forest Reserve” on paper, or not. Actually in Malaysia, the long running joke is that a “Forest Reserve” simply means it is “Reserved” for some obnoxious timber “tauke” with deep pockets to buy/bribe over the right to log the place. Except that this is not a joke, but the reality in Malaysia.

Well, everyone wins here – the timber barons, the plantation companies, and the state governments. The big loser is our earth, and countless life forms lost forever. The future generation may consider this a loss – if they care enough. Ultimately it does not matter, because WE all (the inhabitants of the earth) lose. Does less forest cover actually contribute to climate change and even more environmental degradation? Absolutely, but it would take pages and pages to explain to the ignorant.

Although I am happy newspapers like TheStar often bring such issues to the public attention, I actually deplore the way the mainstream media carefully uses the words “environmentalists” as in – “environmentalists are up in arms over this”. It is like environmentalists are a small fringe group constantly harping on green issues, with nothing better to do. It’s similar to how we call people who destroy the environment (like a patch of forest near an urban area) as “developers”, and the forest is somehow getting in the way and needs to be cleared or “developed” even if it is a vital green lung performing very useful and needed functions. All these subtle mental constructs do not encourage humans to view themselves (man) as part of the environment, when this is simply the truth!

No, this is NOT an issue that only angers so-called environmentalists; actually we are ALL environmentalists, because this earth is the only physical home we have, and it is not a choice we can even afford to make. If we do not care about trashing up the earth, we will live to regret it, and it is happening even right now. The state of the world just keeps going from bad to worse, despite all the lip service we pay to the ideal.

The day will come when there will be nothing left to ruin.

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