As much as we hate to admit it, we as a country, suck at protecting and preserving our forests and environment. The sad truth is, we have much less forest cover than we claim or assume; much of our “forest cover” is actually oil palm/rubber plantations. Of the current forest cover that we have, very, very little of that is virgin, unlogged forest with large trees and the highest biodiversity. Shouldn’t we be protecting what little bit that remains?
Thumbing through the news in The Star, I came across this recent news saying that heavy logging is now underway at Gunung Pulai. As I have posted before, Gunung Pulai is one of the last vestiges of West Coast Peninsular Malaysian lowland dipterocarp forest that is all but extinct.
Most people have no idea that Gunung Pulai’s rainforests is different from Taman Negara or elsewhere. It is NOT enough to have Taman Negara while the logging out the rest of the country. The forest is different from location to location; the species inside them are different. One of the major reasons is because the underlying geology is different. That is why we need to conserve different pockets or samples. Most of Taman Negara is on poor sandstone and sedimentary soil, as is the case in central Peninsular Malaysia, whereas most of the Semenanjung West Coast is on granite, laterite soil, which is deep and fertile.
Forests on such deep, fertile soils have a much higher density of huge, majestic trees with big crowns. The timber yield is greater, because many of the trees have well-formed boles with no holes in them, unlike forest over sandstone. Is it any wonder that almost none of such forests exist in their pristine form, today? Just take a drive from Kedah all the way down to Johor, and count on one hand (if you can find), any patches of West Coast lowland rainforest that is still unlogged or uncleared for any plantation.
The answer – Next to none.
I have noted before that Gunung Pulai’s rainforests are in an unlogged state; basically in the same state before man even set foot in that area, and therefore very valuable from a conservation standpoint. That is all we have left. Something should have been done to protect Gunung Pulai. Instead, the locals turn it into a rubbish dump. And the authorities allow it to be logged. Does the Malaysian public not care? I think even the Singaporeans care more about this forest patch than the people who live next to it.
Shameful, don’t you think?
Just to set the record straight, Malaysia actually had the world’s highest deforestation rate between 2000 and 2012. It’s not a surprise, really. Malaysians just don’t care (except maybe for a few). And the government doesn’t care either. But that is obvious when we chop down our forests wholesale.
Unlike other sites, or blogs, I don’t think “greenwashing” and painting a rosy picture of the state of our environment is correct. Therefore, I will continue to speak out about pertinent issues on my blog. The truth is, the Malaysian environment is in very bad shape. The huge floods that hit Malaysia in late 2014 is but a symptom of this. Our national environmental policies should have already shifted towards conservation and preservation for the long term, rather than rampant exploitation for short term monetary gain (seeing that we don’t have much forest left). If we don’t get our act together, who will?
Update: The day I posted this, there was a glimmer of hope, in this piece of news. Although it’s too late to save Sarawak’s forests, this is still a good development. We can only hope Malaysia improves in environmental protection for future generations, because so far, that is a very bad track record that we have.