Saturday, 12 July 2008

Plantation devt to continue: Taib

borneo post online 29/6

Plantation devt to continue: Taib

By Zora Chan

KUCHING: Sarawak government will continue to open up more land for oil palm plantations as the state already has proper conservation measures to protect its forests and wildlife, including the orang utan.

The measures long in place should allay the concerns of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who has called for a stop to the clearing of land for such plantations in the Peninsula, to prevent environmental accusations.

Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud pointed out yesterday that the government had reserved a large area as wildlife sanctuary for orang utan in Lanjak Entimau years ago to protect the primate and its habitat.

“Our orang utan are safe and we will continue to develop land for oil palm because there’s no reason why we should not,” he told reporters after opening the Chief Minister’s Department’s family day in Pasir Panjang, Santubong here yesterday.

On Wednesday, Abdullah said the government would no longer allow forests to be cleared for oil palm plantations to prevent accusations from western non-governmental organisations that such development would destroy the forest and its ecosystem as well as the orang utan population.
He said existing plantations of 4.3 million hectares throughout the country were sufficient to meet the present demands for oil palm.

Better plantation management and usage of technology would increase oil palm production by 30 per cent and therefore, there was no need to open up new land, Abdullah said.

Taib yesterday also said that the state government started its conservation efforts way back in the 1950’s by gazetting key areas as national parks, wildlife sanctuary and nature reserves throughout Sarawak.

“In the 1980’s we identified and separated permanent forests from national parks and land for agriculture to ensure that there will be no conflicts in development and environmental conservation sectors,” he said.

In addition, he said some 30,000 hectares had been reserved for the nomadic Penan although less than 500 of them were still living as nomads.
Taib asserted: “The state government does not do things blindly. There is careful planning being done.”

According to him, Sarawak planned to develop one million hectares of land into oil palm plantations under its new Native Customary Right land development concept by 2010.

At a separate function, Second Planning and Resource Management Minister Dato Sri Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said the state had strict guidelines and it would not approve projects that could affect the permanent forest or protected areas.

“We have designated one million hectares as totally protected areas, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and water catchment areas. We are very strict about this. And at the same time, we have approved 2.8 million hectares for reforestation.

“So we have the guidelines and we know how much land needs to be opened for agriculture or plantations. So, this is not a big issue,” he told reporters when asked about the Prime Minister’s directive.