Saturday, 12 July 2008

Sultan: Set precondition on forest projects

NST Online

Sultan: Set precondition on forest projects

GERIK: Perak ruler Sultan Azlan Shah has instructed the state government to introduce a new precondition before giving developers and investors the green light to develop forested areas which are rich in bio-diversity and regarded as natural heritage.

He said the precondition to be imposed should hold the developers responsible if they marred or destroyed forests while carrying out development-based projects, adding that this was to ensure that the environment remained intact.

Part of the precondition should also require the developers to take responsibility in ensuring that they secure necessary measures to protect the Orang Asli community who had inhabited the forests for generations, added the ruler. Sultan Azlan Shah expressed his concern that forests often became victims of development while the local Orang Asli community found itself displaced due to the greed of developers and investors.

"The state government must exercise care when choosing developers and investors... make sure that only those who are interested in providing long-term benefits to the state and its people are selected.

"Be careful with those who vie for riches at the expense of environmental destruction," he said when opening the Belum Rainforest Resort and Pulau Banding Rainforest Research Centre at Pulau Banding near here yesterday.

To help conserve forests and guard the Orang Asli community's interests, Sultan Azlan Shah said an integrated management plan (IMP) should be framed to ensure that the state's natural resources such as the Royal Belum State Park, Belum Forest Reserve, Temengor Forest Reserve and other forests remained protected for a long time.

He said this was also necessary to ensure that all future development projects were carried out in accordance with the management plan, adding that the state government should look into implementing an IMP as soon as possible.

Besides the proposed IMP, Sultan Azlan Shah also voiced the need for development projects in forested areas to include wide-ranging benefits for local communities.

"The development of human capital, alongside physical development, is a necessity so that the locals do not merely become spectators of the development taking place in their midst, but also are able to derive benefits from them.

"Hence, he emphasised the need to provide the Orang Asli community with living skills and business knowledge so that they could be absorbed into projects taking place in their areas and not watch as outsiders reaped the benefits from the proposed development.

At the same time, the ruler also welcomed the inclusion of the Royal Belum State Park as one of the products chosen for holistic development under the Northern Corridor Economic Region blueprint, adding that the state government would extend its cooperation to enable the outlines of the economic blueprint to be met.

Sultan Azlan Shah, who was accompanied by Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Bainun, later toured the RM35 million Belum Rainforest Resort, now managed by the Emkay Group.Since the company took over in August last year, the resort, which was then known as Banding Island Resort, has been upgraded to a three-star business entity. Emkay, which owns the 254ha Pulau Banding, has also built a RM2 million rainforest research centre with the collaboration of Universiti Sains Malaysia and Forestry Research Institute of Malay-sia.

The research centre will provide basic facilities for research work on the Belum-Temengor rainforests.It will also help to generate awareness and educate visitors and tourists on rainforest ecosystems.

Also present were Raja Puan Besar Tuanku Zara Salim, Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, Perak state assembly speaker V. Sivakumar, Raja Kechil Tengah Datuk Seri Ashamn Shah Sultan Azlan Shah, Raja Datuk Seri Azureen Sultan Azlan Shah and Emkay Group chairman Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal Abu Bakar and his wife Puan Sri Wan Nong Wan Ibrahim.