Sunday, 8 November 2009

Shrinking forests a threat to ecosystem

Saturday November 7, 2009

By KC CHAN The Star Malaysia

JOHOR BARU: Shrinking forests due to land clearing for economic activities will not only affect the ecosystem but will also lead to water shortage problems, Malay­sian Nature Society Johor branch chairman Maketab Mohamed said.

“If the forest is cut down, it will seriously affect the surroundings and change the ecosystem. It will also lead to water shortage and soil erosion,” he said.

He was commenting on the Auditor-General’s report which said the state’s forest reserves were rapidly shrinking due to poor management, including illegal activities within the reserves.

The report also stated that a total of 557,864ha had been gazetted as forest reserves but until December last year, this had shrunk to 340,940ha, or just 18% of the size of the state.

On the forestry department’s move to plant rubber trees on cleared forests, he said it was pointless to talk about conservation when the forest would be replaced by a rubber plantation.

“When natural forests are re­­placed by rubber plantations, the forest’s ecology will begin to unravel. This will impact many species that rely on the forest,” said Maketab.

WWF-Malaysia Forest Conser­vation Manager Ivy Wong Abdul­lah said the state should have a good forestry management and development plan involving the public and non-governmental or­­ga­­nisations.

The state authorities should improve their enforcement and monitoring procedures, especially the Forestry Department, to prevent forest reserves from en­­croachment and illegal logging activities, she said.

Meanwhile, Johor State Forest­ry Department director Yahaya Mo­­ha­mood said the department was unable to maintain the original size of forest reserves.

“We understand that preserving the forest is important and the Government also realises that more areas need to be gazetted.

“However, it will take time for us to to do the relevant research and conduct proper measurements to confirm the status of gazetted areas,” he said.