Why allow mining at forest reserve?

Posted on July 23, 2012. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

— Free Malaysia Today– G Vinod

The Sabah Environment Protection Association has questioned the state government’s decision to demote a forest reserve in Tawau and allow private mining operations to be carried out.

PETALING JAYA: Why has the Sabah Forestry Department issued a “whole life” licence to Hap Seng Consolidated Bhd to mine a forest reserve in Tawau when it had rejected its request twice before?

This question aside, the Sabah Environment Protection Association (Sepa) has also criticised the state government’s decision to review the status of the forest reserve in what seems to be a “giving-of-way” to the miner.

Said Sepa spokesman Gary Yap: “When the public complained against quarrying activities in a Class One forest, what surprised us most was to discover that Kukusan forest/Trig Hill reserve was declassified into Class Two by the State Legislative Assembly to allow Hap Seng or its subsidiary to continue operation.

“In fact, not only were they given approval, they were also awarded a whole life operation [15 years] instead of chasing them away or charging them in court.”

Yap said Hap Seng had its licence application rejected twice before but eventually got the nod to blast the hills in May 2011.

“In 2006, Hap Seng Building Material Sdn Bhd applied to DOE [Department of Environment] for quarry operation on Kukusan and in 2007 for pit quarry development at Kukusan and in both cases DOE rejected.

“In May 2011 DOE approved its EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and Hap Seng was given [a licence] for whole life operation.

“This means that until then Hap Seng or its subsidiary was blasting and digging away illegally without a DOE licence, violating the Environment Quality Act 1974, ” Yap said.

Demoted forest reserve

He also asked how the Director of Forestry could have come to the conclusion that Hap Seng’s operation was legal when it had already violated the law.

“In other countries, once a company has violated its law, it is not allowed to operate the business anymore. In our case, we bend the law to accommodate and reward the violator,” he said.

He also expressed puzzlement over the Director of Forestry’s flogging of Section 15 of the Forest Enactment 1968.

“Why is Section 15 so powerful that it allowed Hap Seng, under a Supplementary Agreement, to occupy, quarry and mine our stone in the Kukusan Forest Reserve [155 acres] for 15 years?” he asked.

Yap also criticised the state government’s decision to demote the forest reserve, Kukusan Forest/Trig Hill Reserve from a Class 1 reserve to a Class 2 reserve in 2003.

“Although the Sabah Forest Enactment 1968 empowers the minister to allow miners to work on forest reserves, what guarantee do we have that other forest reserves like the Danun Valley, Maliau Basin and Kinabalu Park will be safe after this?” asked Yap

Class 1 reserve indicates that the land is protected as a forest sanctuary while Class 2 reserves allows mining and logging to be done at the area.

Toxic lake

Yap said that the mining would not benefit Sabahans in general, adding that the stones would be exported to countries like Brunei and Indonesia for higher profits.

He also said that while the government would earn a few million ringgit in tax profits from the mining activity, Hap Seng stands to earn billions from the high-quality stones at the expense of the Tawau people.

Yap also claimed that the mining activity would leave a toxic lake behind, rendering the place unsuitable to be even converted into a recreational park.

“The day will come when our children will need to import inferior quality stones from other countries to build roads, highways, drains and ports,” he said.

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Environmentalists not happy with aquaculture project at Kuala Kedah

Posted on December 29, 2011. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-The Sun-

GEORGE TOWN (Dec 28, 2011): Environmentalits are up in arms over what they described as the destruction of the mangrove forest in Kampung Permatang Tengah, Kota Kuala Muda, Kedah.

In a joint statement, the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) claimed some 112 hectares have been affected since last month due to an aquaculture project.

CAP president SM Mohamed Idris said the clearing of the mangroves have affected some 2,000 villagers as well as some 100 in-shore fishermen who rely on the mangroves for their income.

“They (in-shore fishermen) used to be able to earn between RM60 to RM100 a day catching fish, prawns and crabs but can only earn RM30 now.

“Furthermore, the animals living in the mangroves like the monkeys and lizards are now encroaching in the homes of the villagers,” he said.

Mohamed urged the Kedah state government, to check whether the aquaculture project had an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or not and called for an investigation into the status of the project.

He also called upon the Kedah Forestry Department to take stern action if any laws were found to be broken.

He said a replanting exercise should be undertaken to restore the mangrove as well as compensation be paid to those whose livelihoods were affected.

“The state government should gazette the area as a reserve so it can be protected for future generations,” he said.

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Malaysia Maintains 56.4 Per Cent Of Land Area As Forested Land

Posted on December 5, 2011. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

MELAKA, Dec 5 (Bernama) — Malaysia is still able to maintain 56.4 per cent of its total land area as forested land, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said Monday.

He described it as an encouraging achievement because many countries were not able to do so as their forest areas had been opened for development.

This success is very significant because Malaysia is still a developing country where development and forest land-use change for other purposes still happens, he said in his speech at the opening of the 16th Malaysian Forestry Conference here.

The text of the speech was read by Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Tan Sri Joseph Kurup.

Uggah said the most important challenge in today’s forest management was to balance the competition and various land use for forestry activities.

He said that the forest was not just a producer of a product, but also to produce clean air and water, as well as to absorb carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect.

Meanwhile, Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, in his speech when opening the conference, said Melaka had gazetted 5,327 hectares of forested land or 3.2 per cent of the state’s total land area as permanent forest reserves.

“This effort is made on the commitment by the state government to maintain a permanent forest area to provide a clean environment and for the preservation of the biodiversity for the people’s well-being” he said.

The speech was read by the State Rural Development and Agriculture Committee Chairman Datuk R. Perumal.

He said the state government would continue with its tree planting effort, adding that a total of 17,250 trees had been planted since 2005.

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Landscape Malaysia Plants 32,367 Trees Nationwide

Posted on December 1, 2011. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

(Bernama) — A total of 32,367 trees has been planted nationwide so far through the ‘My Forest’ programme organised by Landscape Malaysia since it was launched at Bukit Kiara Park in February 2009.

Landscape Malaysia chairman Tun Jeanne Abdullah said the organisation would continue with its tree planting effort to ensure the trees could benefit future generations.

“This effort is important as most places including urban parks, schools, hospitals and degraded areas do not have many trees anymore,” she said at a “My Forest’ programme organised by Landscape Malaysia and Exxonmobil in Kampung Balak, Pasir Panjang, here, Thursday.

Through this programme, 1,000 mangrove saplings will be planted along the village coastline.

Jeanne said Malaysians were fortunate as they could still breathe fresh air, enjoy clean water supply and use natural resources for a living, but these would not be permanent without efforts to conserve them.

“We should learn lessons from the tsunami that also hit our country in 2004, as it had an impact on our country and people. As such, our mangrove forests must be preserved as wave breakers to protect our shores.

“Peninsular Malaysia has 106,104 hectares of mangrove but only 1.8 per cent are in their original state.

“The natural environment is a gift from God for humans who are entrusted to safeguard it from harm,” she said.

Esso Malaysia Retail Business director Faridah Ali said the company hoped to contribute to improving the ecosystem along the country’s coastline through the mangrove planting programme.

“We also hope that the beauty and cleanliness of our coastal areas can be preserved through cooperation and monitoring by the relevant agencies, as well as the public’s civic-consciousness,” she said.

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Envisioning a greener Earth

Posted on November 30, 2011. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |


SHAKLEE has a vision, and it is of a million trees growing lush and tall, giving Mother Earth a chance to heal her deep-set wounds caused by man’s unmitigated greed and wanton materialism.

envisioningTan Sri Joseph Kurup (second from right), Datuk Abdul Rasid Samsudin, director-general of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (left), Victor Lim (second from left) and Datuk Masran Md Salleh, deputy director-general of the Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department (right) helping to plant trees at the Bukit Sungei Puteh Forest Reserve in Cheras. Pic by Rosela Ismail

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The company set itself a noble target when it launched an environment-friendly corporate social responsibility campaign themed “A million trees, a million dreams”.

Shaklee Malaysia has always wanted to do its part to green the earth and at the same time advocate a cleaner, healthier and safer world.

That dream started materialising in 2009 when it teamed up with the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia to sponsor and plant trees at Kepong Botanical Garden, a former mining area which is now an educational public park.

Pushing ahead with its efforts to educate Malaysians on environmental issues and the need for growing trees, Shaklee Malaysia recently planted trees at Bukit Sungei Puteh Forest Reserve in Cheras for the second consecutive year with the cooperation of the Forestry Department.

The event, which was officiated by Natural Resources and Environment Deputy Minister Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, saw the company’s employees, civil servants, guests and  members of the media plant tree saplings.

The three-year cooperation between Shaklee Malaysia and the National Forestry Department started last year when the company sponsored RM10,000 worth of tree saplings and a trail measuring 226 metres long. The trail is to ensure that the park has facilities for visitors including the disabled.

“Reversing the unprecedented loss of biodiversity and saving our planet requires the effort of everyone,” said Victor Lim, the regional general manager of Shaklee, Southeast Asia.

“Working with the Forestry Department in planting trees at this forest reserve is part of the company’s effort in mitigating residual carbon emissions, while at the same time hoping to create valuable wildlife habitats and a forest park for people to enjoy and learn from,” he said.

The company hoped that the choice of fruit trees for planting this time around would serve to attract birds, insects and other wildlife to this reserve and create biodiversity.

“Tree-planting is definitely one of  the most potent ways to protect our planet, but people are either not doing enough of it or not doing anything at all,” said Lim.

“Forests help to control climate. Some experts now call rainforests ‘the air-conditioners of the world’ because their dark depths absorb heat from the sun.”

In his speech, Kurup said Shaklee’s efforts was in line with the ministry’s drive to plant 26 million trees by 2014 which would be capable of absorbing 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The campaign, “Green The Earth: One Citizen, One Tree”, was launched in April last year. More than 13 million trees have since been planted.

A total of 110 trees were planted during the event, including rambai hutan, sentul, keledang temponek, beruas and kandis .

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Guidelines to ensure forests are well-managed

Posted on November 1, 2011. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-The Star-

A new set of standards on forest certification is in the works.

WAY back in 1999, Malaysia was just beginning her journey towards a national forest certification scheme.

It was for this purpose that the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) was established the previous year.

At the time, the target was to get the national standards on sustainable forestry endorsed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which was perceived to be the most credible scheme in Europe. Unfortunately, the goal never materialised.

Timber theft: This filepic shows illegal sawn timber onboard a vessel in Kuching, Sarawak. Despite global calls for better management of forests, few logging operations have been certified as sustainably managed.

MTCC and FSC had some irreconcilable differences. One revolved around FSC’s stance in recognising the land rights of indigenous communities. The MTCC’s take however, is that seeking the recognition of community land rights was beyond its scope as that would require changes to the state constitution. It said that principle should be interpreted within the local context and comply with existing applicable laws. When a piece of land is gazetted as permanent forest estate, natives lose their rights to make claims to the land, therefore recognising these rights was thought to simply go beyond the scope of MTCC’s function.

As the paths diverged, the Malaysian government decided to go ahead to develop its own certification scheme without FSC accreditation. Despite the split, there was still an understanding among some non-governmental organisations (NGO) which were involved in the talks that they would continue working towards a set of FSC-endorsed national standards.

Under the guidance of former chief executive officer Tan Chin Tong, Perak Integrated Timber Complex gained FSC Forest Management Certification in 2002.

“We still believed in the FSC principles. We weren’t exactly going to abandon the FSC and that’s where we are now,” says Kanitha Krishnasamy, who works with the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC. The NGOs jointly established Forest Sustainability Malaysia to further pursue the cause and in July, the group got the go-ahead from FSC International to develop a set of national standards on sustainable forestry for Malaysia.

To guide Kanitha and five other Forest Sustainability Malaysia members on the preparation of the standards, a three-day training workshop was held early last month by Gordian Fanso, FSC international policy manager for national standards.

Fanso oversees each and every standard that will be used to audit forest management, and travels the world to do it. “It’s common for people to end up walking out of the standards development group because they just can’t reach some kind of consensus.”

The breakers, or hot topics, he say, usually relate to things like high conservation value areas, plantations, conversion percentages and the rights of local and indigenous communities.

Native rights

Indigenous rights is something Thomas Jalong, a Kenyah from the upper Baram region in Sarawak, has been passionate about all his life. It makes sense that he is in charge of the social aspect in the FSC standards drafting committee. He is president of Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia, an umbrella network for community-based organisations advocating the interests and concerns of orang asli, and says a core issue is the fact that when a piece of land is gazetted as “permanent forest estate”, the orang asli must relinquish their rights.

Thomas Jalong, president of the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia, says meaningful engagement with local communities is crucial to a sustainable forest management plan.

“When you relinquish your rights there is no longer any basis for you to be consulted or involved. If you can no longer exercise control over how resources are extracted or exploited, this systematically marginalises people from the process.”

From his experience talking to various indigenous communities subsisting in the forest, he discerns a pattern. Sometimes there is no consultation. When there is, often loggers will tell the headman that they have a licence, intend to operate in the area, and want his consent. Just because consultations happen does not necessarily mean they are done in a manner that is amicable and free from pressure or coercion.

“They say they will help the community, maybe build an access road, and if they go through areas where the community have crops they will compensate and tell them, this is the rate. In cases where the community does not consent, they are just told, ‘You have no rights to stop us because we have already been given the licence.’ They might even threaten to call the police or say, ‘The government will come.’”

For a timber operation to be sustainable, it will require working with local communities to come out with a sustainable forest management plan.

Locations of burial sites, medicinal plants, rattan, salt licks and fruits important to the diet of locals and wildlife – “All these are within the knowledge of the community,” says Jalong. “So if you want to sustainably operate in this area, you must engage them.”

Certification can help Malaysian timber fetch higher prices in the market.

Many of these resources make up high conservation value areas, which are sites important for protected or rare species, or ecosystems services such as water sources. One of the FSC principles of sustainable forestry centres around identifying and maintaining such areas. In this sense, neglecting the special knowledge of indigenous communities is counterproductive to achieving the goals of sustainable forest management.

Improving forestry

Even in cases where a country lacks the legislative obligation to engage indigenous communities, to be FSC-certified, Fanso says companies are required to go beyond what is found in governmental frameworks. An appropriate management plan must also be in place to reduce pressures on, and promote restoration of, natural forests.

Environmental consultant Anthony Sebastian, who chairs the national standards drafting committee, explains the basics: “A ‘forest management unit’ should be divided up into coupes. A certain number of trees that have reached a minimum diameter requirement will then be harvested from each coupe on a rotational basis, giving the forest time to regenerate.”

This is the ideal situation, but it does not always work that way. “Why? Because there is so little forest left, there tends to be a lot of mismanagement going on.”

Mismanagement often extends to non-timber resources. Loggers often end up hunting wildlife. Kanitha says according to FSC principles, the onus is on the forest manager to ensure this does not happen within the timber concession.

“There is national legislation saying certain species are protected. However, no one is assessing whether that is being done, so certification just provides another layer to bolster that.”

An example how guidelines for this might be drawn up in the FSC national standards would be indicators stating that illegal hunting is prevented, entry into the concession by outsiders is appropriately managed, and excessive pollution of rivers due to logging does not occur.

Marketing edge

Tan Chin Tong, who is looking at the economic aspect in the standards drafting committee, attests to the fact that sustainable accreditation for logging companies makes economic sense. He should know – he is the former chief executive officer of the Perak Integrated Timber Complex (Perak ITC) which in 2002, was the second company in Malaysia to gain an FSC Forest Management certificate.

“You have to look at the value chain in totality, a higher management or administrative cost can well be compensated by savings in marketing.”

It goes without saying that selling certified wood gave Perak ITC an advantage over their competitors when it came to market access. The advantage was selling a premium brand in times of market shortage for products made from tropical hardwoods.

Tan says the best thing, however, was having a clear conscience and knowing that their logging practices were not destroying the forest. Tan left Perak ITC in 2005. The company’s FSC certificate was then suspended for a few years, reinstated in 2008, and is now once again under suspension pending requests for corrective action.

Tan says key issues hampering forest certification in Peninsular Malaysia include harvesting methods and institutional arrangements. By the latter, he is referring to forest concessions being leased to logging contractors for short periods of time. The lack of long-term commitment is what often leads to mismanagement of timber concessions.

Tan says there is demand for FSC-certified wood. “There are 161 with FSC Chain of Custody certificates, but there isn’t enough FSC-certified timber for them to process or trade.”

He says timber concessionaires need to actively engage in the process. “Let their concerns be heard and deliberated. The hotter the deliberation, the better the standards.”

Sebastian estimates that the process of preparing the sustainable forestry standards, consultation within the industry and field testing will take about a year. The target is to have the standards ready by the middle or end of next year.

Aside from participation by concessionaires and other stakeholders, he points out that financial institutions also have an important role to play. HSBC Bank Malaysia has contributed RM150,000 to fund development of the standards.

Sebastian asserts that it is the responsible lending policies of finance institutions, however, that will make a real difference in the long term. It all comes back to how much we value our forests and what is in them. A wildlife ecologist by training, Sebastian says he long ago realised that we cannot save our species without saving our forests. It is not so much the trees that he is worried about. After all, forests grow back, as demonstrated in their iconic reclamation of the Mayan Pyramids and temples of Angkor Wat.

“Time heals all, and our forests have time. Unfortunately I don’t think our tigers do.”

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Consumers’ call to promote sustainable forestry

Posted on November 1, 2011. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-The Star-

By choosing the right kind of wood products, consumers can encourage sustainable forestry.

LOGGING is sometimes seen as a dirty word. It throws up emotive images: death and destruction of wildlife and their habitat, and human rights violations of the forest’s indigenous communities, for example.

Research suggests that the direct and indirect causes of forest deterioration are highly complex. Poor logging practices and ineffective government institutions and policies are just two of many factors.

Let’s not kid ourselves, however. We play a part in the story too. Timber is harvested to fulfil a demand in the marketplace. Our wooden flooring, furniture, building formwork and paper – the wood used to make all these come from forests.

Consumer action: By demanding for wood products sourced from sustainably-managed forest, be it wooden doors, timber flooring, furniture or paper, consumers can help promote responsible forestry management.

If the man on the street wants a way of doing his bit, looking for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo is one way of ensuring that the product being bought did not come from a forest where wanton, irresponsible destruction of forest has taken place and the rights of indigenous communities, ignored.

The FSC has existed since 1993 and is widely recognised as having the world’s first and most credible forest certification scheme. Multinationals in tune with the rising collective consciousness of 21st century society know the value of consumer conscience. The first thing you see when you sit down in the toilet at IKEA in Petaling Jaya in Selangor, for example, is a poster telling you about its latest collaboration with FSC and the World Wide Fund for Nature to improve the standards of forest management and availability of certified woods in China.

Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer and Tetra pak, one of the world’s largest packaging companies, have also joined ranks with a growing pool of businesses that have made sustainable wood purchasing part of their company policy.

So why do we still hear horror stories about our depleting rainforests? One reason is: not all logging companies have jumped on the sustainable logging bandwagon. Most retailers cannot say 100% of their products are FSC-certified because there just are not enough certified forests to meet demand. Less than 12% of global forestry is part of any certification scheme, and procuring enough FSC-certified material has been cited by various companies as one of the biggest challenges in meeting targets for the percentage of FSC-certified products they can offer.

Consumer awareness to create that demand remains the missing link. Locally, few, save for those in the industry, know what the “tree with a tick” (the FSC logo) stands for. And as long companies do not see the incentive to source for certified wood for their products, logging companies remain unlikely to follow through. The onus to write the next chapter lies with us, the masses; the world is waiting on us to wise up and start creating more pressure for change.

Guilt-free paper

Thumbprints, a home-grown printing and packaging company in Malaysia that was founded in 1999, has a staff of 300 and supplies customers all the way from Japan to South Africa. Being successful does not mean you cannot be green, however. As printing companies in Malaysia go, Thumbprints are about as green as you get, with two environmental titles from the Asian Print Awards (in 2008 and 2010).

Keen on taking on a green direction, the company decided to source for FSC-certified materials and then got its FSC Chain of Custody Certification. Though ready to embrace sustainable sourcing, company director Tam Wah Fong soon realised the market in Asia was not.

“Sources for FSC paper in Asia are scarce because the demand is almost zero. There is no market, so prices are high because there is no economy of scale,” he explains.

Tam thinks FSC paper is ideal. “It certifies the source of paper pulp to be from well-managed forests, but the question is whether customers are willing to pay the price difference (currently about 15% to 20%). Customers ask for FSC quotes, but mostly that’s where it ends. The fear of losing out in terms of competition stops clients from using FSC paper. Demand remains few and far apart.”

Tam remains optimistic, however. “It’s about consumer awareness, and how people like you and me can demand that corporations use FSC paper.”

Abroad, many government agencies, non-governmental organisations and major corporations have committed to purchasing FSC-certified wood and paper products. Locally, two out of Tam’s three FSC-buying clients are international.

As a percentage of total sales at Thumbprints, FSC products account for only 0.04%. FSC paper is currently sold in the market as a speciality paper at premium pricing. Although many multinationals have set policies to source for FSC-certified raw materials for their products, Tam says their local counterparts often do not conform, either due to lack of availability of these materials, poor awareness or bottom line profit margins.

He says in developed countries, government policy has brought about nearly full use of FSC-certified paper and 100% recycled papers.

“Banks in Britain were ordered by their central bank to use only FSC paper and in the US, non-FSC products are rare. We hope the Malaysian government and companies will implement policies to use and promote FSC products. Eventually, demand will bring about economy of scale and the price will come down.”

Tam thinks demand for FSC-certified products will be a trend for the future.

“FSC promotes well-managed forests, which means harvesting only trees that are big and old enough, whilst leaving others to grow. Replanting in place of the fallen tree is mandatory, and this will liberate the guilt of using paper-based products like books, cartons, magazines or newspaper, because we are using renewable and sustainable resources.”

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The right backing on forest management

Posted on November 1, 2011. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-The Star-

IN a nutshell, the Forest Steward-ship Council (FSC) serves as a stamp of approval – only logging companies that are found to meet its set of forest management stan-dards are endorsed to use its logo.

Its birth lay in the wake of the 1992 Earth Summit, where there was a general frustration that international responses to deforestation were inadequate and too slow. In response, environmental groups and their allies took the initiative and in 1993, the FSC was launched.

The idea behind FSC was to build sustainability into the industry by encouraging forest businesses to voluntarily adopt environmentally and socially acceptable practices. With an industry involving as many stakeholders as this one however, its proponents knew that for a forest certification scheme to work, everyone would have to be on board. Hence, one of FSC’s trademark features is that its membership is made up of three chambers representing the interests of every type of stakeholder imaginable: so-cial, environmental and economic.

These chambers consist of non-governmental organisations, indigenous people associations, unions, academia, technical institutions, certification bodies, trade associations, retailers and wholesalers.

Central to the certification scheme is a set of Principles and Criteria which guides sustainable forestry in legal, environmental, social and cultural concerns. The Principles and Criteria are phrased in general language; therefore it is up to each national committee to interpret them in the local context. From there, they move on to develop a set of national standards which will form the framework for logging companies aiming for FSC Forest Management Certification and in the downstream sector, wood products manufacturers aiming for FSC Chain of Custody Certification (essentially a paper trail to ensure that the wood came from sustainable sources).

Monitoring and certifying the industry are FSC-endorsed, independent third party certification bodies which audit logging companies and wood products manufacturers for compliance. If no national standards have been developed for that country, the third party certification bodies can come up with a specific set of indicators and verifiers, which must be submitted to FSC headquarters for approval. This is the process local companies currently holding FSC certificates have gone through.

Other schemes

FSC is by no means the only forest certification scheme though it seems to be the most widely accepted one.

Another certification body is the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). Founded in 1999, this umbrella organisation provides certification based on mutual recognition of regional and national programmes, including the Malaysian Timber Certification Council’s certification scheme.

PEFC covers 220 million hectares of certified forests, almost doubled FSC’s 144 million hectares, but it has come under fire in the past.

The Forest Certification Assessment Guide by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) cited several weaknesses in the PEFC scheme. Among them was that the scheme does not exclude wood from the conversion of natural forests to plantations or other land-uses.

It also does not exclude wood harvested from areas where the rights of indigenous communities might have been violated, so long as the activities are accepted as legal in the country of origin.

Despite that, a 2010 review by Central Point of Expertise on Timber Procurement, a service that advises on responsible purchasing in line with the British government’s timber procurement policy, stated that PEFC has made improvements since its last review, among them are the passing of new social criteria, and ensuring “conversion” and “national implementation” criteria were met.

The report also said that with regards to Malaysian timber, only those with PEFC certification should be accepted. The group said it should be consulted for non-PEFC certified Malaysian timber due to concerns over indigenous people’s land rights.

It is not all peaches and cream for FSC either. Criticisms hurled against it have been that it also certifies industrial tree plantations, which drains water supply and lack biodiversity, and thus “lack social and environmental sustainability”. There are also accusations that the contractual relationship between certifiers and logging companies leads to more leniency in the auditing process.

Groups like WWF and Greenpeace, however, maintain support for FSC. They are aware of FSC’s shortcomings but still consider it the best certification scheme around by far.

A 2011 comparative study between FSC and PEFC by public policy consultants ITS Global Additional stated that FSC standards have little guarantee of long-term consistency, and do not necessarily reflect national interests. It said while the PEFC was established to demonstrate which products originated from sustainably managed forests, FSC exists to advance specific forestry objectives, including the halting of any further conversion of natural forest land for other purposes.

The report stated that governments have largely refused to pursue FSC’s objective due to conflict with national interests and development goals. (It might be worth noting that ITS Global Additional is a consultant for the PEFC council.) – By Natalie Heng

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Logging with care

Posted on November 1, 2011. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-The Star-

THE FIRST tropical rainforest in the world to be certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards for sustainable forest management is in Sabah, Malaysia. Back in 1997, the certification of Deramakot Forest Reserve was progressive; moves to create Malaysia’s own national forest certification had not even begun yet.

Today, five out of the seven FSC-certified forests in Malaysia are in Sabah and the state aims to have all its forestry concessions FSC-certified by 2014.

Of the seven certificates, three apply to plantation forests for fast-growing species like Acacia, which is used mostly for chip wood production and sawn wood. Of the four natural forests under certification, three are in Sabah – the Deramakot, Tangkulap-Pinangah and Ulu Segama-Malua forest reserves.

The only natural forest concessionaire in Peninsular Malaysia to hold a FSC certificate, Kumpulan Pengurusan Kayu Kayan Terengganu (KPKKT) manages two concessions: the one in Dungun has been certified whilst the smaller one in Cherul is expected to attain certification next year.

Being certified have earned both Sabah and KPKKT global recognition in the marketplace, and the benefits are not limited to a better reputation or premiums on their products.

“There has been a paradigm shift in our forest management system. Our operation has become more comprehensive and organised,” says Datuk Zakaria Awang in an e-mail interview. Chief executive officer at Golden Pharos, KPKKT’s holding company, Zakaria says while the certification cost is only about 5% of the total production cost, sawn hardwood exported by the company to Europe and the United States fetch prices that are up to 25% more than non-FSC-certified products.

Despite already possessing certification from the Malaysian Timber Certification Council’s (MTCC) national scheme, KPKKT went on to apply for FSC certification in 2008.

“Current premium prices for FSC-certified sawn hardwood exported to Britain are 30% and above. This can be compared to dark red meranti sawn timber certified by MTCC which commands a premium of 2% to 5% in the British market.”

Subscribing to FSC certification has enabled KPKKT to minimise threats from illegal loggers and poachers, through regular stakeholder consultations. One of KPKKT’s advantages is the fact that it does not face the kind of problems arising from short-term tenures as its tenure for the Dungun forest will last until 2037.

Sabah Forestry director Datuk Sam Mannan points to similar advantages with regards to FSC. Green timber premiums fetch them 15% to 20% more than local market prices.

In an e-mail reply, Mannan points out that an improved reputation also attracts more partners, who can offer support with resources and technical assistance.

“Sabah is too small to compete on the basis of size, we can only compete on the basis of governance.

“The FSC is the gold standard for governance and hence our choice for it.”

As to the disadvantages of obtaining FSC certification, Mannan says that would depend on whom you asked.

“Some players used to the old fashion way of forestry may find certification troublesome with tedious and stringent measures, ultimately, increasing management costs and in turn affecting their competitive edge. But for credibility and good governance, third party audits are absolutely essential.”

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Mangroves: One of nature’s best friends

Posted on October 11, 2011. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

–Free Malaysia Today–

Once considered repulsive to the senses, these smelly and tangled plants have finally received the admiration they deserve.


With all the respect that they command these days, it is easy to forget that mangroves were once the target of bum raps. For instance, in 1667, an anonymous traveller wrote: “’Wild boars and other savage beasts live in them… The roots gave off a clicking sound and the odour was disgusting. We felt we were watching something horrible. No one likes mangroves.”

Mangroves are a salt-tolerant group of plants that dominate tropical and subtropical coastlines. It has only been within the last decade that scientists have widely accepted their importance to the marine environment. Some of these same scientists had, earlier, even gone so far so as to describe them as freaks of nature and a form of wasteland.

Today, however, mangroves are recognised as contributing to the health of the natural environment in four ways: in soil formation and the stabilisation of coastlines, as filters for upland runoff, as habitats for many marine organisms, and as highly productive ecosystems.

In their leaves, mangroves store the energy of the sun and the nutrients in the silt carried by upland rivers. Mangroves shed and grow new leaves on a continual basis. The fallen leaves provide the foundation for nearby marine and terrestrial food chains.

With this huge supply of food, mangrove swamps are a nursery ground for most sport and commercial fish species. As a result, mangrove-based energy and nutrients are exported to surrounding coral reefs and grass beds.

Zoher Mustan, senior resident naturalist at Tanjung Rhu Resort in Langkawi, says that mangroves are sources of highly valued commercial products and fishery resources. The ecosystem provides a source of food, since they are breeding grounds and nurseries for many food fishes and shellfishes. They also attract wildlife of various kinds.

Much of the ecological service of mangroves lies in protecting the coast from the fury of tsunamis, floods, sea level rises, wave action and coastal erosion.

“The 2004 tsunami helped spark appreciation for mangroves as coasts naked of mangroves were ravaged,” Zoher said.

“Mangrove swamps act as traps for the sediments and sink for the nutrients. Mangroves preserve water quality and reduce pollution by filtering suspended material and assimilating dissolved nutrients. The root systems of the plants keep the substrate firm and thus contribute to a lasting stability of the coast.”

However, despite the mounting evidence of their ecological importance, many people still see mangrove forests as muddy swamps that are better off filled for economic development.

Tourism highlights

But the price of not conserving mangroves is high, according to Zoher.

“For one, you lose tourism dollar,” he said. “Currently our mangroves are one of the tourism highlights. A visit to the mangroves is a must when visiting Langkawi.

“Also, imagine the effect on the fisheries industry. On average, between 50 percent and 70 percent of fish and prawns caught depend on the mangroves to get them through their juvenile stages.

“When the mangroves go, so, too, will our fishes.

“Furthermore, many bird species make mangroves their home and migratory birds from as far as Siberia stop here for resting annually.”

The programme to conserve the Ayer Hangat mangroves around Tanjung Rhu started more than a decade ago. They cover an area larger than 1,3000 hectares.

Many mangrove areas in Malaysia have suffered from deforestation, but according to Zoher not much has changed in Langkawi, thanks to the locals’ understanding of the importance of conservation and thanks also to holiday resorts in the area for highlighting that importance.

Continuing with his explanation of the role that mangroves play in keeping eco-systems stable, Zoher described the tangled root systems as a nursery for shrimp and many species of fish that go on to live their adult lives in the open ocean.

Mangroves also help ensure the survival of coral reefs and seagrass beds.

“Mangroves stabilise the land to help prevent coastal erosion, provide fodder for domestic as well as migratory animals and are a very good source of firewood, as in charcoal,” Zoher said.

“It’s a unique system, the only species of tree in the world that can grow in swampy ground.

“A tour in the mangrove forest will give you an unforgettable experience. Stop over for sightings of birds of prey such as white-bellied eagles and brahminy kites, take a look at local fishes that make mangroves their home and walk through a cave to see the bats.”

So do not dismiss them as just a smelly mess of tangled branches and roots. At first sight, they may not seem pretty in the conventional sense. But try to understand the vital role they play in our lives, and you will soon see their beauty shining forth, as if from within.

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