After Sarawak, Sabah slams NGO’s projection on forest loss

RimbaWatch had projected that Sabah will lose 289,734ha of forest in the future.

PETALING JAYA: The Sabah forestry department has hit out at a recent report by an environmental NGO on its projection of forest loss in the state, labelling it inaccurate.

The department’s chief conservator, Frederick Kugan, said Sabah had been practising sustainable forest management (SFM) since 1997, The Borneo Post reported.

Frederick said one of the strategies outlined under SFM was the restoration of forests through the establishment of forest plantations to reduce the dependence of the timber industry on trees from the native forests.

He said the state government had identified a small portion of poor forest reserves with an area of 400,000ha for the purpose.

“The establishment of forest plantations is not defined as deforestation because it does not convert forest areas to other land use purposes,” he was quoted as saying.

Frederick also said the state government was committed to maintaining 50% of the forest cover in line with the Sabah Forest Policy 2018.

He said the state currently maintained 64% of its forest cover spanning 3,848,597ha, which were gazetted as forest reserves and other protected areas.

Earlier this week, RimbaWatch released a study in which it estimated that 2.3 million hectares of forests in Malaysia had been earmarked for deforestation.

It said it was projected that Sabah would lose 289,734ha of forest in the future.

The Sabah forestry department is the second state agency to dismiss the study.

Yesterday, the Sarawak forest department rejected the group’s projection of forest loss in the state, saying it was based on perceptions and trends of the opening of land for development.

The department’s director, Hamden Mohammad, said that under the Sarawak Land Use Policy 2012, seven million hectares of permanent forests must be preserved.

He said the 2021 Auditor-General’s Report also showed that the state’s forest coverage stood at 7.65 million hectares or 61.4% of Sarawak’s total land area.

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