Malaysia has some of the best environmental laws in the region but the monitoring and enforcement of these laws remain poor, and this has to be corrected for the country to go upwards from its middle level environment management, says naturalist and environmentalist Andrew Sebastian.
KUALA LUMPUR, March 24: Having the best of environmental laws are not enough; Malaysia must step up its efforts to ensure the enforcement of these laws and see the proper management of its environment including its vast forest resources, says a local environmentalist.
Speaking to Weekly-Echo recently, naturalist Andrew Sebastian said the country had some of the best laws to protect its forests and other natural resources, but it was seriously lacking in monitoring and enforcing the said laws.
Commenting on a recent call for a moratorium on logging activities during the Movement Control Order (MCO), Andrew said it should not be just about stopping logging activities during the MCO.
Logging practices in the country currently are simply too harsh and a review is definitely in order, he said, adding that Malaysia should already be looking at phasing out logging in new forested areas.
Under current logging practice, there is no proper Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), it does not really protect mother trees, it does not protect water sheds and river basins and river reserves and these have led to a lot of problems environment, social and even health-wise.
Corruption has added to the deterioration while the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the deeper effects and chain reactions of shortcomings in environment management, he said.
“Put this against the backdrop of COVID-19 and any other zoonotic diseases that could come our way, the situation is a lot more dire. COVID-19 is not the first, there is MERS and other diseases that have turned up regularly into our medical sphere and this largely due to human-wild life contact, clearing of natural eco systems that force closer human-wild life contact and creating more imbalance.”
The latest call for a moratorium on logging is timely and it is surprising that it has not gained any momentum in terms of bringing about a proper moratorium or even a review at least in terms of land clearing.
“This is the best time for us to take stock, review and phase out logging in most areas that are sensitive,” he said.
There are certain logging practices that are good and if these can be maintained and managed properly in certain forest compartments they can be done long term sustainably but that should not be at the expense of any new forested areas.
Malaysia has invested in a lot of land and there is no need to go logging into more natural ecosystems, Andrew said, pointing out that the country had less than 50 percent of forest cover, at an estimated 40 percent.
“We have enough land bank that are being used and idle land can be used for forest plantations and so on.”
Amid this continued threats of virus, diseases, there needs to be a serious relook at forest management, he said.
So where does Malaysia stand in the management of its environment?
“We are in the middle ground really. We have good and enough laws to protect the environment but what we seriously lack is management, enforcement and keeping the political place out of the convention of running the industry of logging and even plantations.
Issues like the use of influential people to gain more mining rights, more land grab land, logging grounds need to be managed and the new generation should The new generation has to make the changes.