|Forest codes of practice. Contributing to environmentally sound forest operations. (FAO Forestry Paper - 133) (1996)|
|Guidelines on logging practices for the hill forest of peninsular Malaysia|
There have been several responses to the widening issues of environmental problems in Malaysia: the federal government has become more active in environmental affairs; several non governmental organizations (NGOS) have struggled to keep environmental issues on the governments policy agenda; there has also been widespread public interest on land-use disputes with much media coverage. The government has played a more active role and given greater attention to environmental affairs with the establishment of the Department of Environment (DOE) within the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. The function is to stress preventive rather than curative environmental measures and gives attention to EIA procedures.
Peninsular Malaysia has sought solutions to environmental degradation through legislation and environmental law that affects forests and conservation. The legislation includes the 1972 Protection of Wildlife Act (Act No. 76), the 1974 Environmental Quality Act (Act No. 127), the 1980 National Parks Act (Act No. 226) and the 1984 National Forestry Act (Act No. 313). However, forests and forest conservation were given less attention. In these areas, efforts have not been easy due to conflicting powers between ministries and agencies, and the states individual interests which hampered the, implementation of nation-wide resource conservation and management strategies.
3.1 Environmental Issues
Environmental groups have over the last twenty years become increasingly vocal and active in bringing the pressing need for action on environmental conservation to the attention of the public and pressuring government both directly, and indirectly to change its policy and actions. The emergence of the NGOs in the late 1960s has reflected the growing environmental awareness in Malaysia. There are three NGOs that were notably active in the country; the Malayan Nature Society (MNS), Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth, Malaysia) or SAM and the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP). Their activities include, among others, the call for rational conservation policies, the creation of a parks and reserves network, releasing press statements on environmental issues, and mobilizing public opposition to further forest destruction (Woon and Lim, 1990).
In 1974, the MNS produced a Blueprint for Conservation in Peninsular Malaysia in which various categories of sites worthy of protection and conservation were identified, including national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. In 1977, The MNS launched a campaign to save Endau-Rompin when logging failed to cease in the core area of the proposed national park. Creation of the 202 343 ha park was agreed in 1972-73 between the federal and state government of Pahang and Johore with logging restricted to the extensive buffer, zone. When the Pahang government approved 12 140 ha of the core area for a logging concession, it created a major environmental controversy and was resolved when logging in the disputed area came to a halt in 1978 (Flynn, 1980). Another campaign was against the Tembeling Dam project in Taman Negara. In 1982, the Malayan Nature Society reported on the conservation status of Malaysian mammals and birds (Kiew and Davison 1982), and reported that species with populations of less than 1 000 were considered endangered. A total of 61 species of mammals and 16 species of birds were listed.
SAM is seen as an education and action-oriented environment group which has had influence in creating greater environmental awareness in Malaysian society. It is outspoken in criticizing government policy and played an important role in the International Rainforest Campaign organized by Friends of the Earth in Britain. CAP has been active in raising environmental awareness on-development issues from a broad consumer perspective. Other groups, such as the Environmental Protection Society of Malaysia also campaign for the ending of logging in the Endau-Rompin area. Its platform is to ensure that development involving environmental change causes minimal long-term damage. The World Wide Fund Malaysia (WWFM) functions as a fund-raising organization with emphasis on promoting conservation of animal species through awareness of the fact that species conservation is impossible without habitat conservation.
Another big issue concerned logging activity in Sarawak in 1987 and involved the native Penan. Due to the adverse international publicity, the federal government invited the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) to carry out a study of forest management in Sarawak. The report by the ITTO mission noted that sustainable forest management had been achieved but hill dipterocarp forests were being overcut inadequate catchment management resulted in river siltation there were insufficient forestry staff for monitoring and logging supervision, a lack of trained loggers, and that the existing totally protected areas were insufficient for habitat protection and biological diversity conservation. Logging practices result in widespread environmental disruption and excessive damage to residual trees, and were not sustainable (Cross, 1990).
Media interest in the environment covers a wide range of environmental topics such as news, information, weekly feature articles and editorial articles. The impact of pressure groups and the media in raising environmental consciousness among the Malaysian people had a positive response from the government. Consultations and meetings were frequently held between NGOs and the Environment Minister to confront environmental issues together. The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in October 1989 expressed deep concern about environment deterioration. Under the Langkawi Declaration on the environment, non-sustainable forestry practice was identified as one factor that contributes to the degradation of the environment. Actions were recommended to promote afforestation sustainable forest management according to ITTO guidelines and FAO Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP) principles, activities related to the conservation of biological diversity and genetic resources, and conservation of virgin forest areas and natural habitats (DOE, 1989).
3.2 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
Legislation enabling the preparation of EIAs was introduced (as an amendment to the Environmental Quality Act 1974) in 1986 (Act A636, 1985). The Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities)(Environmental Impact Assessment) Order 1987 came into effect on 1 April 1988. Under the Act EIAs are prescribed for activities that significantly affect forests. According to the Department of Environment, Malaysia (DOE), Environmental Impact Assessments are efforts:
... to identify, predict, evaluate and communicate information about the impacts on the environment of a proposed project and to detail out the mitigating measures prior to project approval and implementation.
The objective of an EIA is to unravel the complex linkages in an ecosystem and see how a proposed development would affect them. It may then be necessary to modify the plans to reduce or eliminate undesirable consequences. It is essentially a planning tool for environmental problems due to an action. Information gathered from EIA can help decision makers to choose alternatives or additional mitigation measures beyond standard practices, so as to reduce ad-verse environmental impacts to levels of insignificance. EIA procedures in Peninsular Malaysia comprise preliminary assessment detailed assessment and review. The reviewing committee seldom involves people with forestry expertise even when evaluating forestry projects. The evaluation process for forest harvesting activities against various environmental parameters that may be affected is as in Appendix 3. EIA are now usually required before funds are released for projects that will necessitate alterations of forests. Unfortunately, sometimes the findings are not utilized.