Malaysia aims to have half of country covered in forests

The Star 18 Jan 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will push to make five million hectares of forests as permanent reserves by 2020, says Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said the ministry’s 2017 plan to preserve the country’s green areas was to ensure at least half of the country was covered in forest land.

With timber exports making up nearly RM22bil of the country’s economy, Dr Wan Junaidi said it was time for Malaysia to look at the other potential its forests had to offer besides wood.

“We hope all the state governments can agree on this with us. We want them to see the potential of the forests for tourism and not just timber. But so far it’s not a realisation yet, perhaps because there is a lack of awareness,” he said at the launch of his ministry’s new campaign “Forest Beyond Timber” at Menara KL yesterday.

He said for starters, the ministry would set up a dedicated forestry unit to look after the 68 hectares of forests in the Federal Territories by April.

Meanwhile, the Forestry Department said it planned to increase the size of gazetted forest reserves in Peninsular Malaysia from 4.94 million hectares to five million hectares by 2020.

Currently, 44.7% of the peninsula was still covered in forests, he said.

“That is not enough,” he said.

As the country continues its rapid growth, he expressed concern that Malaysia would end up like “Western countries which lost their natural resources” for modernisation.

“Only 17% of Europe is covered in forest now. They have poisoned the world and now expect us to save it for them,” a candid Dr Wan Junaidi told his ministry staff.

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