Redefine forest protection

By:

Ken Lee

Affiliations:

Agora Society Malaysia

Policy Code:

3j Environment

Problem Statement:

There is growing concern about the correlation between deforestation and diseases, floods, water supply, food security, and public health. Whenever such disturbance escalates into a full blown disaster, forest fringe communities would be the earliest victims. When logging, poaching as well as mining play the role of the sole means to alleviate poverty, a disaster stricken community would not hesitate to increase frequency of exploitative resource extraction even if it means brewing further disasters. Obviously, profits made from forest exploitation are grossly insufficient to mitigate the disastrous consequences such as a pandemic. It is imperative that the government design a new forestry economy which builds wealth via ecological conservation instead of resource exploitation.

Value(s) and Belief(s):

The value of forest is not defined by the monetary profits that come with short-sighted and unsustainable economic activities such as timber production. Forest itself delivers irreplaceable environmental and social benefits and forest conservation is essential for reducing the impact of natural disasters as well as preserving biodiversity, geological features, and water resources.

Proposal of Solution:

To encourage people to more actively engage in environmental management to reduce disaster risk, the government must promote habitat conservation as a high-income profession. Since this job plays a vital role in protecting the forest and preventing disaster, it should be generously remunerated. Furthermore, instead of doing conventional resource extraction, conservationists can undertake data extraction, to produce data related to biological species, habitat, water resources and emergence of diseases. Rural residents, especially indigenous communities, can escape poverty through this transformation of livelihood practice, at the same time forging a unique type of enterprise capital with their traditional forest knowledge. Thus, the promotion of sustainable livelihoods, the development of scientific industry, the prevention of ecological disaster, and the progress towards an advanced country become complementary goals that can be pursued together. It is urgent to solve the problems related to forestry policy and land law. Currently, the state governments have absolute control over these two aspects and so the Federal Constitution must be amended to tackle this issue. The definition of HSK should be changed from exploitation-oriented terms into the priority of forest conservation. Moreover, the government must raise public awareness of the importance of conserving forest by all available media means and invite different social groups to participate in decision-making to enhance ecosystem protection. In addition, timber production must be limited to areas outside the forest, and a strict demarcation between the plantation estates and forestland ought to be observed.

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