Forest plantations strategy to ensure sustainability

Abang Johari (seated) receives a rocking chair as a souvenir during the opening ceremony of the 3rd International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) Acacia Conference 2021. Also seen are (from left) Forest Department Sarawak (FDS) director Datuk Hamden Mohammad; permanent secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development and Natural Resources, Datuk Sr Zaidi Mahdi; Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan; and Assistant Minister of Urban Development and Resources Datuk Len Talif Salleh. Photo: Ukas

KUCHING: Intensively and sustainably managed forest plantations will have to play a significant role to meet the increasing demand for wood products and avoid further reduction of natural forests, says Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

“Sarawak is committed to preserving a good balance of forest for perpetuity, including the conservation of biodiversity and the ecosystem functions.

“This would mean that more timber must be obtained from other sources. Forest plantations offer a promising source of timber,” he said when officiating at the opening ceremony of the 3rd International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) Acacia Conference 2021 at the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Building on Tuesday (Oct 26).

He said forest plantations were also hoped to relieve pressure on natural forests in the state while increasing the state’s forest cover to reduce the greenhouse effect. 

He said forest plantations were recognised as an essential part of the strategic approach for sustainable management of forest resources.

“In light of the declining trend of log production from our tropical natural forest, it is of exigent need to increase the scale of operation and productivity of forest plantation with efficiency in order to produce sufficient quality plantation logs to offset shortage of log supply from natural forests.”

He noted that in 1996, Sarawak had embarked on large-scale forest plantations as a long-term strategy towards providing a new source of wood material for the wood-based industries in the state.

“With the planting of the fast-growing species, the state government is hoping to establish one million hectares of industrial forests by 2025.”

In addition, he said Sarawak had one of the oldest rainforests in the world, adding that the species diversity and richness had created diverse biochemicals that could be beneficial to mankind.

“Many of the local native communities have been living intimately with the biodiversity and learned to use the plants for various reasons – for food, medicines, health, and shelter,” he said, adding that Sarawak was thus a splendid destination for ecotourism enthusiasts.

On global planted forest initiatives, he pointed out that alongside non-governmental organisations’ actions and initiatives, several individual countries and states had established efforts to promote the expansion of planted forests or strengthen the protection of existing forests.

He said that most significantly, participants at the World Economic Forum last year announced an initiative to grow, restore, and conserve one trillion trees around the world.

“Perhaps not all of these would be new planted forests, but if so, it would amount to an increase of one billion hectares of forests – expanding global forest area by 25 per cent – at an approximate stocking rate of 1,000 trees per hectare.

“Meanwhile, as a contribution to the global planted forest target, Malaysia launched the 100 Million Tree-Planting Campaign 2021-2025 in January 2021 as part of the Greening Malaysia programme.”