Saturday, June 29, 2013

Malaysia’s Forests Are Well-managed Under SFM

The global demand for timber products will continues to soar in line with increasing population and economic development. Against this increasing demand the world is losing vast areas of forest land yearly and the continuing loss of forests could prove costly for the country.  

However, Malaysia has been singularly fortunate in having been able to maintain 56.4 % of its total land area as forested land; it is an encouraging pride and achievement because many countries were not able or unwilling to do so as their forest areas had been opened up for sustainable development projects and excessive logging.

Malaysia has been, among all developing countries, can be considered fortunate to be well endowed with a relatively large tract of rich and diverse tropical rain forests which has been noted to be amongst the most complex ecosystem in the world. As a well-known forested country, the total forested area in Malaysia is 18.48 million hectares which comprises 56.4% of the total land area with 5.85 million ha in Peninsular Malaysia, 4.40 million ha in Sabah and 8.23 million ha in Sarawak. The detail is as follows:


Forested Area (million hectares)

Percentage (%)
Peninsular Malaysia  






Source: Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah Forestry Department and Sarawak Forestry Department

Generally, forested area in Malaysia consists of unique and complex ecosystems which are home to the countrys rich flora and fauna. It can be classified into 3 categories as state land forest, alienated land and permanent reserved forest. The major forest types consist of dry inland forest which is the main forest cover, peat swamp forest and mangrove forest.

Currently, total forested land in Malaysia is 5,807,383.53 hectares whereas non-forested land is 7,377,249.47 hectares. Of the total forested area, 4,912,812.78 hectares are Permanent Reserved Forests (PRFs), 304,567.75 hectares are State/Alienated Land Forests and 585,119 hectares are National Park/Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary. Approximately 2,917,889.39 hectares of the PRFs are designated as production forests managed under sustainable forest management with the remaining 1,994,923.39 hectares being protection forests. The details forest land uses in Malaysia are as follows:



Land area
Forested Land

Other Reserved Forest

Total Forested Land

Total Non-Forested Land

Reserved Forest

Wild life & other Reserves under forest: i. outside PRF***              ii. inside PRF ****

State Land
50,700 sq mil    x 259.11               = 13,136,877   ha
13,375 sq mil         x 259.11                   = 3,465,596     ha

2,564 sq mil    x 259.11 =664,358    ha
20,605 sq mil    x 259.11 =5,338,961  ha
36,543 sq mil x 259.11
=9,468,915 ha
14,157 sq mil x 259.11 =3,669,962 ha





*Data for year 1960 are in Square Miles
** Source of data from JUPEM
# 1 sq miles = 259.11 ha

By far the most important thing for the country is to accept the responsibility and device the remedies that are suited to local conditions. Ironically, development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs is the strategic management principle in Malaysia.

The forest in Peninsular Malaysia is being managed by Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) whereby sustainable concept has been the pillar of the forest management with emphasis on the balanced between economic, social and environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted in December 2007 the most widely, intergovernmental agreed definition of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) as follows:

Sustainable forest management as a dynamic and evolving concept aims to maintain and enhance the economic, social and environmental value of all types of forests, for the benefit of present and future generations. It is characterized by seven elements, including: (i) extent of forest resources; (ii) forest biological diversity; (iii) forest health and vitality; (iv) productive functions of forest resources; (v) protective functions of forest resources; (vi) socio-economic functions of forests; and (vii) legal, policy and institutional framework.   (Source: UN 2008, Resolution 62/98)

According to the ITTO, Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) is defined as: “The process of managing permanent forest land to achieve one or more clearly specified objectives of management with regard to the production of a continuous flow of desired forest products and services without undue reduction in its inherent values and future productivity and without undue undesirable effects on the physical and social environment”.

The concept of sustainable forest management thus is the multi-purpose management of the forest so that its overall capacity to provide goods and services is not diminished. A forest managed in this way will provide timber on a sustainable basis and will continue to provide fuel wood, food and other goods and services for those living in and around it. Its role in the preservation of genetic resources and biological diversity as well as in the protection of the environment will also be maintained.

 Malaysia is committed seriously in implementing Sustainable Forest Management. It has been fully implemented in PRF Peninsular Malaysia but not in the State Land Forest and Alienated Land as their status are not guaranteed and subjected to land developments. Nevertheless, the production of timber from both the State Land Forest and Alienated Land are still been monitored prior to its land development or else its better kept under forest.

During twentieth century, Malaysia has evolved a systematic and sustainable yield policy with regards to the management of the forests with the establishment of the Forestry Department in 1901. Over the years ecologically and environmentally sound policies for forest conservation and management have been developed.

Focus on forest management has been shifted solely from sustained yield timber production to broader scope of management which encompassing multiple-uses forestry. It includes safeguarding of clean water supplies, conservation of biological diversity, enhancing environmental quality, flood control and climate change.

Malaysia continues to raise the bar on SFM standards, notably through the implementation of the criteria and indicators for Forest Management Certification MC&I (2002) as well as to fulfil the requirements of MS ISO 9001:2008 besides enforcement and international benchmarking activities. It is widely recognized that the task is complex and recommended international best practices are themselves evolving in line with growing stakeholder expectations and corporate strategy.

Should the policies and practices did not embrace and encourage Sustainable Forest Management, much of the Malaysian forest cover would have been seriously depleted by now. Evidently, the sustainable forest management practiced in Malaysia was evolved to optimize an economic cut, maintain overall forest sustainability and minimize forest development costs.

By implementing sustainable forest management, the precious natural forest heritage and endangered wildlife with an abundance of both flora and fauna have been well preserved. There are 8,000 species of flowering plants which inclusive of 2,000 tree species, 800 types of orchid and 200 types of palm besides being home to more than 200 species of mammals, 600 different bird varieties, 140 species of snakes, 80 types of lizard, 300 species of fresh water fishes and thousands of insects.

In recent decades, the importance of medicinal plants from the well manages Malaysia rainforest as modern medicine has been proven due to the growing need for biodiversity conservation. There are a total of 121 types of modern medicine which had been successfully produced from 95 species of plants.

To date, a total of 45 modern medicines that have been studied for medicinal purposes approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used in USA, of these 23 are belonging to tropical rain forests.

The ingredients of modern medicine that obtained and synthesized from tropical rain forests plant such as Kuinin (Cinchona ledgeriana) for malaria treatment; vinblastina and vinkristina (Catharanthus roseus) for anti-cancer; Kalanolida and kastalolida from Bintangor spp. (Calophyllum lanigerum) for active substance in curing AIDS and taxol from Taxus brevifolia for cancer treatment are the successful examples of the research done on the medicinal plants.

Today, the new scientific tropical rainforest plant-based medicines findings have created a strong awareness on western pharmaceutical industry to conduct the researches of the viability of medicinal plants extracts on large scale of commercial significance.

Ironically, forests have had a positive effect on all human life whereby its ecosystems are responsible for much of our climate physiology. The ecosystem is a core functions of a working forest in which forest trees begin emitting oxygen soon after planting.  As a natural woodland unit consisting of all plants, animals and micro-organisms, simply planting trees will not create a working forest ecosystem without the present of these essential elements.

Forests play a specific and important role in carbon sequestration by absorbing carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, storing carbon in the form of wood fibres and producing oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis. Due to increasing emissions of greenhouse gases, forests become even more vital by removing CO2 from the atmosphere to mitigate the effects of climate change on the environment.

Forests in the United States absorb and store not less than 750 million metric tons of carbon dioxide yearly, an amount equivalent to 10% of the country’s CO2 emissions. Consequently, the forest harvesting activity throughout the world contributes to a total of 18% of all carbon dioxide emission (Stem, 2006) which causes the incidence of global warming.  In Malaysia, the peat swamp forests believe to store an average of 2,000 metric tonnes of carbon per hectare or an equivalent of 5 billion metric tonnes of carbon making them the most important carbon store in the country (National Action Plan on Peatlands, 2009).

The disappearing of rain forest will cause the extinction of animals and plant species. Most of the animal species affected will be the insects. Many plants and animals will lose their different habitats. The water quality of the forests also suffers. Without trees, rain will no longer seep into the forest's soil and water reserves that are underground are not being replaced. The soil will then end up in rivers and streams and kill the fish. The quality of air is also being reduced by forest destruction from all the dust and soot in the air. Bad gases are also building up in the earth's atmosphere from pollution. What about forming oxygen again and putting it back in the air?
What would happen to the atmosphere's carbon dioxide if there wasn’t any tree? The earth's temperature would rise and could make further animal and plant species become extinct.
Evidently, the various legislations promulgated over the years to strengthen the institutions as well the management and utilization of forests. A strong institutional framework has been established between the State Governments under which forest jurisdiction lies and the Federal Government responsible for national policy of the country. 

Undeniably, ecologically and environmentally sound forest conservation and management policies have been developed in Malaysia to ensure that the forest resources in the country are managed for the sustainable yield of timber and non-timber products, the enhancement of climatic stability and ecological balance as well as the safeguarding of water resources and the conservation of bio-diversity. 

Malaysia continues to be transparent in its efforts to sustainable manage its forest resources by improving the investment climate for plantations as a supplementary source of wood supply, diversifying wood products markets to reduce commercial risk to the industry, increasing utilization of lesser-known wood species and biomass from perennial agricultural cash crops such as rubber and oil palm.

Regulations are in place with regard to forest management operations; these specify in detail harvesting guidelines, codes of best practices, forest inventory, silviculture and construction of forest roads. All harvesting and related operations are carried out by contractors operating on the basis of licenses and legally-binding agreements. These licences stipulate intensity of extraction, harvesting sequence, tree size limitations, transportation routes, standards of road construction and methods of treatment. 

As to enhance the existing rules and guidelines to ensure the nation has sufficient supply of clean water for domestic, agriculture and industrial uses, Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia had initiated a legislative Rules and Regulations for Watershed Management in the PRF. 

In areas under selective logging, there are standards for the protection of water courses, construction of bridges and water crossings and the establishment of stream buffers. Logging is not allowed in sensitive and water-catchment areas. The use of chemicals for the poison girdling of trees has also long been discontinued.

The conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity are two of main global challenges of our time which seriously addressed by Malaysia. Management of forest in Malaysia is thus treated at first as an exception to the rule of checks-and-balances between protecting the environment and producing timber as forests are essential for human survival and well-being. 

Forestry can have a variety of negative impacts on biodiversity, particularly when carried out without management standards designed to protect natural assets. However, Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) as an evolving concept, constantly adapting to new challenges to the effective delivery of forest goods and services, plays a crucial role for the successful forest governance in Malaysia. 

Malaysia is also fully committed to a number of international agreements related to forests that promote wise management of the forests. The Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia in particular have taken necessary actions to redefine the role and responsibilities of foresters to manage the forest resources in meeting changing society needs for both forest goods and services without unduly degrading the resources and the environment. Many of the actions are directly aimed at reducing deforestation and forest degradation, and creating or maintaining sustainable livelihoods.
Malaysia’s forest policies have always emphasized the balance between protecting the environment and producing timber which gain recognition from the International community especially the ITTO.

The ITTO is an inter-governmental organization promoting the conservation, sustainable management and trade of tropical forest resources. The 2005 report affirms the fact that Malaysia’s forests are well-managed in its review of the status of SFM in producer member countries, as a follow-up to ITTO’s initial survey carried out in 1998. 

In 1989 a mission from the ITTO visited Malaysia to assess the sustainable utilization and conservation on tropical forests. Another mission went to Sarawak in 1992 after which recommendations were provided by ITTO experts to further enhance SFM including those pertaining to an annual production of 9.2 million m³ from the Permanent Forest Estates (PFE) of Sarawak.
This recommended production of 9.2 million m³ per annum, is not to be confused with the average total figure of around 12 million m³, which includes harvests from state land. Since the last 10 years, the annual production from Sarawak’s PFE has dropped below 9 million m³.
International organizations have repeatedly stated the fact that Malaysia’s forests are well managed, and the ITTO has recognized Malaysia as foremost amongst the tropical timber-producing countries in achieving ITTO Year 2000 objectives, whereby producer countries are expected to strive to install the necessary processes to achieve SFM. 

In a paper presented by Mr. Moctar Toure, the Team Leader, Land and Water Resources, Global Environment Facility (GEF) of the World Bank, he said: “Malaysia offers a vivid example of a country that has developed an effective sound policy and legal framework for the management of its tropical forest resources. Key to its success is the statement of a clear vision and political commitment to ensure the continuity of forest product flow, while conserving complex ecosystems, rich and varied in flora and fauna.”

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