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Call for Greater Commitment in Ensuring Sustainable Development and Management of Forests in Sarawak

19  March 2022, Kuching, Sarawak:  This International Day of Forests, WWF-Malaysia calls for stakeholders in the timber and palm oil industries to make greater commitment in ensuring sustainable development and management of forests in Sarawak. 
Industries need to adopt and implement a high conservation value (HCV) approach so that forests and its biodiversity can be conserved for the benefit of nature and people, said WWF-Malaysia Sarawak Conservation Programme Head Dr Jason Hon. 
He said the concept of HCV has gained strengths and recognition, and is already a requirement under many certification schemes. 
“By adopting the HCV approach, industry players can manage their land and resources in a more sustainable manner, and incorporate protection and production principles into their operations.”
“An ideal production landscape should include forested and conservation areas within a concession, to be adequately managed and protected. After all, a healthy landscape will bring greater benefits to companies, which will in the long term,  increase their productivity,” said Dr Hon in a statement in conjunction with the International Day of Forests which falls on 21 March. 
The International Day of Forests is to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests for nature and people. This year’s celebration theme is, ‘Forests and sustainable production and consumption’. 
The concept of HCV is the fundamental of conserving species, habitat and areas that are important for wildlife, people and the ecosystems. It is also the building blocks of conservation for sustainable production. HCVs are areas with biological, ecological, social or cultural values of outstanding significance or critical importance. The values include species diversity; landscape-level ecosystems and mosaics; ecosystem and habitats; ecosystem services; community needs; and culture. When the HCV approach is put into practice, all can benefit from a good and healthy environment. 

Dr Hon said provision of clean water is one of the key ecosystem services that nature provides for the people. 

“In Sarawak, water catchments are gazetted over large swaths of forested landscapes. Rainwater is contained within these catchments, and flows into rivers before it is eventually extracted for human consumption. The same catchment is also utilized for food cultivation, logging, settlements and much more. Water catchments are one of the HCVs that must be properly managed. The forests within the catchment play the key role as a natural water filtering system.”

WWF-Malaysia works with the government and private sectors in advocating for  HCV to be properly assessed, managed and monitored. HCV must be incorporated into the management plans of timber and palm oil production landscapes. 

Dr Hon said it is also encouraging to see more industry players making information of their sustainable policies more public via their websites or public summary reports. “However, public feedback is also important. In instances where HCV elements are lacking, efforts must be stepped up to rectify these short-comings,” he added. 

In alignment with the government’s efforts that emphasize sustainability of the environment, he said, industry players should embark on forest landscape restoration initiatives and prioritize reforestation exercises for degraded HCVs. 

Dr Hon said likewise, the public and government sectors can pull together their efforts with the private sectors, in reforestation activities.  

“Moving forward, we should create positive impacts from HCV preservation, leading to greater conservation of our forests and ecosystem services that bring life and benefits to all. Nevertheless, our primary goal to conserve as much intact forests as possible should never be compromised,” he stressed. 

Forests provide the needs of mankind and nature, hence a wise-use approach is the way forward to ensure forests continue to sustain people and nature. Photo © Zora Chan / WWF-Malaysia 

HCV approach is a way to conserve our rich biodiversity and socio-cultural values of the local community or indigenous community and at the same time, it allows for commercial production in a sustainable way. Photo © Raymond Alfred / WWF-Malaysia 

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