Reducing deforestation in Malaysia’s Bornean states of Sarawak & Sabah | WWF Malaysia

Reducing deforestation in Malaysia’s Bornean states of Sarawak & Sabah

Posted on 12 May 2015
Forest range within the Heart of Borneo
Forest range within the Heart of Borneo
© WWF-Malaysia/R.J.Alfred
11 May 2015, Kuching:  According to the World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) recent 2015 Living Forests Report, deforestation is severe in Borneo, one of the 11 places in the world projected to have the most deforestation in the next 15 years. 
The report projected that in a no-intervention scenario, up to 170 million ha of forests could be lost between 2010 and 2030 in the Amazon, the Atlantic Forest and Gran Chaco, Borneo, the Cerrado, Choco-Darien, the Congo Basin, East Africa, Eastern Australia, Greater Mekong, New Guinea and Sumatra.
WWF-Malaysia’s Chief Executive Officer Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma announced that tangible actions are being taken to address deforestation, particularly in Sarawak and Sabah. He said that both state governments have been very cooperative and supportive towards these initiatives which generated positive results in the recent years.
WWF-Malaysia works closely with Sarawak and Sabah governments to address the deforestation rate in both states through various conservation initiatives. These initiatives include enhancing protected areas, conservation spatial planning, responsible forestry and forest certification which could reduce deforestation rate and create a balance between development and conservation.
In Sarawak, Dr Dionysius said a notable collaboration to address deforestation with the state government is the Systematic Conservation Planning to produce maps showing areas for priority conservation.
“These maps would incorporate elements of Totally Protected Areas, sustainable development that needs strong conservation measures such as sustainable forest management and key watersheds for protection and management of ecosystem services areas such as water source. The maps would also include wildlife corridors connecting Totally Protected areas and fragmented forests across the state,” he said.
Through this systematic identification of priority conservation areas, the remaining intact forests could be protected while areas designated for permanent forest estates can be fast-tracked for forest management certification.
Dr Dionysius explained that degraded areas that still contain vital conservation and ecosystem service values can undergo forest restoration by planting indigenous trees.
He also stressed that WWF-Malaysia calls for enhanced conservation measures to reduce deforestation. “The Sarawak government needs to accelerate gazetting its initial target of having one million ha of Totally Protected Areas, and six million ha for Permanent Forest Estates which are vital for biodiversity conservation and protection of ecosystem services. Sarawak must also ensure that these Totally Protected Areas and Permanent Forest Estates are managed properly and sustainably.” 
In Sabah, WWF-Malaysia collaborates closely with the Sabah Forestry Department on initiatives that reduce deforestation rates. One of the initiatives is to identify more forest areas for protection to help achieve Sabah government’s goal of bringing 30% of the land area of Sabah under protection.
“Some of the new areas have already been gazetted as protection forest reserves in November 2014, thus effectively stopping the risk of deforestation of those areas,” said Dr Dionysius.
“WWF-Malaysia also advocates for wider buffers for existing protected areas and restoration of natural forest cover to such buffer areas,” he added.
Imbak Canyon Conservation Area, for example, gained a wider protection forest buffer in November 2014 when 19,510 ha of adjacent logged forests were reclassified as protection forests. Such a wide buffer is expected to regenerate and reduce the threats of poaching, fire and other disturbances from reaching the core parts of Imbak Canyon.
Another initiative to reduce deforestation in Sabah is through responsible forestry. WWF-Malaysia provides technical support to forest reserves undergoing certification for responsible forest management meeting the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards.
Dr Dionysius further elaborated that “as part of the certification process, High Conservation Value assessments are carried out, which identify habitats of value to certain endangered species, areas providing considerable watershed services, riparian forests, etc. to be protected from conversion to plantations and other land uses. A globally-recognized certification such as FSC will promote responsible forest management, including retention of land under natural forest cover, and high conservation value management”.
“Most importantly, we have been assisting the Sabah government for many years to progress towards Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) readiness stage, so that the avoidance of deforestation, sustainable forest management and forest restoration achieved by the government and other forest licence holders can eventually be financially rewarded,” Dr. Dionysius concluded.
The projected figures of deforestation in WWF’s “Living Forests: Saving the Forests at Risk” report may be shocking but they certainly serve as an important reminder that more needs to be done to reduce deforestation in Borneo.
As a non-profit organization at the forefront of conservation in both Sabah and Sarawak, WWF-Malaysia is committed to continue its efforts to work with the state governments to ensure that the grave projections of the report will not become a stark reality.

For further information:
Leona Liman, Senior Communications Officer, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +60 88 262 420 ext 45          Email:
Zora Chan, Senior Communications Officer, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +60 82 247 420                      Email: 
Rumaizah Mohammad Abu Bakar, Head of Communications, WWF-Malaysia
Tel:   +603 7450 3773        Email:
Forest range within the Heart of Borneo
Forest range within the Heart of Borneo
© WWF-Malaysia/R.J.Alfred Enlarge