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Towards Sustainable Development

Sarawak’s Strong Commitment and Decisive Moves

Sarawak’s abundance of natural resources is invaluable. From oil and gas and timber to water

and tropical peat soil, these resources and their utilisation in a wide range of industries such as petrochemical, agriculture and biotechnology have come to modernise Sarawak socio economically.

However, as Sarawak industrialises, concerns on the impact of economic activities towards the environment especially its flora and fauna arise, with fears that excessive industrialisation can lead to unwanted environmental issues, including deforestation, pollution and rapid depletion of natural resources.

Thus, to ensure sustainable development and environmental longevity, the Sarawak State Government has undertaken various measures related to the protection of the State’s natural resources and environment, particularly its tropical rainforests.

Interestingly – and fortunately – the urgency to protect its rainforests dates back to the early 20th century with the establishment of the Forest Department Sarawak in 1919 and its objective to manage and conserve Sarawak’s forest reserves.

Now more than 100 years old, the department remains committed in ensuring sustainable forest management and forest conservation through technical and scientific functions based on Sarawak’s Forest Policy that has existed since 1954.

These functions include gazetting Permanent Forest Estates (PFEs), researching and developing forest and forest products, conserving national parks and wildlife, and enforcing forests-related laws namely the Forests Ordinance, 1958, the National Parks and Nature Reserve Ordinance, 1998, and the Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1998.

Forest Department Sarawak is not the only key public player in the State’s environmental efforts.

To further strengthen its capability in balancing development, resource management and environmental conservation, the Government has passed ordinances that lead to the establishment of what would become significant government entities.

Among them are: Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation Ordinance, 1973 that led to the establishment of Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation in June of the same year.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance, 1993 that led to the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) in 1994. Sarawak Forestry Corporation Ordinance, 1995, leading to Sarawak Forestry Corporation in 2003.

Sarawak Biodiversity Centre Ordinance, 1997, leading to Sarawak Biodiversity Centre in 1998.

State natural resources and environment laws that were  enacted by the Sarawak Cabinet are in line with Malaysia’s policies that protect and preserve the country’s environment, such as the National Policy on the Environment, the National Forestry Policy, the National Policy on Biological Diversity, the National Mineral Policy and the National Policy on Climate Change, as well as laws including the Environmental Quality Act, the National Forestry Act and the Wildlife Conservation Act.

Legal enforcement is not the only approach Sarawak is taking to promote sustainable forest management. With greater market demand for timber and timber products that are made from materials sourced from sustainably managed forests the State, as a leading timber exporter, has been implementing the forest certification initiative.

Gaining forest certification is important for many reasons: it gives recognition to timber companies who comply with responsible forest management practices and abide by international management standards; provides fair treatment to affected local communities as their environment is not deliberately destroyed; assures consumers the legitimacy of purchasing certified forest goods; and enables the Government to reinforce the credibility of their forest management efforts.

Presently, certification schemes that can be obtained are the Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) certification by Forest Department Sarawak, Malaysia Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

Issues on natural resources and environment also expand to settlements, where planning, development and management of cities, towns and villages can affect the liveability of communities.

In this case, the State Government through local authorities has been consistent in ensuring that its landscapes across the State are well-managed and improved from time to time.

Sarawak, in particular, and Malaysia, as a whole, recognises the importance of having high quality and comprehensive landscape development as a key factor in driving the country towards becoming a developed nation, in terms of community wellbeing, economy and ecological conservation.

Apart from that, the Government encourages the business community to be an active participant in protecting the environment by way of adopting greener technologies and cleaner production in their operations, as well as self-regulating their activities based on NREB’s implementation of the Natural Resources and Environment (Audit) Rules 2008.

Businesses that are committed to going green not only reduce environmental pollution, but also help build more competitive and highly potential environmentally-friendly products in both local and global markets.

Through NREB, it also intends to send out trained environmental auditors to conduct audits for development projects that required Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in order to hold companies accountable in protecting and conserving the environment.

Audits are also mandatory for megaprojects and environmentally sensitive projects that required Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA).

EIA refers to a study which determines the potential environmental impacts of a proposed project, taking into account both beneficial and adverse socio-economic, cultural and human-health effects.

Environmental audits are necessary as a means for the Government to monitor these projects, making sure that all sustainable development procedures and guidelines are being followed and they do not affect the environment.

It is important to note that these environmental efforts implemented by the Government can only be successful through the proactive roles of various parties, from the private sector to the local community.

Therefore, the responsibility to protect and conserve the environment is mutual among all stakeholders, and every generation needs to play a role towards safeguarding sustainable development for the future generation.

Sarawak’s abundance of natural resources is invaluable. From oil and gas and timber to water and tropical peat soil, these resources and their utilisation in a wide range of industries such as petrochemical, agriculture and biotechnology have come to modernise Sarawak socio economically.

However, as Sarawak industrialises, concerns on the impact of economic activities towards the environment especially its flora and fauna arise, with fears that excessive industrialisation can lead to unwanted environmental issues, including deforestation, pollution and rapid depletion of natural resources.

Thus, to ensure sustainable development and environmental longevity, the Sarawak State Government has undertaken various measures related to the protection of the State’s natural resources and environment, particularly its tropical rainforests.

Interestingly – and fortunately – the urgency to protect its rainforests dates back to the early 20th century with the establishment of the Forest Department Sarawak in 1919 and its objective to manage and conserve Sarawak’s forest reserves.

Now more than 100 years old, the department remains committed in ensuring sustainable forest management and forest conservation through technical and scientific functions based on Sarawak’s Forest Policy that has existed since 1954.

These functions include gazetting Permanent Forest Estates (PFEs), researching and developing forest and forest products, conserving national parks and wildlife, and enforcing forests-related laws namely the Forests Ordinance, 1958, the National Parks and Nature Reserve Ordinance, 1998, and the Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1998.

Forest Department Sarawak is not the only key public player in the State’s environmental efforts.

To further strengthen its capability in balancing development, resource management and environmental conservation, the Government has passed ordinances that lead to the establishment of what would become significant government entities.

Among them are: Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation Ordinance, 1973 that led to the establishment of Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation in June of the same year.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance, 1993 that led to the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) in 1994. Sarawak Forestry Corporation Ordinance, 1995, leading to Sarawak Forestry Corporation in 2003.

Sarawak Biodiversity Centre Ordinance, 1997, leading to Sarawak Biodiversity Centre in 1998.

State natural resources and environment laws that were  enacted by the Sarawak Cabinet are in line with Malaysia’s policies that protect and preserve the country’s environment, such as the National Policy on the Environment, the National Forestry Policy, the National Policy on Biological Diversity, the National Mineral Policy and the National Policy on Climate Change, as well as laws including the Environmental Quality Act, the National Forestry Act and the Wildlife Conservation Act.

Legal enforcement is not the only approach Sarawak is taking to promote sustainable forest management. With greater market demand for timber and timber products that are made from materials sourced from sustainably managed forests the State, as a leading timber exporter, has been implementing the forest certification initiative.

Gaining forest certification is important for many reasons: it gives recognition to timber companies who comply with responsible forest management practices and abide by international management standards; provides fair treatment to affected local communities as their environment is not deliberately destroyed; assures consumers the legitimacy of purchasing certified forest goods; and enables the Government to reinforce the credibility of their forest management efforts.

Presently, certification schemes that can be obtained are the Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) certification by Forest Department Sarawak, Malaysia Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

Issues on natural resources and environment also expand to settlements, where planning, development and management of cities, towns and villages can affect the liveability of communities.

In this case, the State Government through local authorities has been consistent in ensuring that its landscapes across the State are well-managed and improved from time to time.

Sarawak, in particular, and Malaysia, as a whole, recognises the importance of having high quality and comprehensive landscape development as a key factor in driving the country towards becoming a developed nation, in terms of community wellbeing, economy and ecological conservation.

Apart from that, the Government encourages the business community to be an active participant in protecting the environment by way of adopting greener technologies and cleaner production in their operations, as well as self-regulating their activities based on NREB’s implementation of the Natural Resources and Environment (Audit) Rules 2008.

Businesses that are committed to going green not only reduce environmental pollution, but also help build more competitive and highly potential environmentally-friendly products in both local and global markets.

Through NREB, it also intends to send out trained environmental auditors to conduct audits for development projects that required Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in order to hold companies accountable in protecting and conserving the environment.

Audits are also mandatory for megaprojects and environmentally sensitive projects that required Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA).

EIA refers to a study which determines the potential environmental impacts of a proposed project, taking into account both beneficial and adverse socio-economic, cultural and human-health effects.

Environmental audits are necessary as a means for the Government to monitor these projects, making sure that all sustainable development procedures and guidelines are being followed and they do not affect the environment.

It is important to note that these environmental efforts implemented by the Government can only be successful through the proactive roles of various parties, from the private sector to the local community.

Therefore, the responsibility to protect and conserve the environment is mutual among all stakeholders, and every generation needs to play a role towards safeguarding sustainable development for the future generation.

(Article first published in RAKAN Sarawak January – March 2019 Issue)

 
An eyewitness to Sarawak’s transformation

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