Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said about 1.7% of Sarawak’s total forest area or not more than 170,000ha of forest were cut down annually – the level set in 2006 under Ninth Malaysia Plan.
Forest still covered nearly 84 percent of the state total surface area or 10.34 million ha.
Forest wood resources remain a vital component of the state’s economic output said the Chief Minister, reports The Star.
The 2012 Sarawak Forestry Annual Report indicated the state collected a total of RM693,961,153.43 forest related revenues – royalties, premiums and tariffs.
“A fundamental cornerstone of the state government’s commitment to sustainable forest management is the Forest Management Plan, which forms part of the Forest Timber Licence,” Adenan said and emphasized that harvesting is limited to particular units of land.
The state so far had issued 45 licences for planted forests, covering an area of 2.8 million ha. that Adenan said would reduce Sarawak dependency on natural forests.
“About one million ha will be developed for planting fast growing species. It is estimated about 15 million cubic metres will be produced annually from these plantations,” Adenan said.
NGOs both locally and abroad disputes the Chief Minister assertion citing various sources including satellite images from Google Earth, NASA Tropical Deforestation Research and other studies.
Recent Google Earth images for example show a sharp contrast between forest cover in Sarawak and it neighboring countries Brunei and Indonesia’s Kalimantan.
Google Earth images from GeoEye, TerraMetrics, Tele Atlas, Europa Technologies, and other providers show logging roads snaking across Sarawak’s forest areas.
The images seem to lend support to claims from environmentalists that Sarawak’s forests have been heavily logged, almost 90 percent of state surface.
Report commissioned by the Netherlands-based Wetlands International says Malaysia is uprooting an average 2 percent of the rain forest a year on Sarawak, most of it is being converted to palm oil plantations, it said.
“Total deforestation in Sarawak is 3.5 times as much as that for entire Asia, while deforestation of peat swamp forest is 11.7 times as much,” the report said.
Sarawak follows the definition of “forest” as used by FAO was “land spanning more than 0.5ha with trees higher than 5m and a canopy cover of more than 10 per cent or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ”.
The definition does not include land that was predominantly under agricultural or urban use.