In the Media
Malaysia: Tree cover-up
October 18, 2011
The Star Online
What is a forest? For many of us, it would mean virgin forests, full of soaring trees and wild flora and fauna. But for the many international bodies and treaties found in the world, a forest can be that and many other things.
Various conventions such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and bodies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and International Tropical Timber Organisation, all define the term “forests” differently.
The relevant government agencies in Malaysia also generally subscribe to FAO’s definition of forest and forest classifications. There are problems with FAO’s definition, however. Various environmental groups and scientific organisations have criticised it as being too broad for the purpose of promoting the conservation of natural forests.
In 2000, about 18.5 million ha or 56% of Malaysia’s land was still forested but this decreased to 55% in 2007. If the declining trend continues, it is projected that forested areas will drop to 17.1 million ha or 51.8% of total land area come 2020. A study by WWF-Malaysia found a continual decline in forest reserve areas in Peninsular Malaysia – a nett loss of 1,696ha in 10 states, between 2001 and 2005.
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Keywords: Asia, definition, deforestation, FAO, Forest, Forest definition, Malaysia