It is large-scale deforestation, says WWF-Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: WWF-Malaysia strongly opposes this conversion of 4,515ha of land from Forest Reserve to Government Land in Terengganu from primary or secondary forests to oil palm plantations. This is tantamount to large-scale deforestation, it has said.

The environment NGO said the large-scale deforestation would lead to significant loss of biodiversity, multiple direct and indirect socioeconomic impacts, and disruption of delicate ecosystems.

"There have been one too many occurrences of unnecessary deaths of iconic and endangered species in 2017 alone due to the above and, as a science-based organisation dedicated to the conservation of biological diversity, we are deeply concerned that insufficient measures are taken to protect our nature and wildlife," it said in a statement today.

WWF-Malaysia said the degazettement of forest reserves is unnecessary and not in support of one of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pledges, which is to halt deforestation by 2020.

TDM Berhad, an oil palm plantations cultivator wholly owned by the state investment arm, Terengganu Inc Sdn Bhd, is also a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

One of RSPO's main missions is to minimise tropical deforestation.

"In view of this, expanding oil palm plantations on degazetted forest reserves would not be an economically-sound decision, as it would most likely lead to a decrease or cessation of demand for palm oil and its derivatives from major industry players who have made a No-Deforestation pledge," WWF-Malaysia said.

It urged Terengganu to reconsider its decision in the degazettement of these forest reserves, and explore other more sustainable options to develop the state.

It was announced on Jan 4 that TDM Berhad has accepted 4,515ha of land offered by the Terengganu State Government for its domestic oil palm plantation expansion plans.

Terengganu will replace the affected areas with other lands as Forest Reserve, and TDM Berhad will make a payment of RM250 per hectare per annum to a trust fund for wildlife conservation and conflict management.