KUALA LUMPUR: Although Malaysia has been developing and growing at pace over the years, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak has expressed concern over the environmental impact. Pointing that the country's poverty level has decreased to below 4% from 49% since independence and its per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) increasing to over US$10,000 from US$370, Najib said political leaders today faced the challenge of policy making to protect natural heritage while ensuring continuous socio-economic progress. "This growth has been guided by the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) which I had the honour to introduce in 2010. "But I will be the first to admit that development through the opening of land for agriculture, human settlement, industrialisation, transport has had a significant impact on the natural environment," he said during the opening of the Fourth Plenary of the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) today. Najib, however, pointed out that the country has taken significant measures to address the issue, including embarking on a national initiative Central Forest Spine (CFS) that will link four main forest complexes in the peninsular. The CFS, which is still in its discussion stage between the federal and state governments and other NGOs, will create ecological connectivity for Peninsular Malaysia to ensure species survival. "At the very least, I am hopeful that it will contribute to preventing endangered animals like tigers being killed by road user, which was the tragedy that happened recently," he said. The CFS initiative, when implemented, is estimated to cover 5.3 million hectares — some 40% of the area of the peninsular — 80% of it designated as Permanent Forest Reserve. A revised version of the National Policy on Biological Diversity was also launched by Najib today that will take effect from 2016 to 2025, to meet the current biodiversity management needs. "It emphasises the need for continued conservation, sustainable utilisation and the sharing of benefits from biodiversity, and has clear targets, actions, and timelines for implementation and calls for active participation by all stakeholders," he added. Later in a press conference, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said they have consulted with all stakeholders over the past two years before translating it into a policy. "A total of 29 comprehensive stakeholder consultations were carried out in between 2014 and 2015, including villagers, who may sometimes have better knowledge on biodiversity than us," he said.