PETALING JAYA: The Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Malaysia (Ecomy) has applauded the Kelantan Forestry Director Zahari Ibrahim for his announcement on the formation of a committee to resolve the illegal occupation of permanent forest reserves in Kelantan.
“It’s refreshing to see that officials are able to give this kind of information to the public via the media,” Ecomy CEO Andrew Sebastian told FMT.
“I applaud them for taking a stand now. Although some may say it’s a bit too late, I think there is now an opportunity for us to do good.”
Earlier today, Zahari said 7,248ha of more than 600,000ha of permanent forest reserves in Kelantan had been illegally occupied since the 1980s.
He said the illegally-cleared forest land was now used for agriculture, including for planting oil palm, and developed into settlements.
Andrew noted his surprise at the forestry director’s admission of the matter, saying this was rare. He lauded Zahari’s action.
“Who will say this happened right under their noses?”
He cautioned, however, that any reforestation that takes place has to take into account the proper species of flora for the area and enable a corridor for wildlife to travel.
“Ecomy hopes they will engage the local community and NGOs. This is not a problem that can be handled by just one agency or individual.
“There is a lot of ecotourism potential in creating wildlife corridors, where wildlife can safely feed and so on,” Andrew said.
He also cautioned that due care had to be taken in the case of resettling those who had made their settlements in the affected areas.
“Due care and proper measures must be taken in the resettlement of the people, if it is necessary. In some cases, it cannot be avoided as it is done for the greater good.
“It depends on whether we’re talking about the indigenous groups or other settlers. The approach will vary.”