KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 — The federal government is currently unable to compensate several state governments if they are told to stop felling trees as a revenue source, minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar has said.
Dr Xavier, who is water, land and natural resources minister, also pointed out the sensitivities involved as the Forestry Department, as the custodian of forests, is under his ministry, while his ministry does not have full control over land matters.
He also contrasted Selangor with other states that remain dependent on logging as a revenue source.
“Selangor’s forest covers 33 per cent and we have stopped logging throughout the state. But Selangor can do it because the value of other industries is adequate for Selangor to be developed, don’t have to rely on the forest.
“But Kelantan, Pahang and Kedah rely on logging revenue, (as a) main revenue,” he was quoted as saying during an event by local daily Sinar Harian.
“So I cannot say cannot do logging, they will ask for compensation. Currently, the government cannot afford to pay compensation,” he added.
Dr Xavier said he had contacted these state governments to understand the situation better, adding that his visit to Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir resulted in the latter declaring a stop to logging activities in Ulu Muda in the state.
“That area is very sensitive as Kedah, Penang and Perlis rely on water from that area,” he said.
When asked how the Kedah state government will be compensated in return for halting logging in Ulu Muda, Dr Xavier said: “I promised them eco-tourism. We will do works in Langkawi and so on. So the federal government will help. Now we are in the process of replanting in the forest.”
As for how Malaysia could preserve its forests, Dr Xavier said the country has to fix a level of forest areas that is considered adequate and not go below that level.
“If we don’t fix it and continue what we are doing now, there will be problems with our future. Now in Peninsular we have 43.8 per cent of forests but we must have 50 per cent according to international (standards), but if we add up Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular, we have 52 per cent,” he said.
Noting that the laws relating to forests in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak are different, he said he would try to standardise the laws into a single Act.