KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — Environmental group RimbaWatch has today said that satellite imagery has revealed large-scale logging activities affecting more than 2,000 hectares of the Nenasi Forest Reserve starting last month.

In a statement, the group said the logging located within the South-East Pahang Peat Swamp Forest Complex — a key biodiversity area near Pekan, Pahang — could lead to peat fires and transboundary haze, in addition to affecting the communities and flora-fauna nearby.

“It must be reiterated that not only does logging in peat swamp forests impact local communities directly, degrade the habitat of endangered and endemic species and reduce the integrity of a high carbon stock forest,” it said.

“But the majority of Southeast Asian transboundary haze occurs from peat fires, and the majority of forest fires which occur in Malaysia are on 'degraded or logged-over peat swamp forests'.

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“Therefore, the logging of Nenasi Forest Reserve exposes the whole reserve to a higher risk of catching fire which would have compounding devastating impacts on communities, biodiversity and the climate,” it added.

Additionally, the watchdog said it doubts the Pahang government’s claim that its industrial logging is “sustainable”, saying it would further degrade the forest complex that non-governmental organisations and the United Nations are striving so hard to restore.

Although Pahang is required by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) Sustainable Forest Management Standard and Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) to adhere to “sustainable forest management” rules, RimbaWatch reminded the public that the main concern here is that logging, in whatever form, fundamentally destroys the forest that is being logged.

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In line with the call made by the Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, Rimbawatch also urged the Pahang authority to halt the logging activities within Nenasi Forest Reserve.

It also urged PEFC and MTCS to amend the Sustainable Forest Management Standard and Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management respectively to explicitly exclude timber activities from peat swamp forests from any certification options.

South-East Pahang Peat Swamp Forest Complex is a large contiguous swamp forest complex which potentially holds the largest biodiversity in Asia which includes various endangered, critically threatened and vulnerable species.

It said it believed that the logging at the stated forest complex has affected two areas which are roughly 1,460 and 866 ha respectively, and the Nenasi Forest Reserve in particular has been the target of millions of ringgit worth of conservation funding, both from corporate and international agencies including Petronas and the United Nations Development Programme.

RimbaWatch describes itself as an environmental watchdog building an independent, timely and open inventory of data and analytics on deforestation, climate change and human rights issues in Malaysia.