Malaysia’s rainforest logging plan may proceed despite risk to water supplies
August 22, 2008
Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak, Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Kedah, is pushing ahead with a plan to log Ulu Muda forest reserve despite concerns that logging could hurt water supplies and threaten biodiversity.
Speaking yesterday at the weekly state executive council meeting, Azizan said the reserve holds RM16 billion ($4.5 billion) worth of valuable timber that could be used to sponsor development programs in the state, according to the New Straits Times.
Critics of the plan argue that logging the reserve — which is nearly twice the size of Singapore — may diminish the watershed’s capacity to supply water for agriculture. Some have called for the reserve to be protected as a national park.
Azizan has previously claimed he would be willing to call off the logging of Ulu Muda if the federal government resumes annual payments of RM100 million ($30 million) pledged after Kedah agreed to not to log the catchment area in 2003.
While it has yet to come up in high level discusions, another option for generating revenue from Ulu Muda could be the emerging market for forest carbon. Protecting the 160,000 hectare reserve for its stored carbon could generate several million dollars per year in “avoided deforestation” credits, while ensuring the flow of water for the agricultural industry. Kedah accounts for 53 percent of Malaysia’s rice production.