Sarawak Government Committed to Sustainable Development of Palm Oil Plantations

Mar 28, 2011, 21:00 ET from Asia Newswire

KUCHING, Sarawak, Malaysia, March 29, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The State Government of Sarawak's Agricultural Policy prioritises sustainable management of biodiversity as part of its strategy for the growth of palm oil plantation. Sarawak has a total land mass of 12.4 million hectares, of which 70% is under forest cover and 14% is secondary forest. 13% of the land is used for agriculture and the remaining 3% compromise settlements and water bodies. Currently the state has allocated 700,000 hectares of peatlands for palm oil cultivation or approximately 6% of the state's total land area. Palm oil cultivation accommodates 39% of peatland and 3% of non-peat hillforests; in all, agriculture takes up 43% of Sarawak's total peatlands and 8% of non-peat forests.

Sarawak fully acknowledges the importance of its peatlands not only as part of the global carbon sink but more so for the livelihood of the local communities that reside along the coastal peatland areas. The majority of Sarawak's population live along the coastal regions which immediately border the peatland areas and are very much dependent on them for natural reservoirs of freshwater and act as buffer against floods and saline intrusion.

Sarawak has undertaken several major peatland initiatives as follows:-

- A feasibility study under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management [ICZM] initiative done in 1998, which provided recommendations to the State which are adhered to till this day;

- Development and implementation of guidelines on water management for agriculture in coastal peatland areas of Sarawak, which include best practice in planning, assessment, design and implementation of water management systems for agricultural activities in coastal peatlands;

- Allocating biodiversity conservation areas within the peatlands and water catchment areas which serve as a safe water supply source for the coastal population;

- Establishment of the Tropical Peat Research Laboratory Unit (TPRL) to ensure a more accurate assessment of the impact of development on peat swamp forests.

For peatland palm oil cultivation, the State Government ensures that a series of sustainable project management schemes are implemented and not merely done through indiscriminate clear felling or bulldozing. These project components include an integrated water management system which is a combination of drainage, sub-irrigation and water conservation to enhance sustainable agricultural land use.

Sarawak has also imposed as a legal requirement that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) be carried out to ensure that palm oil development will not jeopardise the environmental integrity of the areas cultivated. The State has set a target of 25% of its land mass for various agricultural purposes.

The Sarawak Government remains fully committed to fulfilling its responsibility and obligations to the people of Sarawak, and will ensure the country progresses like any other country in the world and the Government will continue to manage its environment sustainably.

SOURCE Asia Newswire