On the 8th of January, the NST published "MNS concerned over degazetting of permanent forest reserves in Terengganu", raising concerns over the degazettement of 4,515 ha of permanent reserve forests (PRFs) in the state.
Why is this important/What does this mean?
Not all forests are protected equally; PRFs are generally considered to be more protected than 'stateland forests', the latter being available for conversion/development should a suitable project come by the state government.
The degazettement of a PRF is to change the land status of a PRF into a stateland forest, opening it up for conversion/development (read: indiscriminate clear-cutting). The slow but sure PRF-degazettements taking place out of public view signals means that we may be losing our biological heritage before we even realize it.
The screenshot below shows how much forest cover we have lost (includes PRF, stateland forest etc.) in the state of Terengganu alone from 2001-2016: 208,018 ha (this is an overestimate that includes natural loss of forests too). Singaporeans would probably not like this, but just for scale, the island-country is 71,990 ha; Terengganu has potentially lost a forest area equivalent to the size of ~3 Singapores from 2001-2016 (We love you, Singapore).
Screenshot above taken via our Interactive Map.
Gazette/Degazette notices must be made public. Plans to convert/degazette PRFs (especially, primary forests) must go through an unbiased, multi-stakeholder consultation process to ensure that the concerns of each party, the cost-benefit argument are taken into consideration - this also reduces the likelihood of corruption through increased transparency. We look forward to better, more transparent forest governance in the coming days!