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The Dawn & Rebirth of the Central Forest Spine

The Central Forest Spine (CFS) initiative is the brainchild of the Malaysian Federal Department of Town and Country Planning (now known as ‘PLANMalaysia’) and was first publicized in 2009 through the department’s CFS-Master Plan (CFS-MP). Elements of the wide-ranging master plan made its way into the Second National Physical Plan (NPP-2), encapsulated by:

“The development focus for the Central Highlands is to establish and protect a contiguous Central Forest Spine through the integration of forest reserves for biodiversity conservation, limit and control unsustainable urban and agriculture expansion, and enhance the tourism potential of the highlands.”

“A Central Forest Spine shall be established to form the backbone of the Environmentally Sensitive Area network.”

The CFS Master Plan (CFS-MP) is a two-part document that divides the Malay Peninsula into its northern- and southern-halves – the northern being CFS-1 (CFS-MP 1) and the southern CFS-2 (CFS-MP 2). The CFS-MP had the objectives:

  • to restore the connectivity and continuity of the Forest Complexes in the CFS;

  • to recommend viable rules and guidelines in controlling and managing development on a sustainable basis in the Ecological Corridors identified;

  • to propose an effective implementation mechanism and identify the financial resources necessary to implement these programmes;

  • to study the possibility of establishing a coordination and monitoring committee for overseeing the development programmes and conservation of the Ecological Corridors; and

  • to enhance the awareness and commitment of all parties in maintaining the connectivity and integrity of the CFS for improving the country’s biodiversity resources.

The master plan identified a total of 17 ‘primary linkages’ (PLs) and 20 ‘secondary linkages’ (SLs).

Primary linkages are:

"areas where it is crucial to re-establish forest connectivity in order to achieve the main CFS link. Major interventions are required to establish these linkages."

Secondary linkages are:

"complementary to Primary Linkages. They are identified in areas where it is unfeasible to create a primary linkage (e.g. due to areas of non-forested land that cannot be reforested due usually to human land use), but it is still important to maintain some level of connectivity (albeit weaker) between forests."

Plain English: As a nation, we cut up many holes in the forests. The CFS is a plan to patch up these holes at the most strategic points (PLs & SLs) so that animals are allowed to move between forests.

“There was a widespread sense of hope in the air”

Those were the sentiments echoed by environmental NGOs when the CFS initiative was announced in 2009. The ensuing 2010-2016 period saw the loss of ~640,000 hectares of forest cover in Peninsular Malaysia. Out of this, about 60,000 hectares of forest cover loss occurred in the primary and secondary linkages themselves. That hope, it seemed, was misplaced.

Pink symbolizes tree cover loss in the period 2010 - 2016. Forest loss seems most intense in Johor, Pahang, and Kelantan.

Example of yearly forest loss in Secondary Linkage 1 (SL 1; 103,527.82 ha), Kelantan. 22,223.1 ha lost from 2010-2016.

Example of yearly forest loss in Primary Linkage 3 (PL 3; 6,780.71 ha), Kelantan. 2,860.67 ha lost from 2010-2016.

Yeah Kelantan, we’re lookin at you.

Ultimately, it is no use crying over spilt milk; better than we concentrate that diminishing resource of sanity onto getting work done than to mourn. With the various CFS initiatives going on since last year, we hope to see real progress being made (and not just an endless barrage of mindless meetings that produces no output). The engagements within our radar:

CFS Roundtable

Organized by TrEEs & MNS. Funded by the same grant as My Forest Watch.

Funded GEF, rolled-out by UNDP. Currently in review.

Organized by MNS through the project “Strengthening Non-State Actor Involvement in Forest Governance” funded by the European Union. First meeting was in 2017; waiting to reconvene.

4. MyCFS

Organized by MEME & Wild Asia; funded by Yayasan Hasanah. First meeting was... yesterday (30/5/18)!

With all these CFS platforms (not even counting the ones by the government), the future is bright for the CFS!

Or is it?

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