Stop exploitation of critical ecosystems

NGO calls on govt to recognise the critical role of local and indigenous communities as stewards of natural resources


THE Global Environment Centre (GEC) has called on Malaysia to maintain vigilance against the encroachment and illegal harvesting of the country’s natural resources, and prevent peatland, forest fires, river pollution and water wastage in the coming dry season.

Its director Faizal Parish said the government should halt any destructive projects that can potentially degrade the country’s forests, peatlands, rivers and coastal ecosystems.

He added that this is crucial to expand the networks of protected ecosystems to meet the Convention of Biological Diversity’s global targets of 17% for terrestrial ecosystems and 10% for marine ecosystems.

“Additionally, we call on the government to recognise the critical role of local and indigenous communities as stewards of natural resources and expand support for community-based ecosystem management.

“They should allocate major resources as part of the post-Covid-19 recovery to support largescale measures to create green jobs and mobilise rural communities to protect and restore degraded ecosystems, and safeguard the life support services of our nation,” he said in a webinar themed “Ecosystem Restoration Journey” organised by GEC in conjunction with World Environment Day on June 5.

Faizal also urged the relevant authorities to take a leading role at national and international levels to promote fair and equitable action to address global climate change, land degradation and ecological crises.

He emphasised that the world’s ecosystems sustain life on earth, adding that they provide homes to an incredibly diverse plants and animals, including every species that we depend on for food, fibre and resources for life.

He reiterated that without intact natural ecosystems, the country will not have clean water or air, and global climate change will spiral out of control.

“In Malaysia, we are facing key challenges which need to be addressed through ecosystem restoration.

“Degradation of peatlands is leading to increased fires, haze and poisoning our air, while loss of catchment forests releases soil to choke rivers and pollute water supplies.

“Coastal developments wipe out mangroves and coral reefs and destroy our fisheries. During the pandemic we finally see how vulnerable we are to the degradation of our ecosystems.”

Faizal said the destruction and overexploitation of natural resources and forests lead to evolution of human diseases such as AIDS, Ebola, SARS and other viral diseases.

He said we can reduce the risk of such future threats only by restoring the balance of the natural ecosystems. While continuing ecosystem degradation threatens us, the stewardship and restoration of ecosystems can greatly rebuild the natural support system for the planet.

On GEC’s part, Faizal said it has been actively involved in ecosystem restoration both locally and regionally by promoting sustainable management of forest, peat fire prevention, as well as integrated management of biodiversity and water resources by working closely with various stakeholders.

“Our focus is on empowering local communities in safeguarding ecosystems, while creating alternative livelihood through the development of nature-based community products and rehabilitation activities mainly through nature-based solutions.

“These efforts are not only to ensure the people’s wellbeing while contributing to environmental protection and rehabilitation, but also to learn how to coexist with the vibrant ecosystems.”

As we approach the last decade before the Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved by 2030, Faizal stressed that major steps are needed in all areas if the country is looking to achieve its targets and reverse the climate and species crisis.

Therefore, he said the process of land restoration and ecosystem rehabilitation have tremendous potential to help limit climate change and achieve its aims for sustainable development, which is widely discussed at present by many parties.