KUCHING, March 27: Logging activities in Ulu Baram will have devastating environmental consequences and severely impact the surrounding indigenous communities, say 47 organisations through a joint statement initiated by Biodiversity, Agroecology, Climate Change and Habitat (B.E.A.CC.H) and the CSO Platform for Reform Sarawak.
The organisations were responding to a recent statement by Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau, who said that logging posed no threat to the indigenous community in Baram, to which the organisations described the statement as “unfounded”.
According to them, logging has significantly altered the environmental balance of the virgin forest and led to damage to the waterways, causing siltation, landslides, and flooding.
“Currently an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report is not mandatory for clearing virgin forests in Sarawak and is only necessary for re-entry. The requirement and process for an EIA report should be standardised for all logging activities in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, with mandatory public participation as is the norm in Peninsular Malaysia.
“Additionally, the absence of an EIA report also raises questions about whether communities in the area were consulted and if a Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process was undertaken as part of the public participation process for activities in their area. The FPIC process allows indigenous communities to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their areas.
“The lack of both the EIA and FPIC process raises doubts over the comments made by (Dennis) on communities welcoming the logging activities,” the statement read.
The group also asserted that with the local communities as inhabitants of the area, it is imperative that the people understand the impact and the consequences of the project with free access to transparent information.
They further said in light of the recent floods, B.E.A.CC.H conducted a pilot study on flood impact and community perceptions in Lower Baram, Sarawak.
Baram district was used as a case study for riverine conservation. The aim was to develop a framework supporting and providing remedial action for the affected communities and the riverine areas.
Based on the study, it was recommended that communities living along the riverine develop a flood-ready attitude and preparedness to empower the inhabitants with the necessary skills and knowledge on support resources, helping them build resilience in the face of a disaster.
The study also suggested government agencies to involve local communities in developing disaster management policies and programmes as incorporation of local knowledge and perspective facilitates a better understanding of contributing factors in the respective region and enables authorities to gain grounded insights for effective mitigation strategies.
“These recommendations require serious consideration and implementation as a step towards necessary progress to protect native rights and the nation’s rich virgin forests,” the group added.
The 47 organisations that endorsed the statement were:
1. Biodiversity, Environment, Agroecology, Climate Change and Habitat (B.E.A.CC.H), Environmental Cluster of the CSO Platform for Reform
2. Sarawak Chapter of the CSO Platform for Reform
3. Terabai Kenyalang Heritage Association of Sarawak
4. SAVE Rivers
5. Keep Green Movement (KGM)
6. Independent Council of Natives (ICON)
7. Persatuan Pemeliharaan dan Pemuliharaan Alam Sekitar Sarawak (PELIHARA)
8. Sarawak Dayak Iban Association
9. Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC)
10. Jaringan Tanah Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (Tahabas)
11. JOAS SARAWAK
12. Persatuan Dayak Sarawak (PEDAS)
13. Pertubuhan Hak Asasi Orang Asal Sarawak
14. PACOS Trust
15. Sabah AIDS support services association (KASIH)
16. Sabah Environmental Protection Association
17. Kelab Belia Generasi Pemenang Kampung Tempasuk
18. Advancing Knowledge in Democracy and Law
19. Agora Society Malaysia
20. Engineers Without Borders Malaysia (EWBM)
21. Pertubuhan Alam Sekitar Sejahtera Malaysia GRASS Malaysia
22. Sustainable Development Network Malaysia (SUSDEN Malaysia)
23. Treat Every Environment Special
25. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
26. Association of Women Lawyers
27. Center for Orang Asli Concerns
28. Centre for Independent Journalism
29. Forum Kedaulatan Makanan Malaysia (FKMM)
30. Free Tree Society Kuala Lumpur
31. Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia
32. Gabungan Darurat Iklim Malaysia (GDIMY)
33. GERAK (Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia)
34. Global Human Right Foundation Malaysia
35. Jaringan Ekologi dan Iklim (JEDI)
36. Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)
37. Penang Forum
38. Persatuan Kesedaran dan Keadilan Iklim Malaysia (Klima Action Malaysia – KAMY)
39. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
40. Pertubuhan Advokasi dan Kesejahteraan Pekak Malaysia
41. Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam
42. Raleigh Sabah Society
43. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
44. Tamil Foundation Malaysia
45. Tapang Rainforest Organisation
46. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
47. Zero Waste Sabah