FOUM urge the Kedah State Government to prioritise Conservation and Protection of Ulu Muda Forests and develop sustainable sources of revenue.

Alor Star 7 June 2020: Friends of Ulu Muda (FOUM) is a coalition of organisations and individuals working together to protect the 160,000 ha Greater Ulu Muda Forest. The forest plays an important role in supporting
livelihood and well-being of the people in Perlis, Penang and Kedah, and is an irreplaceable part of Malaysian and world natural heritage.

FOUM supports the conservation and protection of the Greater Ulu Muda Forest and we hope logging will not resume in the area. Recently, the State government of Kedah announced to the media their intention to
continue logging to avoid legal claims from 40 logging companies amounting to RM1.5 billion. This statement has raised much concern among FOUM and our supporters.

The value of Greater Ulu Muda Forest is much greater than RM1.5 billion, in terms of socioeconomic value and for preserving the identity and heritage of Kedah and surrounding regions, as we elaborate below.

The forest is key to the prosperity of the Northern region of Peninsular Malaysia as it supplies water to support agriculture, industry, tourism and consumers. For example, the Muda, Pedu and Ahning dams regulate the
supply of drinking water for 4.2 million people and support economic activities that together bring an estimated annual revenue of RM 150.5 billion to Kedah, Perlis and Penang (see statement issued by Dato’ Ir. Jaseni Maidinsa from PBA Holdings Bhd).

Irrigation with water from Greater Ulu Muda Forest enables double cropping in the paddy fields of Kedah and Perlis, which contribute up to 50% of the nation’s rice production. In view of the Covid-19 crisis and the
resulting disruption of rice imports, Kedah can play a vital role in strengthening Malaysia’s food security. However, the destruction of the Ulu Muda forest may jeopardise paddy production and the livelihoods of
48,500 farmers.

Greater Ulu Muda Forest harbours priceless beauty and important biodiversity, and is home to many threatened wildlife species such as the Asian elephant, Malayan sun bear, Malayan tapir, Malayan pangolin,
agile gibbon, hairy-nosed otter, clouded leopard, sambar deer, and well over 320 species of birds. It is only one of two sites in Malaysia where all 10 species of Malaysian hornbills can be found. Ulu Muda is a viable tiger habitat recently surveyed in the National Tiger Survey. It used to be home to the Javan rhinoceros, Banteng and Sumatran rhinoceros but no longer. Furthermore, the Greater Ulu Muda Forest plays an important role as a carbon sink and in increasing the resilience of the State against climate change.

FOUM understands that protecting the Greater Ulu Muda Forest and securing the State’s income is a challenging task. FOUM believes that sustainable financing mechanisms such as Payment for Ecosystem
Services (PES) coupled with heightened commitment and accountability are appropriate steps moving forward as they would allow the Kedah State Government to earn sustainable revenue in the long term from ecosystem services that Greater Ulu Muda Forest provides. Funds should also be sought from international agencies, the Federal Government, and other parties to support the Kedah State Government in its efforts to protect the area while maintaining a source of income for the state.

FOUM hopes the Kedah State Government will prioritise the protection of the greater Ulu Muda forest, considering the wellbeing of the rakyat, State and environment. Our members are ready to offer support in terms of technical expertise and advise on the development of a sustainable and environment-friendly plan to protect Greater Ulu Muda Forest and help support post-Covid 19 recovery in the region.

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