Safeguarding Penang’s biodiversity


THE Penang Forestry Department is always committed to preserve biodiversity in the state.


Penang Forestry Department director Muhammad Ezhar Yusuf said over the years, the department has conducted various programmes, including conservation and preservation efforts to ensure the state’s biodiversity was safeguarded for the benefit of future generations.

Penang Forestry Department director Muhammad Ezhar Yusuf

“As an example, from 2005 until December last year, a total of 242,483 mangrove trees and other species have been planted along the coastal areas in Penang involving an area of ​​80.95 hectares. This is part of our coastal conservation efforts,” said Muhammad Ezhar during an interview with Buletin Mutiara at the Bukit Panchor state park in Nibong Tebal recently.


He said the department also had been collaborating with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community, schools and corporate bodies in reforestation projects and tree planting programmes.


“These programmes are part of our key performance indicators (KPIs) that need to be achieved by us every year.


“The tree planting programme is to create urban forestry for the betterment of the habitat and improving the community’s quality of life in Penang.


“Through various tree planting initiatives, the department has planted 330,714 trees throughout the state, including along the coastal areas, since 2005 until December 2020,” he added.


Muhammad Ezhar said the department also offers free tree saplings to the public to inculcate the importance of a green nature to them.


“They just need to call our department if they need the saplings and we will gladly give it to them.


“For the past 10 years, we have supplied a total of 36,873 tree saplings for free to the community to carry out these tree planting activities,” he said.


According to Muhammad Ezhar, the department also has made a biodiversity conservation plot to ensure endangered tree species will not go extinct.


“In Penang, we have ten endangered tree species (under dipterocarp group) such as ‘Iguanura corniculata’ (Pinang Angin) that must be conserved, and further promoted as an eco-tourism product to prevent it from going extinct.


“Besides that, an observation plot (petak pemantauan) has also been set up in order to monitor the survival of these species,” he added.


Muhammad Ezhar added that the department is also applying a concept of ‘Forest Beyond Timber’ in term of forest management in Penang.


“Through this concept, we look at the role of forests in providing other forest ecosystem services such as the role of biological conservation and genetic resources, retention of clean water resources, local temperature stabilisation and so on.


“The development and conservation programmes carried out by our department now all contribute directly to that direction,” he said.


Apart from that, he said the department has been working very closely with other enforcement agencies to prevent encroachment activities into gazetted forest reserve in the state.


“One of them is through a joint collaboration between Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department and Malaysian Space Agency (MySA). We have developed a system known as Forest Monitoring Using Remote Sensing (FMRS).


“FMRS is a system that uses satellite imagery to monitor changes in forest cover in real time.


“It allows us to gather information quickly and accurately, which has had a big impact on enforcement and thus helping us to preserve and conserve the state’s biodiversity.


“Based on our records, a total of 15 cases related to encroachment activities in the Forest Reserve were recorded from 2010 until 2020. All these cases have resulted in legal action accordingly. This shows that the encroachment activities in the state are under control.


“The public and NGOs also are our eyes and ears to report any information regarding the encroachment activities into the forest reserve near their place. And we would like to thank them for that,” he added.


As part of the efforts to control forest fire incidents in the state, Muhammad Ezhar said the department also has been using a system known as Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS).


“FIRMS is a system that allowed us to trace real-time active fire locations in forested areas so that an immediate action can be taken,” he said.


Muhammad Ezhar also reminded the public that preservation and conservation efforts to maintain the state’s biodiversity are actually a joint responsibility of everyone and not the sole responsibility of the state Forestry Department only.


“We should realise that the biodiversity that still exists in our state is an invaluable treasure and thus, each one of us should do our best to preserve and conserve it for our benefits and future generations,” he added.

Story by Riadz Akmal
Pix by Ahmad Adil Muhamad