Malaysia's Peat Swamp Forests Conservation and Sustainable Use

10 Apr 2006
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Summary

Peat swamp forests are an important component of the world’s wetlands – the dynamic link between land and water, a transition zone where the flow of water, the cycling of nutrients and the energy of the sun combine to produce a unique ecosystem of hydrology, soils and vegetation. Peat swamp forests provide a variety of benefits in the form of forestry and fisheries products, energy, flood mitigation, water supply and groundwater recharge.

Nearly 60 per cent of Malaysia, or about 19.5 million hectares, is under forest cover of one type or another. Peat swamp forests constitute a significant component of this cover with an estimated 1.54 million hectares still remaining. More than 70 per cent of these peat swamp forests are in Sarawak, less than 20 per cent in Peninsular Malaysia and the remainder in Sabah. Large areas of peat swamp forest in Malaysia have already been cleared and drained for agriculture, settlement and other human activities, but such changes completely alter the landscapes and eliminate many of the specialized flora and fauna associated with these wetlands.

In 1999, the Government of Malaysia initiated a project to conserve its rapidly depleting peat swamp forests with support and funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP/Global Environment Facility (GEF)) in collaboration with the Danish International Development Assistance (Danida), and the five-year project commenced in mid-2002. The project’s primary objective is to develop and implement integrated management plans that will facilitate the conservation and sustainable use of these globally significant forests. The project focuses on three sites in South-East Pahang, the Klias Peninsula in Sabah, and Loagan Bunut in Sarawak.

This publication provides an assessment of progress in the various undertakings of the project at the three distinctive sites. Now in its fourth year, the project has already accumulated a great deal of information, established strong links with local communities, and developed processes and procedures for cooperation and coordination among the various public and private agencies involved. The information presented here provides some indication of the efforts being made to maintain these forest ecosystems while enabling sustainable use of products and services, and the measures being adopted to achieve these ends.

This is the first of a new series of periodic publications that will report on UNDP Malaysia’s work in its energy and environment practice area. The large range of projects being undertaken in this area are designed to support Malaysia’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 7 (MDG7), of ensuring environmental sustainability.

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