| Lyna Mohamad |
ACCORDING to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 13 million hectares of forests are lost every year mainly due to illegal logging, fire incidents, agricultural and urban expansion, increasing population as well as demand for food and fibre, among others.
Deforestation and forest degradation, notably of tropical forests, are also responsible for 15 to 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally and, together with climate change, have impacts on vulnerable mountain ecosystems, which play a crucial role in providing water resources, hosting biodiversity and preventing disasters in highlands.
This was highlighted by the Director of Forestry Brunei, Awg Hj Saidin bin Salleh, at the opening of the Seminar on National Forest Resource Assessment, which he officiated yesterday at the Rizqun International Hotel in Gadong.
He also mentioned that the need to ensure that forest areas are protected and managed sustainably, thus enhancing their multi-functional roles, through the sustainable use of forests, their protection, restoration, afforestation and reforestation as well as the development of forest-based and related industries.
This, he added, is to secure economic, social and environmental benefits and it is also necessary to address the direct and indirect drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, through the adoption of integrated land-use management and land planning.
The seminar, he said, is very timely and crucial in efforts to upgrade capacities and capabilities in achieving common goals and objectives for the sustainable use and management of resources, conservation of biological diversity and mitigating climate change.
This is reflected in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) Objectives in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the UN.
The director noted that the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) processes are not new, as they have been carried out by the FAO since 1948, whose objective is to document global forest resources from the assessment information on how countries come up with policies and how those policies are transformed into implementation, which are shared among FAO member countries.
The Committee on Forestry (COFO) in its 12th session back in 2010 had requested the FAO to prepare long-term strategies for the FRA programme, consistent with prospects for sustainable funding and, as such, COFO in its 21st session endorsed the said strategy and the implementation of FRA 2015 as the first step.
FRA 2015 could help shape policy-making processes and inform and encourage forest-related investment decisions by a wide range of actors, including governments, private companies, NGOs and donor organisations.
The role of forests in society is changing, whereby forests used to be the building platforms in the early days of Brunei and most neighbouring countries, providing the primary resources that support developing industries in building a nation as well as paving the way for infrastructure and commercial developments.
“We used to enjoy abundant renewable natural resources in timber, non-timber and other associated products from the forests. We also understand the invaluable role of the forests in mitigating climate change and natural disasters, conserving biological diversity and protecting the natural heritage,” said Awg Hj Saidin.
Diminishing forests have wide-spread economic and environmental impacts at both the local and global scales. The appreciation of this condition led to the implementation of comprehensive, reasonable and scientific approaches in the manage-ment and sustainability of forest resources.
The director further noted that Brunei has the reputation of having rich biological diversity based on the results of numerous national scientific expeditions yet it also shares the same threats brought about by increasing pressures from progressing economic and industrial developments.
The FRA in 2010 reported that 75 per cent of the Sultanate is still covered with tree vegetation yet with the increasing demands for shelter, infrastructure and industrial development, the country’s forest stocks have gradually been affected as well as the biological diversity associated with it.
“Despite the current scenario of visible natural disasters brought about by climate change, loss of biodiversity and diminishing forest cover, the demand for forests continues to steadily rise,” he added.
Forest road network expansions, industrialisation as well as the rising demand for forest products, goods and services have continuously created pressure, even more than the advancement of forest management, thus there is a need to cope and to develop effective and efficient forest management strategies that will give swift response to evolving forest issues and concerns.
“However, forest management strategies – no matter how sound or effective they are – should be complemented with a monitoring system that would provide significant information and provide trends, telling us if we are on the right track in achieving our goals.”
An accurate scenario on the status and trends of forest resources is vital to facilitate the improvement of national forest policies related to forest management. Improved forest information will also catalyse the development of scientific and technical studies that may contribute to government decision-making as well as private sector investments.