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Sawit setting aside 2,500ha for conservation
Published on: Thursday, October 26, 2017
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Kota Kinabalu: Sawit Kinabalu will allocate 2,500 hectares within its estate in Sungai Pin, Kinabatangan, to be established as a conservation area. The initiative was sealed through a Memorandum of Understanding between Sawit Kinabalu Group, represented by its Managing Director Datuk Othman Walat, and the Sabah Forestry Department, represented by Chief Conservator of Forests Datuk Sam Mannan.

The MoU was signed during the 9th International Conference on the Heart of Borneo, here, Tuesday, witnessed by Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman.

"I represent the business side of planting oil palm which, during forums on environmental conservation, we are always being criticised and told that 'oil palm kills' and that oil palm is not very friendly to the environment," said Othman during a media conference after the MoU signing ceremony.

"Nevertheless, we feel it is a necessity in the economic sense to support the people's lives and today we have set aside 2,500 hectares of our plantation land still under prime jungle for the purpose of environmental forest conservation.

"This area is sited in Kinabatangan which links the two conservation animal sanctuary areas (Deramakot and Segaliud), so actually we are foregoing quite a bit of money there, because 2,500 hectares or over 6,000 acres planted with oil palm can cover a cost of a few million ringgit.

"But this area, we feel that it is a necessity, because we have to connect to the sanctuary and you will see that the management will be by the Forestry Department. We have not negotiated with the Forestry to replace the area yet, but I think by and large we let it go as such," he said.

He said this initiative by Sawit Kinabalu will be a major contribution in connecting the main wildlife sanctuaries within the Lower Kinabatangan conservation and wildlife corridor.

"Sawit Kinabalu being a Sabah Government linked company in oil palm business has started the conservation efforts in Sungai Pin Estate since 2003 with 1,260 hectares set aside for the purpose.

"The efforts have shown encouraging result with more than 500,000 trees of various species planted from the year 2003 to 2017.

"Hence, this collaboration will further enhance the conservation initiative of Sawit Kinabalu as a responsible business corporation," he said.

Meanwhile, Mannan said the 2,500 hectares, a big piece, was formerly forest reserved but encroached by those who came from outside the country.

"Sawit Kinabalu managed to get rid of all those encroachers, they did a very good job, and I am sure those trees are going to grow very well, it is near the river, we have so many different species which naturally regenerate there .

"That will be another sanctuary that will link up with Deramakot and Segaliud, like what the original intention was," he said.

"Don't worry too much about oil palm because it is a suicidal crop, it kills itself. You abandon oil palm, many species will start coming in and it is also ideal for planting dipterocarps.

"We cleared illegal oil palm in a piece of land, but we left some oil palm and planted dipterocarps, and only those trees that were under oil palm grew well.

"So, if one day we decide that alright we want less oil palm for whatever reason, just abandon it without human intervention, unlike rubber which looks after itself , oil palm is totally human dependent, so don't worry,

"I am telling you, from observation, there are so many animals that will slowly come back, so it is not a gone case," he said. - Sherell Jeffrey



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