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Of Forests and Facts

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Written By Dan Scott
Monday, 14 May 2012

Let’s make things simple. No fluff, no excess fat, just lean facts.

As a whole, Malaysia’s real estate covers roughly 330,000kmsq. That’s about the size of Vietnam and just slightly bigger than Norway. In a list of countries measured by land size, Malaysia is 67th largest in the world.

Now imagine something half that size. Something in the order of 165,000kmsq. Which of the world’s countries would fit this geographic mould? It’s about the size of Tunisia, a country that, in 2009, was ranked the most competitive economy in Africa. 165,000kmsq can also be represented by two Austrias. Or stretch your imagination to this: as much as 240 Singapores bolted together side to side. That’s quite a large area.

In Malaysia, that same area is all tropical rainforest. Pristine, tropical and permanent rainforest, where trees bask under the scorching heat of the sun and wild animals roam, hunt and habituate. And every monsoon, this rainforest is marinated with rainfall. That area has been untouched and will remain so for many years to come, with all likelihood that not one building, not a single strip of road, not even a house can ever be built on it.


Our national forestry regulations will ensure that. Malaysia signed a treaty to preserve at least half of its total land area for conservation and biodiversity purposes at the 1992 Rio Earth summit.

With at least 50% of Malaysia’s total land reserved for biodiversity and conservation purposes, that means the remaining 50% can be used for various national objectives. Development. Industrialisation. Commerce. And, of course, residence. But that initial 50% of land reserved for forestry – that stays.

It is so baffling why NGOs often attack Malaysia. These attacks are usually evidence of a conscience of guilt. Looking at how much land other countries have kept as forest, it is easy to see why:


As a child, I used to play trump cards. You’d spar one vehicle against another, comparing stats like top speed or price or horsepower. Whoever had the larger number, wins. I wish they had trump cards for forest land. Because then all the players involved in the world’s stage will know that Malaysia can’t be beaten on this score.

International agreements only require nations to set aside 10% of its total land for biodiversity and conservation.

At 50%, Malaysia is doing so much more than is asked of it. This speaks volumes of her commitment to the environment, not to mention the protection of valuable animal species that live in the forest, because one hectare of land that is kept as permanent rainforest equals one hectare of land which is forfeited in the pursuit of economic progress.

That one hectare could have been used to build schools to elevate Malaysia’s level of literacy and contribute to the pool of talent. That one hectare could have been used to provide comfortable housing for a population whose growth is as certain as death and taxes. That one hectare could have been used to build highways to lubricate the pistons of trade and commerce.

In economics, this is known as opportunity cost: the benefit Malaysia decided to forego as a result of protecting its rainforests. Putting this in monetary terms will provide a clearer picture. From the earlier example, the land Malaysia has set aside as permanent rainforests is equivalent to 240 Singapores.

The productivity of land within the Singaporean border is measured by GDP. In 2011, this land generated US$259 billion. 240 Singapores would mean that Malaysia could have generated as much as US$259 x 240 = US$62,160 billion in revenue to the government, benefitting the poor, educating the young, and improving overall living standards.

But instead, that one hectare is instead kept as rainforest.

And it will be kept as rainforest permanently.

Does that not show how committed Malaysia is to the environment?

The words that are trumpeted by developed countries do not reflect what they have done to their land in the past. Over the last 100 years, so much deforestation had taken place there that everything from responsible stewardship of the environment to rare species of animals and plants were sacrificed in the name of economic progress.

In fact, one can build a powerful case that these developed countries should be implicated as the main culprit of global warming through the foregone carbon sequestration capability of expansive tracts of forest land.

Malaysia’s right to development can only be decided by the hands of the prevailing government. It should not have even the slightest imprint of other nations. THE END


Joel  19. October 2012 at 12:16 am

This is great!

Chito  19. October 2012 at 12:17 am

I disagree with the logic that the 50% which Malaysia kept as forests equal to 240 Singapores in land area and, at 259 billion GDP by one Singapore nation, could have generated US$62,160 billion in revenue. Maybe half or $30,000 Billion is more like it

Terrence  20. October 2012 at 01:55 am

EC should not be mean!

Ramon.M  25. October 2012 at 07:09 pm

EC should come clean and be fair!

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