Thursday, February 16, 2012

Riparian reserves become bane of contention at colloquium

KOTA KINABALU: Oil Palm plantations and smallholders have been urged to understand the consequences of unlawfully encroaching and occupying riparian reserves.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun said during a press conference held at the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Colloquium 2012 yesterday that legal means will be initiated against those who refuse to let off the riparian reserves.

He added the law clearly states that no one is allowed to plant on any riparian reserve and that if someone had ‘accidentally planted’ something, it was only proper for them to return the land to the State, being the rightful owner of the land.

“You need to make sure that you take steps to rehabilitate it,” he said.

He warned that ‘time’ will not be given and is not necessary to be given to encroachers of State property.

When asked how many plantations and smallholders have actually encroached riparian reserves in Sabah, Masidi called on members of the press attending the conference to go to the East Coast of Sabah and ply along the 560-kilometer long Kinabatangan river and see the actual situation for themselves.

“I’ve gone there and it is shocking,” he said, adding that the encroachers consisted of both large plantations and smallholders.

When asked why the government enforcement agencies are not taking legal actions against the perpetrators, Masidi replied that part of it was because the Land and Surveys Department is understaffed.
But the bulk of the problem is due to the general attitude of the people, he said.

“It is obvious in the Land Ordinance and other related enactments that a riparian reserve cannot be alienated but our problem is our attitude of ‘sikit-sikit boleh bah’ (encroaching a little bit is permissible). We ‘sikit-sikit’ right up to the river bank. That is the problem. We don’t take life seriously.”

He stressed that it would benefit everyone if oil palm plantations and smallholders would work with the Land and Surveys Department and follow the stipulated regulations by not encroaching on the riparian reserves.

“Of course, dealing with the village folks is a bit more difficult. Sometimes, you go there and they have machetes waiting for you. This is normal in Sabah. The village folks do not understand this and to them, once they plant the oil palm trees, the land is theirs,” he said.

He stressed that over time, there must be some progressive improvement in the government’s effort to reclaim the riparian reserves.

“It is for our own good. When we plant right up to the river banks, the river becomes a repository for the fertilisers and pesticides when they leach. We fish and garner our water source from the same river, so in short, we are killing ourselves. These waste then flows to the sea and affect the catches of our fishermen. ”
He added that actions as such were not detrimental to merely the wild animals but also the community and said that if the people loved themselves, they would look after these things.

Meanwhile, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said that those who have encroached into the riparian reserves have no right to be there and that they cannot refuse to return the reserves to its rightful owner.

“They cannot refuse because a riparian reserve is not included in their (land) title.”
He added that he had presented a paper which contained issues related to riparian reserves to the cabinet and stressed that his ministry wants things to improve based on the law.

“When you are given a piece of land, there are terms of alienation. There is also the riparian reserve and you cannot go beyond that…these are some of the things that I want highlighted and taken care of – taken into account seriously by the industry,” said Dompok.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu in his paper entitled ‘Harmonising Biodiversity Conservation and Development in Sabah’, also touched on the issue and said riparian reserves in Sabah are almost all gone and that there is now an absence of buffer zones between the rivers and the plantations.

Green Sabah says: Hope that the Oil Palm plantations and small holders will take this warning to heart and not be involved in encroaching or occupying riparian reserves. The Sabah State government ought to take serious actions towards those who knowingly take over the state owned land for their own profits as this can be likened to stealing or trespassing. 


Anonymous said...

Take actions on those people/company that reluctant to obey the law. Or else, they will take this matter lightly.

Hinamori said...

state government wants planters and millers to pay heed to environmental concerns, especially the conservation of wildlife species that exist in areas close to plantations in Sabah’s east coast.

Anonymous said...

Oil plantations and small holders should consider about the environment and not only for their own profit.

Mohd Ishak said...

Semoga mereka yang melanggar undang-undang untuk mencerobohi Hutan Simpanan kita akan diambil tindakan tegas daripada Jabatan Perhutanan.

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