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Sarawak goes high-tech to protect forests

KUCHING: Sarawak’s Forest Department is going high-tech in its enforcement against encroachment and illegal logging activities in protected areas.

Its monitoring, enforcement and prevention (MEP) system, which was unveiled during the state-level commemoration of World Forestry Day on Monday, incorporates remote sensing, image processing, mobile mapping and web-based applications to detect illegal activities.

The data is then sent to field officers via a web-based platform from which it will be downloaded to a mobile component such as a PDA.

State director of forests Datuk Len Talif Salleh said the MEP system had been developed by the department using the latest available technology.

“This system cannot operate on its own but it has to be backed up with ground enforcement. To respond to the data, we have helicopters which we can use to drop our officers in a matter of hours,” he told reporters after the commemoration ceremony at Sumber Alam Sanctuary here.

With the system in place, he added, the department aimed to minimise encroachment into national parks and other protected areas in the state.

Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management Datuk Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the system was in line with the department’s efforts to strengthen its enforcement capabilities.

However, he added that enforcement alone was not enough and cooperation from the public was needed as well.

“People must give information with regard to illegal activities so that we can act fast. We don’t want to see our protected areas encroached into as this will affect efforts to sustainably manage our forests,” he said.