05 Sep 2014
Hari Ramalu Ragavan
The challenge was to find ways to involve Malaysian citizens in conservation efforts so that it wasn’t just about donating money or paying a green tax. UNDP Photo.
It’s called ‘the spine.’ It’s the ‘The Central Forest Spine’ in all the official paperwork of course. An appropriate mouthful for a formidable five million hectares of wildlife sanctuary that is essentially the green lung and water tower of Peninsular Malaysia. It harbours an incredible array of plant and animal species including the endangered Malayan tiger, (perhaps less than 500 left alive today) largely limited to this sanctuary. The ‘Spine’ is also the source of essential water for over 28 million people including the inhabitants of Singapore. Recognising that the country’s breakneck economic growth was coming at the terrible cost of the long-term viability of the country’s wild spaces and eco-systems, the Malaysian government decided to set up a National Conservation Trust Fund to look for ways to straddle growth with conservation. A powerful idea emerged. A new conservation masterplan would connect patches of fragmented forest across the country into one sustainable whole. Here at UNDP, we’ve been supporting the government to operationalise the masterplan that looks as far into the future as two decades. The challenge, of course, has been to find ways to finance these efforts. The more we thought about it, the more conviction we found