Dept: Watch out for forest fires as El Nino’s on the way back

     Dept: Watch out for forest fires as El Nino’s on the way back

30 May 2008

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Malaysia — Sabah foresters are advocating caution in anticipation of a repeat of the 10-year dry spell cycle of El Nino which could hit this part of South-East Asia.

Sabah Forestry director Datuk Sam Mannan called on the public to take steps to avoid open burning activities near forested areas and peat swamps to avoid major forest fires.

He said in the six-month drought in 1983, some one million hectares of forests were destroyed while 190,000ha including 130,000ha of permanent forest reserves were destroyed in the 1998 dry spell.

“As there are signs of the El Nino cycle returning this year, we have to take steps to ensure our forest reserves are safe by taking precautionary steps early,” he said in a statement here yesterday.

He also cautioned that activities like illegal hunting, shifting cultivation, and land development near forest areas were among the main factors that could ignite forest fires during dry spells.

Mannan also urged people living close to peat swamp reserves in Binsuluk, Kuala Abai and Klias to be extra cautious, as peat fires are very difficult to control and extinguish.

Licence holders of Forest Management Units were advised to step up patrols in high-risk areas in their respective forest areas, ensure all fire-fighting equipment was in working order and check on illegal hunters.

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