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Biological Diversity Management

STATUS OF BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT IN MALAYSIA

Malaysia's location in the humid tropics provides a favourable climate to support rich and diverse life forms, from the microscopic organisms such as bacteria and plankton to macroscopic species such as fish, birds and mammals.

Among the terrestrial ecosystems, forests are the major repository of biological diversity. Over 90 percent of terrestrial species in Malaysia occur within natural forests. In comparison, agricultural land, which supports a number of flora and fauna with commercial values, is characterised by low species diversity.

Aquatic ecosystems include both freshwater and marine environments. Coral reefs and coastal mangroves have been identified as very important in terms of biological diversity. These are habitats which support diverse forms of life and are very productive.

Development activities in the various economic sectors have profound impacts on biological diversity. To minimize such adverse impacts and to promote the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable development of its components, it is essential that such considerations are incorporated into development plans at the planning stage itself. Biological diversity considerations should be addressed as an important component in policy documents to ensure effective coordination and integration. The development plans concerned are the Five-year Development Plans and the Second Outline Perspective Plan (1991-2000) which embodies the New Development Policy.

The Legislative Framework

There is no single comprehensive legislation in Malaysia which relates to biological diversity conservation and management as a whole. Much of the legislation is sector-based, for instance, the Fisheries Act 1985 deals mainly with the conservation and management of fisheries resources, the Protection of Wild Life Act 1972 deals with the protection of wildlife, and the National Forestry Act 1984 deals with the management and utilization of forests alone. Some were legislated without specific consideration given to the issue of conservation and management of biological diversity as a whole. The legislation is also inadequate in that species endangered due to habitat destruction are not protected by way of a national law for endangered species.

The most distinct feature of the legislative framework relating to biological diversity is that under the Federal Constitution, the authority to legislate for matters relevant to biological diversity does not fall under one single authority. Although some responsibilities in respect of issues related to biological diversity conservation and management are shared between the Federal and State authorities, some others do fall under the responsibility of one authority alone, be it the Federal or State authority. This is specified by the Federal Constitution, under the Federal, Concurrent and State List of the Ninth Schedule. Thus there are some matters, for example, protection of wild animals and wild birds, and National Parks, which fall under the legislative authority of both the Federal and State Governments, in accordance with the Concurrent List of the Ninth Schedule, however, there are also some matters which fall under the legislative authority of the State alone, for example forest and agriculture. Furthermore, in respect of Sabah and Sarawak, the Concurrent and State Lists are modified.

To the extent that some laws are federal legislation and some are state enactments, in sum this means that not all legislation enacted will apply to the whole of Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. Since this is the constitutional position, the question of how uniformity of laws may be promoted, particularly in respect of matters which fall under State jurisdiction alone, needs to be properly addressed.

As an example, among the legislation relevant to biological diversity, the Environmental Quality Act 1974 and the Fisheries Act 1985, being federal legislation, may apply to Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak as well. However, there are other relevant enactments which are specific either to Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah or Sarawak, covering for example, native peoples' rights, forestry, protected areas and wildlife.

From the viewpoint of effective conservation and management of biological diversity and in light of the above, it appears that the current legislative framework creates some restrictions, thereby causing some deficiencies.

Firstly, there is an absence of an integrative approach across the sectors, due to the limited scope of various enactments in relation to biological diversity conservation. There is also lack of consideration of the overall objectives of biological diversity conservation. Secondly, this results in a lack of comprehensive coverage of biological diversity issues. Finally, the areas of jurisdiction of Federal and State Governments as defined in the Constitution lead to non-uniform implementation between states.

PARTIAL LIST OF LEGISLATION RELEVANT TO BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

Federal

  • Environmental Quality Act 1974
  • Fisheries Act 1985
  • Pesticides Act 1974
  • Plant Quarantine Act 1976
  • Customs (Prohibition of Exports Amendment No.4) Order 1993

Peninsular Malaysia

  • Waters Act 1920
  • Taman Negara (Kelantan) Enactment 1938
  • Taman Negara (Pahang) Enactment 1939
  • Taman Negara (Terengganu) Enactment 1939 (The State Parks from the above three Enactments constitute Taman Negara)
  • Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954
  • Land Conservation Act 1960
  • National Land Code 1965
  • Protection of Wildlife Act 1972
  • National Parks Act 1980
  • National Forestry Act 1984

Sabah

  • Parks Enactment 198
  • Forest Enactment 1968
  • Fauna Conservation Ordinance 1963

Sarawak

  • National Parks Ordinance 1956
  • Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1958
  • Forests Ordinance 1954
  • Natural Resources Ordinance 1949 as amended by Natural Resources and Environment (Amendment) Ordinance 1993
  • Public Parks and Greens Ordinance 1993
  • Water Ordinance 1994
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