Speechs in the year
Tarikh/Date 	:	12/06/90 

 Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.
    I  would  like  to  thank  the  Council  Members of the
Malayan Nature Society for  inviting  me  to  officiate  the
opening  of  this  International Conference on Biodiversity.
The conservation of biodiversity is of global concern and  I
am  glad  that the Malayan Nature Society has given emphasis
to this topic.
Ladies and gentlemen,
2.   Malaysia is endowed with a great diversity  of  species
in  its  forests  and other natural habitats such as rivers,
lakes and surrounding seas.  Over 10,000 species of  flower-
ing  plants,  about  2,000  species of vertebrates and about
80,000 invertebrate species have  been  documented  in  this
country.    Only  a  small proportion of these resources has
been utilized for our needs.  As a medical man, I  am  aware
of the many plants that are used in traditional medicine.  I
have no doubt that scientific investigation will reveal that
many  of  these  can replace some of the synthetic drugs and
can provide new medicinal compounds.
3.   What is of significance is that there is a high  degree
of  endemism  of  these  species in the country.   Botanical
studies in Peninsular Malaysia have shown that up to 30%  of
all  tree  species and 50% of the orchids are not found any-
where else.  Biological diversity needs to be  conserved  to
ensure that there remain genetic resources in this world for
the further propagation and domestication of potential crops
and  animals as our forefathers had done with those which we
are familiar with today.  Many drugs and pharmaceutical pro-
ducts have been obtained from the chemical  blueprints  pro-
vided  by  plants and animals from the tropical rainforests.
Many  life-sustaining  ecological   processes   particularly
photosynthesis,  the  water cycle and the nutrient cycle are
the result of the fine interaction of plants and animal spe-
cies particularly in their natural environment.   The  ques-
tion  of  carbon  dioxide  level and greenhouse effect is of
great concern to all nations in the world.  Maintenance of a
critical level of biodiversity is therefore  compulsory  for
the sustainability of natural ecosystems.
4.   Maintenance  of  global  biodiversity is the common re-
sponsibility of everyone, as its benefits are universal  and
not  limited  to any one country or region.  Developed coun-
tries with their advanced technological and scientific capa-
bility are in a better position to reap  the  benefits  from
the  conservation of biodiversity.  Thus this effort must be
well supported by the wealthy  developed  countries  without
imposing  restrictive  burdens  on  the developing ones even
though the habitat of the diverse species are now usually in
the developing countries.  It must be  remembered  that  the
developed  countries  were once also the habitat of numerous
species until indiscriminate  development  eliminated  them.
While  we would not wish to destroy biodiversity, it must be
remembered that preserving it imposes a massive cost on  the
already  poor.    A  way  must  be found to preserve without
bringing development in poor countries to a standstill.
5.   A number of existing international agreements have been
formulated for the protection of biological diversity.    In
the  general  area  of conservation of wild fauna and flora,
Malaysia has demonstrated its commitment to conservation  by
signing  such international agreements including the Conven-
tion on International Trade in Endangered  Species  of  Wild
Flora  and  Fauna.   At this juncture we are also looking at
the Ramsar Convention for the protection  of  Wetlands,  the
Bonn  Convention for the protection of migratory species and
the World Heritage sites convention.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
6.   I must once again stress that all these conventions are
designed to benefit not just Malaysia  but  also  the  whole
world.   The Malaysian Government has also promulgated poli-
cies towards this end, including the  passing  of  laws  and
enactments.  A primary law is the Forestry Act of 1984 which
provides  for the establishment of a permanent forest estate
comprising productive, protected and amenity forests.    The
permanent  forest  estate  of  Malaysia today totalled 12.74
million hectares of which about 29% is  protected  or  main-
tained  as  amenity forests.  12.74 million hectares make up
about 38% of the total land area of Malaysia.  If tree plan-
tations are included about 74% of  Malaysia  is  covered  by
7.   It may be argued that tree plantations are not forests.
But  even if they do not have the same range of biodiversity
as  the  natural  forests,  they  do   contribute   to   the
photosynthetic  process,  the  water cycle and other natural
functions of greenery.
8.   The measures taken to preserve Malaysian forests  carry
a  considerable  cost  not  only in terms of maintenance but
also in depriving the people and the nation  much  land  for
living,  working  and  cultivating.    The price of land na-
turally increases as less land becomes available  for  agri-
culture and industry.  Since what we are doing contribute to
the  better  environment  of  the  rest  of  the world, some
thought should be given to the sacrifices  by  Malaysia  and
other developing countries.
9.   Still  we  have  dedicated  ourselves to preserving the
forests.  To reduce forest exploitation we have  established
forest  plantations of species that have short harvest peri-
10.  National parks and wildlife  are  catered  for  through
various Federal Acts and state enactments.  A total of 1.485
million  hectares have been set aside as parks, wildlife re-
serves and sanctuaries.    The  six  percent  of  Peninsular
Malaysia  so reserved, most of it in pristine condition, re-
presents one of the highest of such percentages in this part
of the world.  This figure compares well with  or  even  ex-
ceeds that of some developed countries of the western world,
many  of  which  are quite vocal on the subject of conserva-
11.  We in Malaysia have a long and mature history of manag-
ing conservation areas.  Taman Negara, for example,  created
in  1939  was  the first National Park in South-East Asia to
meet today's international criteria  for  a  national  park.
This  park remains essentially the same as when it was first
12.  The Environmental Quality Act sets standards for  water
and air quality and provides for mandatory environmental im-
pact  statements.    We  have not only sought to implement a
high standard of environmental quality but are  also  deter-
mined to be a leader in this endeavour in the region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
13.  In  October last year at the Commonwealth Heads of Gov-
ernment Meeting or CHOGM, I had the pleasure  and  privilege
of  presenting a document on the environment for the consid-
eration of that important body.  This document  was  adopted
and  came to be known as the Langkawi Declaration on the En-
14.  This declaration marked a new  level  of  understanding
and  awareness  of  the importance of the environment in to-
day's world.  It also was the fruit of our own environmental
awareness which had been nurtured  and  developed  over  the
years  by  many  different organisations and institutions in
this country.  Today we are celebrating the 50th anniversary
of one of the organisations  in  Malaysia  that  has  helped
nurture  this  consideration of nature, its conservation and
of the environment.
15.  The Langkawi Declaration recognises that  environmental
problems transcend national boundries.  Therefore there is a
need  for  all  nations  to cooperate if these environmental
problems  are  to  be  solved.    The  declaration  promotes
afforestation  in developing countries to arrest the deteri-
oration of land and water resources.  It also calls on coun-
tries to upgrade efforts in sustainable forestry.  It  calls
for the support of activities related to the conservation of
biological  diversity  and  genetic  resources including the
conservation of significant  areas  of  virgin  forests  and
other  habitats.  The unanimity with which this document was
supported demonstrates the oneness and the will of the  Com-
monwealth  nations  to  carry out and implement the terms of
the Declaration.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
16.  It is to the Malayan Nature Society and other responsi-
ble conservation bodies that we in the  government  look  to
for  feedback  on how these national and international poli-
cies are actually working out in practice.
17.  There must be a sharing of efforts  and  responsibility
for maintaining biodiversity.  The numerous species that are
being preserved are not all harmless.  Some are dangerous to
health.    To  ask only the developing countries to preserve
them is to expose the peoples of these  countries  to  unac-
ceptable  threats  to their well-being.   It is difficult to
convince a man who is about to be eaten by a tiger or  tram-
pled by an elephant or dying of typhus or malaria that he is
helping to preserve biodiversity.  It is imperative that the
developed countries do their bit for biodiversity.
18.  The  developed countries are not only rich and advanced
in technology but they  have  vast  unpopulated  and  unused
land.   The deserts of the western United States can in part
at least be grown with trees using  the  vast  resources  of
underground  water.    Some  of  the  flora and fauna can be
transferred to these new forests.
19.  Lest there be protest over this idea, let me remind you
that quite a substantial area of these deserts together with
their abundant  acquifers  have  been  developed  as  resort
cities  complete with vast golf courses and artificial lakes
on which stand luxury hotels.  Additionally it must  be  re-
membered  that tropical plants and flowers have been and are
being cultivated in the developed countries under artificial
climatic conditions because they have commercial value.   In
suggesting that some of the deserts be converted to forests,
I  am  not  being facetious.   Indeed if developed countries
want to they can easily reafforest vast areas of the  Sahel,
the  sub-Saharan areas where the poorest people in the world
are dying by the thousands every day from lack of food.  Let
us not trot out the spurious argument that deserts  are  es-
sential  for  biodiversity  and must remain untouched by the
hands of man.  They have been touched.  If they can be  for-
ested,  then  a part of them should be forested.  Reclaiming
some of the deserts will not change the environment.  Indeed
a large part of these deserts are of recent  origin,  having
been  created  by  misuse  by  man and animals like the ele-
Ladies and gentlemen,
20.  We have today a gathering of  eminent  scientists,  ex-
perts  in  different specialised fields related to conserva-
tion  of  nature  and  natural  resources  as  well  as  the
environment.    It  is  your duty to assess the situation in
this country accurately and fairly and to make  constructive
suggestions  for the improvement of our present policies and
efforts  to  conserve  our  rich  resources,  maintain   our
biodiversity while at the same time keeping a reasonable mo-
mentum  of economic development.  I assure you that the Gov-
ernment of Malaysia will examine all  your  suggestions  for
possible incorporation into our future plans.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
21.  I  wish you all a most successful Conference and pleas-
ant stay in Malaysia.  It is now my privilege  and  pleasure
to   declare   open   this   International   Conference   on