Sustainable Development


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Mahathir Defends Logging Practices

rio de janeiro, jun 14 1992 (ips) -- malaysian prime minister mahathir mohamad, whose hostility to criticism of his country's logging policies is well known, defended his position on forests here saturday and denied that tribal groups were being driven out of their homes by deforestation.

by turns witty and combative, mahathir told journalists at a press conference here, ''we are not exploiting the forests for no reason. we need the money. we have to export wood because we need the foreign exchange without which we cannot buy what we want''.

as for the penan tribe of malaysia's sabah state, mahathir said they needed to be given a choice of whether they want education and development or to ''go to the jungle to live on monkeys''.

as expected, the malaysian leader, who was among the more than 100 world leaders who attended the 'earth summit' here, launched an attack on the rich countries and their lavish lifestyles, which he described as the main source of environmental degradation.

''it is what the rich do that counts, not what the poor do, however much they do it. that is why it is imperative that they change their lifestyles,'' he said.

mahathir said the convention to curb climate change which world leaders signed here was ''inequitable and meaningless'' since the industrialised countries did not make commitments to cut back on emissions of ozone-depleting carbon dioxide.

malaysia has indicated it will not sign the climate change treaty. mahathir has, however, signed another convention to protect the earth's biological diversity.

he rejected the north's initial demands for a forest treaty saying developed coutnries wanted to have direct control in the managment of the forests of the poor south ''at next to no cost to themselves''.

''a convention would apply to our forests, not to the country without forests. they have a say in the mangement of our forests while we have no say on their carbon dioxide emissions. the day the north starts planting forests, and the day we have an industral convention, we can have a forest convention,'' he said.

but mahathir said he did not regard the summit as a failure, as the fact that many leaders had attended meant that people were serous about environmental problems.

''the north has shown it is serious about the environmental situation but not serious enough to make a commitment to funding,'' he said.