We seek a low-carbon, resource efficient, resilient and sustainable economy while increasing quality of life.

To make this possible, our initiatives include:

Environmental education

Active conservation programmes


Saving our rivers and forests together

The intricate relationship between the forest and rivers means that deforestation and logging have serious consequences for the Central Forest Spine’s (CFS) river ecosystems. Thus, expanding forest cover in the CFS would go a long way in improving the quality of the forest complex’s rivers.

Improving Forest Cover

Hasanah commission several research work track to understand the forest ecosystem of the CFS landscape.

The Earth Observation Centre, Institute of Climate Change of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia was commissioned to identify the extent of forest cover changes and forest quality, over the last 29 years in the CFS states of Perak and Kedah.

Using sophisticated multispectral image analysis from satellite imagery, the team from UKM managed to map the changes in forest cover, determine the degree of forest degradation and compare the results with existing data accumulated over a 29-year period.

Once the study is completed later this year, the team hopes that their findings will provide answers in identifying the drivers of forest cover change in the CFS and therefore, the implementation of appropriate mitigating measures and recommend relevant policies to protect the forest.  

Two other organisations also worked on a forest connectivity plan for the CFS. Wild Asia and their partner, the Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME), collaborated on a one-year project funded by Hasanah to identify high priority ecological linkages in the CFS and assess their current status in terms of land use patterns, and the level of forest degradation but also produce guidelines for the management of these sites. The work also established  establish a platform, MyCFS, that would allow for civil society organizations (CSOs) to communicate, advocate and coordinate work related to the CFS.

Perak forest cover for the year 1988, 2000, 2010, 2017

Recognising that state governments plays an important role in the protection of CFS and “critical ecosystems”, there is a strong need to re-assess the CFS landscape from the perspective financial returns and/or other incentives that can be generated from ecosystems itself for its conservation. Critical areas that would play an important role in maintaining functioning ecosystems such as forested water catchments can be monetized for its protection.

View of land conversion, from forest to oil palm plantation, in CFS' Primary Linkage 8 in Perak
“Ultimately what we want is a landscape that is connected and secured in Peninsular Malaysia. Specifically, we wanted to identify three of the CFS’s top priority corridors and produce guidelines for the management of these locations.”
Dr Ahimsa Campos Arceiz
Head, MEME

Recognising that state governments plays an important role in the protection of CFS and “critical ecosystems”, there is a strong need to re-assess the CFS landscape from the perspective financial returns and/or other incentives that can be generated from  ecosystems itself for its conservation. Critical areas that would play an important role in maintaining functioning ecosystems such as forested water catchments can be monetized for its protection.

Saving Our Rivers

Hasanah’s support for the CFS is the primary focus of its environmental thrust. In 2018, Hasanah worked with several partner organisations to increase awareness of environmental and water related issues and to prevent further degradation of the CFS through science-based research, advocacy, community engagement and other community-led initiatives.

Tucked away in the northwest corner of Peninsular Malaysia is the 160,000-hectare Ulu Muda forest. Its importance as a water catchment area cannot be overstated for the Muda River, which flows through the forest, provides up to 96% of Kedah’s and 80% of Penang’s water supply.

Sampan is one of the main transportation used to travel through the Ulu Muda river

Ulu Muda forms part of the Central Forest Spine (CFS), a forest cluster which stretches through eight states along the heavily forested Titiwangsa mountain range. The CFS as a whole, supplies about 90% of the water for Peninsular Malaysia.

Sadly, not many people are aware of the close connection between the rivers and their water supply, or between the rivers and the forests that sustain them.

“Without the Muda river, Penang’s water supply would be totally wiped out. The paddy farmers of Kedah also depend on this river for irrigation. As you know, Kedah is one of the rice bowls of Malaysia”
Professor Chan Ngai Weng
President of Water Watch Penang
Image of Kedah Forest cover for the year 1988,2000,2010,2017

His concern underscores the potentially damaging impact that deforestation and logging could have on water resources and the importance of tropical rainforests in supplying fresh water to the towns and cities.

Like many other segments of the CFS, Ulu Muda’s future is uncertain because the forest has not been designated as a state park and sections of the forest have already been earmarked for logging.

Rivers in danger

One of Hasanah’s partners is Water Watch Penang, an environmental group which is striving to empower communities and push for sustainable water management. In 2018, Water Watch Penang started a project to develop a stakeholder vision and roadmap for the Ulu Muda forest complex.

Chan and his team have spent the past year meeting local communities and government representatives and trying to convince them not to take Ulu Muda for granted.

It was an uphill battle as awareness of the forest’s importance was, as expected, quite low.

After two stakeholder forums with over 400 respondents, one held in Penang and another in Kedah, Chan is hopeful that Ulu Muda’s future will be a bright one.

Water Watch Penang ‘s stakeholder roadmap was made possible with TESSA; a comprehensive toolkit designed to provide a simplified approach to conduct low-cost and accessible methods to evaluate and analyse ecosystem services at a site scale.–.

“Even in Kedah, not many people knew about Ulu Muda. Furthermore, they did not realise that the river flows out from the forest,”
“Once the roadmap is complete, we will try to convince the state government to adopt it. We will tell them that this is what the people want – what the stakeholders want.”
Professor Chan Ngai Weng
Water Quality Sampling Demonstration at one of the ox-bow lakes along Kinabatangan River
“TESSA guides conservation managers and practitioners to measure ecosystem services at their sites. The toolkit enables qualitative as well as quantitative assessment, including potential monetary value on some services like carbon and nature-based tourism. You can use this data and results to inform your stakeholders or decision-makers. Would the value of ecosystem services in your site increase if the area was converted for development or if more habitats were restored? Using TESSA, you can identify and understand the true value of ecosystem services site has to offer, and this can be a useful initial assessment in supporting Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes.,”
Melissa Payne
Science Impact Coordinator of SEARRP

Established by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society in 1985, SEARRP facilitates scientific research all over the world to address issues affecting tropical countries such as climate change and deforestation.

In 2018, SEARRP offered the opportunity to local conservation practitioners to participate in a training programme that introduced TESSA and develop useful skills and knowledge to assess ecosystem services. Water Watch Penang saw this as a chance to strengthen their fight against water-related issues troubling the CFS. Water Watch Penang needed to convince the public and local authorities on the need to conserve the water catchment area of Ulu Muda and the TESSA toolkit would be useful in analysing the data collected on the forest and the river system. SEARRP, on the other hand, was on the lookout for a suitable pilot site for TESSA and found it in the badly degraded Ulu Muda.

Other rivers flowing out of the CFS are also threatened by pollution or poorly coordinated urban development.

South of Ulu Muda in Perak, the Kinta River is also in danger and the Global Environment Centre (GEC) has embarked on a project to protect and restore the river and to promote its importance to sustaining the livelihoods of the communities around it.

As with the Muda River, the Kinta River, originates in the forests of the CFS and serves as an important water source to the people of Ipoh and the surrounding suburbs.

Dr Kalithasan Kailasam is the manager of GEC’s River Care programme. As the project leader, he is well aware of the river’s significance to the forests and the townsfolk.

Clean stretch of upstream of Sg. Kinta
“The overall goal of the project emphasises the conservation and function of the forests and riverine habitats in the Upper Kinta River Basin (UKB). The impact indicator for the project is to secure the quantity and quality of the water supply of Ipoh through better catchment protection and management,”
Dr Kalithasan Kailasam
Manager of GEC's River Care Programme

The 36 month-project, which began in May 2018 and is scheduled to end in April 2021, will bring together the governing agencies, local communities and private sectors to develop a bottom-up integrated approach to managing and conserving the forest and rivers in the Upper Kinta River Basin.

Such a massive undertaking was not without challenges.

“There were mainly two – environmental and stakeholder commitment. Our assessment of the site has revealed that landslides, slope erosion, highland agriculture and land clearing, especially at the Simpang Pulai-Cameron Highland highway, has had significant impact on the river,”

“Secondly, the commitment level from relevant agencies is also a main concern as some of the issues need immediate action at the federal, state and local level. Once empowered, the local community can serve as the eyes and ears of UKB. That is why those immediate actions are necessary,”
Dr Kalithasan Kailasam
Manager of GEC's River Care Programme
A part of midstream of Sungai Kinta affected by soil erosion
Dr Kailasam (middle) together with representative from each Orang Asli settlements showing the result of chemical test for water quality

Thus far, GEC has established a working group and engaged some stakeholders such as the Orang Asli communities. But for Dr Kailasam and his team, there is still much work to be done.

“GEC will continue to monitor the project closely with agencies such as the Perak Water Board, Perak Forestry Department and of course, local communities. We will continue the education and empowering process for the communities especially on economic models and engagement in the strategy implementation. To us, the local community is a vital component of managing water resources.”

On the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, ERE Consulting Group worked on a similar project on the Bilut River, a tributary of the Pahang River whose headwaters originate in the eastern flank of the Titiwangsa mountain range.

Sungai Bilut is high in suspended sediments as observed after the water intake point at Lurah Bilut

The recreational space ‘Pavilion’ along Sg. Kertau, the main tributary of Sg. Bilut in Lurah Bilut

The polluted Bilut River was a major concern for ERE due to its importance for water supply and for local recreation.

“ERE is currently assessing the quality of river water along the Bilut River and identifying the sources of pollution. We are also working with relevant stakeholders to develop community-based actions that will improve water quality over the long-term,” ERE’s senior environment consultant Randolph Jeremiah said.

As Lurah Bilut is one of the oldest estate towns in the country, FELDA is the primary government stakeholder but other important and relevant partners include the State Economic Planning Unit (Pahang), Pengurusan Air Pahang Berhad (PAIP), Department of Environment, Department of Irrigation & Drainage and the Raub and Bentong town councils for this strategic action plan development.

“At this stage, the assessment of catchment characteristics, beneficial uses of river water, baseline river water quality sampling, inventory of pollution sources, and engagement with the community and with relevant state agencies have all been completed,”
Randolph Jeremiah
ERE's Senior Environment Consultant

The action plan is being formulated with participation of local stakeholders and once completed, everybody will have a role to play in managing the river, especially the community of Lurah Bilut.

Going full circle

Although the outreach work conducted by Hasanah and its partners has only just begun, it has already given hope that the CFS will be conserved and sustainably managed for future generations. This ancient forest, where most of Peninsular Malaysia’s rivers originate, needs to be preserved for the benefit of the nation.

Given enough awareness, Malaysians will come to realise that forests like Ulu Muda are not merely patches of trees that exist in the background of their daily lives, but crucial sources of the water they need to survive. These forests and their rivers need protection and everyone has a vital role to play.


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