Friday, November 30, 2012

Borneo Reef World; Sabah’s first pro-conservation pontoon

Sabah’s first pro-conservation pontoon, the Borneo Reef World (BRW), is set between Pulau Gaya and Pulau Sapi.

The BRW marine biologist Tulasiramanan Ramachandram said the design and specification of this pontoon is of the same structure found in the Great Barrier Reefs of Cairns, Australia. He added BRW used sustainable concept which was compatible with conservation of marine life due to their sensitiveness to small changes in their marine environment. For the amusement of viewing the natural underwater display of marine life, the pontoon is fully equipped with all basic amenities and equipment for in-water activities. Besides that, scuba diving is also available. The pontoon comes with a touch pool whereby patrons are taught how to handle marine life with care.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Studying Borneon jumbo's origin

Kota Kinabalu: Bornean elephants show low genetic diversity that can impact on their survival to a threatened habitat. 

This was one of the main conclusions in a recent paper published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE by a team of scientists from the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ci?ncia (IGC, Portugal), the Centre for Applied Genetics and Technology and Floragenex, Inc. (USA), the CNRS (France), Cardiff University (UK), Sabah Wildlife Department and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC, Sabah). 

"Studying the genetic variability of endangered species is becoming increasingly necessary for species conservation and monitoring," said Dr Lounes Chikhi from IGC and one of the lead authors of the paper. 

"Using blood samples collected from captive Bornean elephants of Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, we used cutting edge DNA (hereditary material of all living organisms) sequencing methodology to identify genetic markers for the species," he said. 

He said the Bornean elephants live in an environment where natural habitats disappear quickly due mainly to oil palm plantation development that causes populations to be isolated from each other. 
"(Thus) having access to variable genetic markers will be crucial to identify populations that are isolated and genetically impoverished, and monitor them in the future," he said. 

Co-author Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of DGFC, said these new genetic markers may also allow them to reconstruct part of the demographic history of the Bornean elephants and possibly unravel the mystery of their origin. 

"The origin of these elephants in Borneo still raises controversy and we have long wondered why the elephants' range is so restricted. 

"The only previous genetic study done on these elephants recognised their presence in Borneo for more than 300,000 years, but there is lack of elephant fossils on the island to support this," he said. 

Another interesting theory, he said, is that in the late 12th century, the Sultan of Java sent Javan elephants as a gift to the Sultan of Sulu. 

These elephants became the founders of a feral population at the western end of the island of Sulu, he said. 

Subsequently, he said, the sultan of Sulu translocated some individuals to the northeast of Borneo and these individuals may have become the founder members of the current population in Sabah. 

Meanwhile, Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, said the State Government launched the 2012-2016 Elephant Action Plan in January. 

He said the Bornean elephant is genetically unique and that Sabah is blessed with a population of about 2,000 individuals that need to be protected. 

"Large areas of lowland forest are paramount for the survival of this pachyderm. 

"Land conversion to oil palm plantations in key areas such as the Kinabatangan floodplain and central Sabah should stop if we want to avoid isolation of herds and maintain a healthy population," he said. 

Source: Daily Express

Malaysia established Green Court to handle environmental cases

Read the title and one thing comes to mind:  Our very own polluted rivers in the Palm Oil heavily planted east of Sabah.

If you've been following the coverage on
Daily Express the last couple of month or so, you will remember that palm oil factories are the biggest culprits in polluting the river. Is it a crime to, say, pollute the river? Or is it an offence to cut down the Trig Hill in Tawau to dig out stones to develop the area? I don't know. But we have the environmental enforcement agencies and we have the relevant acts.

I feel that we have enough enactment and we have enough officers to do the job. If that is the case, the more critical innovation in Environmental Law enforcement is not more money and personnel but a 
committed court!

Thailand and Indonesia have such courts so why can't we. The establishment of Green Court will show our commitment towards protecting the environment and wildlife. According to the Chief Justice, the courts would address cases, such as:

  • wildlife crime
  • pollution
  • illegal logging and fishing, and 
  • land clearing
So, there. We are well covered. It is up to us to implement the necessary.

Let the green stays green. Let the tree grows!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Malaysian government pledges support for continued conservation of Heart of Borneo

 Minister Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Kurup, deputy Federal Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, at the closing ceremony of the International Conference on Heart of Borneo.

“The conservation of the Heart of Borneo (HoB) forests is a matter of major local, national, regional and international concern because of the diversity of its unique array of plants and animals.”

So said Minister Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Kurup, deputy Federal Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, at the closing ceremony of the International Conference on
Heart of Borneo +5 and Beyond: “Shaping and nurturing Sabah’s future together on November 7, in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

He said the forests of the HoB were of critical value to the people and countries of Borneo as a prized natural heritage and for the goods and services that they provide.

“The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment views HoB as a significant initiative that will directly contribute towards the betterment in forest management and conservation,” he said.

Kurup added that the whole country recognised the importance of the HoB Initiative and reiterated the importance of this initiative to continue to be placed within the government’s sustainable development framework and policy.

Sabah State government support

Sabah state government support for the HoB was also clearly voiced by its Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Yee Moh Chai, speaking at the HoB conference.

Presenting a speech which was originally to be given by Sabah’s Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Musa Aman, he said Sabah would continue to strive to excel in the governance of best practices in forest management and conservation.

He said the key focus in driving sustainability was restoration and rebuilding of the productive capacity of forests. This included rationalising forest land use from the ecological and social perspectives and capitalising on the ecosystem services provided by the forest and its biodiversity.

"The state government recognises the need for wide stakeholder participation and for this reason, adopts an open and wide partnership programme at the local and international level as part of our efforts to institutionalise the conservation and management of our forests," he said.

He noted that much had been achieved in Sabah since the inception of HoB in 2007. Sabah Forestry had received funds through the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry for the implementation of HoB programmes carrying out biodiversity documentation on various selected forest reserves and social baseline studies of nearby communities.

To date, 17 forest reserves had been surveyed and results incorporated into the preparation of forest management plans that contribute significantly to the best practices in forest management, he added.

Recommendations from Sabah’s high level meeting on the HoB

As part of the HoB conference, a high level meeting chaired by Sabah’s Minister of Tourism,

Culture and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun, was held to make recommendations on a future development agenda for the HoB Initiative. These included:
  1. Recognising that financial capital and human capital were core elements to the success of the HoB Initiative. As well as awareness and communication to help spread the news on HOB.
  2. The meeting recognised the HoB achievements and applauded the leadership in Sabah for driving this initiative so far, but noted that more was needed. In particular, that intervention on the policy and private sector business engagement was still needed. Partnerships in the HOB were important and institutional support was critical.
  3. HoB is an open source platform for sustainability. Options to formalise this partnership to leverage on what we have currently should be explored in a coordinated way to connect to the real global opportunities available.
  4. Connectivity from global to local was crucial as was marketing the HOB as an investment package to foreign investors.
  5. Collaboration between State and Federal governments on HOB delivery within the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment and Ministry of Finance needed to improve.
  6. A regulatory framework to support the accountability of the private sector was needed including information on how to offset its impact and encourage it to invest in biodiversity.

No Plastic Bottle at World Water Day, Sabah

This is the first ever State Level World Water Day (WWD) in Kita Kinabalu, co-organised by Jabatan Air Negeri Sabah, Jabatan Kerja Raya Sabah, Jabatan Pengairan dan Saliran Sabah and The Institution of Engineers Malaysia Sabah Branch.

A series of related entries will be following shortly but just for eye opener, I'll share some introductory facts about the theme - Water and Food Security. This year marks the 19th Anniversary of the WWD and the theme is one that was chosen by United Nation.

The amount of water on our planet is 97.5% salt water, and only 2.5% is fresh water. The 2.5% freshwater is made up of 68.5% water locked in glaciers, 30.8% is groundwater and 0.3% are lakes and rivers. One-third of the world's population now lives in countries where there is not enough water or its quality compromised, and by 2025 the UN assessed that this number shall increase to two-third. That's just 12 to 13 years from now!

If nothing is done to sustain the availability of freshwater, its scarcity shall increase and the world shall be hungry, especially when the world's population keeps growing. Currently 70% of available water is used in agriculture for the production of food.
No bottle
The conference doesn't allow plastic bottles in the event. That's cool!

WWD is an international day to celebrate freshwater and it was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), and 22 March 1993 was designated as the first World Water Day.

Since then nations around the world have been celebrating WWD each year by organizing their own activities.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Global appetite for palm oil raises environmental, humanitarian concerns

LAHAD DATU, Malaysia: Twenty-five years ago, Lahad Datu was just another sleepy port town on the fringe of Malaysian Borneo, frequented by traders, sea gypsies and the occasional pirate gang.

These days, big money is flowing into banks and construction projects that have multiplied in the city centre, where a gaudy silver statue honours the cash crop that put the former backwater on the map: palm oil.

Long a preferred cooking ingredient in developing countries, palm oil is now in greater demand in Western markets because of its low price and long shelf life. Derived from the fruit of oil palm trees, it can now be found in many of products sold in supermarkets, from cookies to cosmetics. And its use is increasing as the commercial food industry phases out trans fats.

A migrant worker sorts clusters of palm fruit at a  plantation refinery.
A migrant worker sorts clusters of palm fruit at a plantation refinery. 
Photo: Photo for The Washington Post by Jason Motlagh

The huge global appetite is yielding billions in revenue for Indonesia and Malaysia, the world's first- and second-largest producers of palm oil. But environmental and human rights activists warn that the boom is doing irreparable damage to rare biodiversity and accelerating the effects of global warming, with no concern for long-term social costs.

They add that indigenous people are being pushed off their ancestral land to make way for plantations staffed by tens of thousands of migrant workers, who are often denied health care and education services. Many families that have laboured for decades still do not have the legal documents that would grant them and their children basic rights.

The labourers and their children "are invisible; they have no future. They just work and work and work," said Alison Neri, the director of a social welfare organisation that assists Indonesian migrants in eastern Malaysia.
The toll is most acutely felt in Borneo, the Southeast Asian island shared by the two countries that's home to one of the oldest rain forests on Earth and humankind's closest relative, the orangutan.

According to a new study, oil palm plantations over the past two decades have cleared about 16,000 square kilometres of primary and logged forested lands. Palm oil deforestation and hunting have combined to cut Bornean orangutan populations down to 54,000, half the total of the 1980s, according to environmental groups. At this rate, some predict the iconic animal could be extinct within a matter of years.

Borneo started losing its rain forest cover in the 1960s when the Malaysian government pushed the expansion of oil palms to complement rubber tree growth. Migrant workers travelled in droves from Indonesia and the Philippines to work on the plantations being carved out of the backcountry.

Palm oil has since evolved into Malaysia's most lucrative crop. In 2011, the export of palm oil and palm-based products netted $US27 billion - a five-fold increase over the past decade - thanks to brisk trade with China, Pakistan, the European Union, India and the United States, which imported record levels for the year.

The transformation of Lahad Datu is emblematic of the boom going on in Malaysia's Sabah province, which accounts for about a quarter of Borneo's land area. The local population has doubled over the past 15 years. Western fast food chains and other new businesses have arrived. And real estate prices are soaring in what has been dubbed "Palm City".

On the southern edge of town, lines of tanker trucks deliver crude palm oil to a sprawling, state-owned refinery complex where smokestacks belch into the night. Fresh lots have been set aside for prospective investors, and officials hope a deep-water port under construction nearby will position the region to be a top exporter of biodiesel fuel.

Longtime residents who recall a time when street crime and power failures were a fact of life boast their children are coming back to the city to start businesses and profit from the boom. "The quality of life here has improved tremendously," Tammay Bin Inton, 58, a community leader, said as he joked with friends at a popular coffee shop.

Nasrun Datuk Mansur, a state assemblyman and assistant to the Sabah chief minister, said the industry is "the catalyst for all types of business activities that are helping Lahad Datu develop very fast, and I believe it's true for the whole country".

But critics of the palm oil industry counter that the breakneck expansion of plantations into virgin tracts of Borneo's countryside is benefiting little more than a handful of major companies, which gain extra income from timber, at the expense of one of the world's most biologically diverse areas and the farmworkers who do the heavy lifting.

A joint study published last month by Stanford and Yale universities found that land-clearing operations for plantations in Borneo emitted more than 140 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 alone, equal to annual emissions from about 28 million vehicles.

"We may see tipping points in forest conversion where critical biophysical functions are disrupted, leaving the region increasingly vulnerable to droughts, fires and floods," project leader Lisa M. Curran, a professor of ecological anthropology at Stanford University, said in a statement.

Slash-and-burn agriculture accounts for 80 per cent of Indonesia's carbon dioxide emissions, making it the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the United States and China.

"It's a perfect storm of human rights abuses and social conflict on the one hand and the destruction of some of the most biologically diverse forests in the world on the other," said Laurel Sutherlin, communications director for the Rainforest Action Network, a San Francisco-based environmental organization. "Extraordinary ecosystems are becoming dead tree farms."

Indonesian officials have announced plans to convert about 18 million more hectares into palm oil plantations by 2020. Malaysia wants to double the area under cultivation over the same period to drive development in its rural eastern provinces, where infrastructure and living standards lag far behind its wealthier, more industrialised western peninsula.

Lost in the environmental debate is the plight of thousands of migrant workers - mostly from Indonesia - who remain the life's blood of Malaysian palm oil plantations. Some have laboured in the country for more than 30 years. Yet the government does not provide education or health-care services to them and the estimated 36,000 children living on backcountry farms.

Leonary Marcus, 17, came with his parents from Indonesia as a young boy. He attended a learning centre run by a local nonprofit organisation, but without legal documents, he was ineligible for secondary school. For the past five years he has toiled on the plantations, earning about $US7.50 a day.

"It's a hard life, but what choice do I have?" he said.

Without access to state schools, workers' children are destined to hard labour in the shadows, said Aegile Fernandez, director of Tenaganita, an organisation that assists undocumented migrants in the country. She said it was the "duty of every government to look after every child on its soil - no questions asked".
The Malaysian government declined to comment on the issue.

In response to mounting pressure, leading palm oil producers have partnered with advocacy groups to form the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an association based in Zurich that aims to establish clear social and environmental safeguards for the industry.

Top consumer goods companies, such as Unilever and Nestle, are members, as well as agribusiness giant Cargill, the largest importer of palm oil to the United States.

But activists say there has been more talk than serious reform.

On a recent afternoon, Mappi Tabbo and his five children, ages 5 to 19, loaded a pickup truck with their day's haul of palm nuts.

Ten years after leaving Indonesia for a better-paying job, the 41-year-old still risks arrest, a penalty that exceeds a year's wages and possible deportation if caught by police. He avoids town altogether.

Motlagh reported with a grant from the Pulitzer Centre on Crisis Reporting.


Product Presentation on Automated Waste Collection System (AWCS) by STREAM Environment Group of Companies

A talk on Automated Waste Collection System was organized by the Chapter on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at PAM Mini Auditorium. 30 attendees comprising of professional architects, engineers and architectural graduates attended this talk.

The 1st speaker was Mr. Sri Kanda Rajah, Managing Director of STREAM Environment Group of Companies. His core areas of responsibilities include Head of Sales / Marketing, Engineering/ Design as well as Research and Development. He gave an introduction of STREAM group of companies and its core business which is the Automated Waste Collection System (AWSC), where STREAM is used and their track record.

He presented information of the Automated Waste Collection System (AWCS) which is also known as a “pneumatic waste conveying system”. This system transport municipal or domestic solid waste through pipes at high speeds from the garbage chutes into a sealed container well away from inhabited areas.

Garbage transported through the pipes is stored in a sealed container that is collected at a specified period by a conventional flatbed truck.

In his presentation he also spoke about the multiple advantages of the system:-
  • Hygienic – No more exposed filth and contamination, nor messy spills and stains.
  • Convenient – Regular removal and automated handling.
  • Healthy – Odour free and no heavy bins to lift.
  • Cost Efficient – An unobtrusive and compact system that frees up valuable space, and let you save on the labour costs, energy, cleaning and maintenance.
The 2nd speaker was Ir. Chea Thean Teik General Manager of STREAM Environment Sdn Bhd. An experienced and qualified Professional Engineer (Mechanical) with 17 years of experiences in the area of Building’s M&E services, Mechanical Handling Engineering, Project Management, Central Vacuum Systems and Automated Waste Collection Systems.

His topic was more on the technical aspects of the systems. He presented details of the technologies and installation methodologies.

The presentation was very informative and participants had the opportunity to ask many questions. It ended at 1.00pm with lunch.

Vote of thanks is accorded to the team from STREAM Environment Group of Companies for providing an informative presentation and to everyone present for making their valuable time attending the talk.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Orang utan population up by 20% in Sabah’s protected forests

KOTA KINABALU: Orang utan population within totally protected areas has increased by over 20 percent in Sabah's lower Kinabatangan since the first census was done seven years ago.

The number of orang utans orang-utans living within totally protected areas (TPA) increased from 38 percent to 60 percent, an orang utan conservationist Dr. Marc Ancrenaz said.

Dr Ancrenaz, who is co-director of the HUTAN Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme (HUTAN-KOCP), said the increasing population reflected a commitment by all, especially the state government, to protect more forest areas.

However, he did not disclose the number of orang utans within the totally protected forest areas.

The Sabah Forestry Department had recently increased the areas deemed totally protected forest reserves to help further in the conservation of orang utans and other species such as the Borneo pygmy elephant, Sunda clouded leopard, Sunbear, and hornbills and others.

“The recent areas regazetted as Class I (totally protected forest reserve) are lowland forests which are favoured for agriculture development. But the state government has shown that they value the environmental security in the long term by making them TPAs instead of going for short term profits,” Dr Ancrenaz, a wildlife veterinarian who has been working on wildlife issues in Sabah since 1998.

However, the biggest issue for orang-utan conservation in Sabah remains the problem of isolation and fragmentation of protected forests, primotologist Dr. Isabelle Lackman, who is a co-director HUTAN KOCP said in a statement.

“While the Kinabatangan has been protected by the Sabah Wildlife Department since gazetting in 2005, the Sanctuary is very broken up with some protected forests being totally isolated and this is not healthy for the long term survival of orang utan in the area,” Lackman explained.

“Our studies have shown that we need to reconnect patches of forest to ensure that we have a viable orang utan population for the future and this can be achieved by reconnecting these forest either by having patches of forest that orang utans can travel through or a contiguous corridor of forest,” Lackman added.

She felt that all planned and future conversion of even small forest patches needs to be stopped to ensure the viability of the long-term survival of the orang utan population in the lower Kinabatangan. 

Source: The Star

More focused environmental policy for Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The State government is in the process of formulating a more focused and clear environmental policy for Sabah.

It will be a standard operating procedure by the State government to manage the impact of human on the environment with a view to prevent, reduce or mitigate harmful effects on the environment and natural resources, said Tourism, Culture & Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

He was speaking at the opening of the “Stakeholder Consultation Workshop for Sabah Policy on the Environment”, which was held at the Promenade Hotel in July 2012.

“Many would perhaps ask why we need to formulate an environmental policy when we have several existing legislation pertaining to the protection of the environment such as Environment Protection Enactment 2002, Wildlife Enactment 1997, Sabah Parks Enactment 1994, Sabah Water Resources Enactment 1998, Sabah Biodiversity Enactment 2000 and Sabah Forestry Enactment 1968, among others.

“Besides that, we have environmental related policies and plans such as Sabah Tourism Master Plan, Sabah Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan, Sabah Agriculture Policy, Sabah Forestry Policy, Sabah Environmental Education Policy, Sabah Wildlife Policy and Action Plan and Sabah Development Corridor Blueprint,” he said.

He explained that the major problem with the existing legal framework was in its sectoral approach in managing the environment.

“This sectoral approach has resulted in the passing of a number of environmental related legislation with its own provision on the environment.

“Besides, policies and plans are also rather specific and sectoral where environmental issues are incorporated in a fragmented manner. Hence, despite these legislation, policies and plans, the environmental degradation continues,” Masidi said.

“The Environmental Policy for Sabah is therefore crucial to serve as a framework and guideline for decision making towards modernisation and industrialisation.

“It serves as a living and reference document for all economic sectors and any other form of development that touches the environmental and natural resources, where monitoring, review and revision of this document are envisaged.

“It will look into the integration of all related aspects such as water and air so that any problems are not dealt with in a fragmented manner as the situation arises,” he said.

“This policy will also highlight the use of different types of instruments such as economic incentives and fiscal-based instruments such as tax-exemptions, tradable permits and fees, whichever relevant and practical to ensure that the policy is effectively implemented and complied with.

“Environmental charges exist in other countries in addition to pollution control regulations and are used to raise revenue as well as encourage environmentally friendly behavior,” he added.

“For instance, Kota Kinabalu City hall may want to impose waste disposal charge to Kayu Madang Landfill so that the revenue collected is used for the management of the landfill.

“Denmark, for example, levy taxes of 95 Danish Krona (US$34) per metric ton on waste delivered to landfills and 160 Danish Krona (US$28) per metric ton on waste delivered to incineration facilities. These taxes raised 527.6 million Danish Krona (US$92.6 million) in 1993,” Masidi said.

“The proposed policy is also geared towards the prevention of externalities such as free rider problem, e.g. factory causing pollution to common resources such as rivers.

“These are examples of externalities around us such as the recent complaint of a laundry mart in Inanam, Kota Kinabalu discharging polluted water into the Inanam River,” he said.

If the river happens to be a water intake point for Kota Kinabalu, the consumers have to pay for the cleaning of water due to the pollution caused by the factory, he added.

Masidi urged companies operating in Sabah such as oil palm mills, rubber and other industries to commit themselves to reducing their environmental impact and create a set of environmental principles and standards and have environmental audit.

In this regard, companies should move towards more efficient production process, adopt cleaner technologies and processes throughout the life cycle of the product in order to minimise waste generation and contribute to maintaining good climatic conditions, he said.

“Cleaner production includes conserving raw materials and energy, eliminating toxic raw chemicals and reducing the quantity and toxicity of emissions or discharges before they leave the production process.

“And going for voluntary environmental schemes such as eco-labelling, Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) as well as adopting a corporate social responsibility programme,” Masidi said.

Source: New Sabah Times

Friday, November 23, 2012

Experts: Orang Utan decline began 2,000 years ago

KOTA KINABALU: The decline in Borneo’s orang utan population is not just due to recent deforestation but a phenomenon that could have started over 2,000 years ago, a research found.

A scientific paper published in the PLOS ONE journal by a team of experts found that the Borneo orang utan began experiencing a major demographic decline between 200 and 2,000 years ago based on samples collected in six different sites in Sabah and Kalimantan.

This was the main conclusion by the team, which comprised scientists from the Instituto Gulbenkian de Cincia (IGC) in Portugal, the Anthropological Institute and Museum of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, the CNRS in France, Cardiff University in Britain and the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah.

“The recent loss of habitat and its dramatic fragmentation have affected the patterns of genetic variability and differentiation among the remaining populations of orang utan and increased the extinction risk of the most isolated ones,” said Dr Reeta Sharma, who is from IGC, the lead author of the paper.

“We used orang utan samples collected in six different study sites in Sabah (Kinabatangan and Danum Valley) and Kalimantan, and genetic markers to identify signals of population decline,” said Dr Sharma.

Dr Benoit Goossens, who is Danau Girang director and a co-author, said the dating of the decline varied across sites but was always within the 200 and 2,000-year period.

“This suggests that in some sites at least, orang utan populations were affected by demographic events (like climate change and arrival of modern humans) that started much before the recent human impact on environment in Borneo,” he added.

The recent finding complemented those published in 2006 on the Kinabatangan population and underscored the need to expand conservation measures suggested under the Orang Utan Action Plan.

This included the protection of private lands to connect the existing protected forest lots, the establishment of corridors, wildlife monitoring and law enforcement, added Dr Goossens.

Source: The Star

Letting our forests heal

When  the  Chief  Minister  who  is  also  the  state’s Minister of Finance presented the state’s 2010 budget he told the state assembly that Sabah’s forest revenue would be  below  RM100.00 million  in  2010,  for  the  first  time since  1972.  He  said  Sabah's  timber  production  from natural forests is expected to decline and can only sustain logging of 200,000 cubic meters annually for the next 20 years.

Nevertheless, he said the slack would be taken up by plantation  timber  through  agencies  like  Safoda,  Sabah Forest Industries (SFI) and Sabah Softwoods Sdn Bhd. To date  there  are  about  214,000  hectares  of  forest plantations, mainly  fast growing exotic species. An additional area of half a million hectares has been earmarked  for  forest  plantations.  If  planting  goes  as planned, the State stands to reap about 1.5 to 3 million cubic metres of plantation timber annually within a 10 to 20 years period.

He  said,  “We are now not only  ready  to  forgot  the collection of  forestry  revenue, but also prepared  to set aside  financial  resources  for  implementing  forest management  programmes  to  ensure  that  our  forest resources  are  sustainable  for  the  benefit  of  future generations.”

The Chief Minister said the State Government would strive to achieve Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) based on the Deramakot Forest Reserve model, which has gained world  recognition. He disclosed  that within  the next twelve months, two more SFM projects covering an area  of  291,000  hectares  undertaken  by  the  Forestry Department  at  Ulu  Segama-Malua  and  Tangkulap-Pinangah would come under sustainable management. A sum  of  RM83.14  million  is  allocated  to  Forestry Department  in 2010  for  the SFM programmes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Yayasan, Forestry identifying future forest protection areas

Kota Kinabalu: Yayasan Sabah and the Forestry Department will continue to identify "new" areas for legislative protection against future logging, alienation or development, in addition to those already gazetted. 

This is part of the intergenerational contract that both organistions adhere to. 

Yayasan Sabah (YS), to date, has about one million hectares under its management (excluding alienated lands) mainly under Forest Reserves. 

As of today, the totally protected areas (TPAS) within its management area cover over 420,000 hectares or 40 per cent of its concession. 

These include the crown jewels such as Imbak Canyon, Danum Valley and Maliau Basin. For added security, the State Government has also gazetted approximately 300,000ha of "Buffer Zone Forests" in the last six months, near or surrounding the three-core conservation zones. 

All in all, nearly 600,000ha of the existing and past management area, are under TPAs. 

They include both pristine and logged-over forests of high biological diversity, which arguably are the richest eco-zones on the entire island of Borneo. 

It is also apt to note that Yayasan Sabah, had in the recent past, handed back vast tracts of lowland forests to the State Government for wildlife conservation such as Tabin Wildlife Reserve and Mount Hatton Forest Reserve of 120,000ha and Kulamba Wildlife Reserve of 21,000ha, Environmental Protection such as Gunung Tinkar Forest Reserve of 10,150ha, Nurod-Urod (1,700ha) and Silabukan Forest Reserve (11,000ha) and the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified Tangkulap Forest Reserve (27,258ha) in the upper Kinabatangan. 

Not only are these areas protected by legislation, they are also managed on the ground through a wide stakeholder network involving the NGOs, environmental philanthropists and research organisations, to name a few. 

"We are of the opinion that Yayasan Sabah is the leading concessionaire in the country in the establishment of totally protected areas, within its jurisdiction and in varied conservation endeavours," it said. 

The Forestry Department also expressed its gratitude to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and his Cabinet colleagues for providing the much-needed leadership that has allowed the "TPA" policy to progress further. 

Source: Daily Express

New Species Found in the Heart of Borneo

 By Poppy Simon

With frequent news about drowning polar bears, rainforest destruction and virulent diseases, biology may seem like a depressing subject. However recent species-hunting expeditions show that there is still hope for the animal kingdom. In September came the exciting news that a new species of monkey, the Lesula, had been found in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and just last month another new primate was discovered in Peru. 

This new species of night, or owl, monkey was found in the Tabaconas Namballe National Sanctuary in northern Peru and was one of eight new mammals described on an expedition that took place between 2009 and 2011. The discovery is particularly important because the night monkey is already listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and ‘endangered’ by the government in Peru.

On a similar expedition to the Mount Kinabalu region of Borneo over 160 new species of plant, animal and fungus were found in September. Of particular interest is the high level of endemicity on the mountain, which means that many of these species are found nowhere else in the world. This is because they evolved in total isolation on top of the mountain, just like the strange and unique life often found on islands. 

The main aim of the expedition was not to hunt for new species but to collect DNA samples in order to investigate the patterns of evolution found in the ‘Heart of Borneo’, making such discoveries an added bonus. The majority of new species belonged to spider and fungi families, but the team also found a handful of new bugs, and even an unconfirmed new frog species. The scientists were particularly excited by the new fungi, however, because the area is relatively unstudied with regards to these; one scientist, Jozsef Geml, described the area as an “El Dorado” for mushrooms. 

While finding new species does not help those in danger of extinction, such expeditions show that we still has much to learn about the diversity of life on Earth.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Want to Save the Trees? Try Paying People Not to Chop Them Down.

By Thomas Kostigen

Far from the last knock of civilization in the Borneo jungle, I trudge along the Malaysian border with Indonesia. Here, together with two Iban tribesmen and a guide—all of us caked in mud and sweat—I come to a place where the familiar clamor of birds, monkeys, and bugs is being drowned out by the sound of a chain saw. We enter a clearing in which a teenager is hacking a felled tree, sawing it into pieces. Nearby, a backhoe levels a huge swath of land. Soon palms will be planted here, I’m told, and when harvested their oil will be sold on the world market. What I’ve come upon is just one scene in the massive global picture of deforestation. There are thousands and thousands of small operators hacking away at forests to profit from their bounty.

Deforestation is occurring at a rapid pace as the demand for housing and goods increases with world population growth, which is expected to climb 50 percent between 1999 and 2040, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Moreover, as appetites for food and biofuels—made with palm, corn, and other plants—rise, more land is needed to accommodate agriculture. About 32 million acres of forest are destroyed per year. That’s equivalent to about 50 football fields a minute. And the rate is expected to increase as demand grows.

Without forests, the world as we know it would cease to exist. Climate change has added new impetus to forest conservation efforts as we increasingly appreciate how efficiently forests sequester carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. In fact, deforestation is calculated to be the second-biggest man-made contributor to global carbon emissions after the burning of fossil fuels for energy use, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. This is because when forests are cleared, the carbon stored inside the trees is released, either immediately or over time; in addition, what had been a natural resource for capturing carbon—the trees themselves—disappears. Moreover, many people clear land by fire, which releases still more noxious gases. But there is an innovative and growing worldwide movement to get people to stop chopping down trees. The answer: Simply pay them not to do it.

Governments can try to conserve with stricter policies, activists can petition developers and farmers, and benefactors can buy land out of the goodness of their hearts (much like the investment firm Goldman Sachs, which recently purchased some 700,000 acres in Patagonia for conservation purposes). But to really put a dent in deforestation, people must have an incentive not to partake in it. (For-profit businesses such as large timber operators already have profit incentives.)

“Forests are like giant utilities providing ecosystem services to the world that we all benefit from but we don’t pay for.” That’s the way the U.K.-based nonprofit Global Canopy Programme puts it.

Global Canopy advocates a “cap and trade” program that hinges on ecosystem valuation. Simply put, a forest’s importance to the ecosystem would be valued in the form of credits. These credits could then be traded on markets. Forest owners would be given credits for the amount of carbon that they sequester, and those credits could be sold to those who are producing carbon in excess of a specified cap. The economic pressure of having to buy credits could effectively mitigate that “footprint” we hear so much about and arguably balance things out.

The United Nations has initiated a similar offset program called REDD (which stands for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). REDD will work in one of two ways: either with forest owners’ earning credits that they can sell, as with Global Canopy, or by developed countries’ contributing to a fund that would in turn pay developing countries to keep their forests intact. The fund would act as a de facto arbiter of the developed world’s carbon emissions, allowing offending countries to offset their pollution through such payments.

The idea was introduced for inclusion in the Kyoto Protocol but was eliminated from the final provisions because of political concerns. Brazil, for example, formally opposed it, saying that accepting funds from industrial nations to reduce deforestation could limit the country’s future development options. Its sovereignty would be jeopardized, the argument went, because it would be controlled by the prices set by large carbon emitters—such as the United States, China, and the United Kingdom—who might contribute to the fund, in effect paying Brazil not to develop its forests.

If every hectare of preserved forest saves 200 tons of carbon and each ton of carbon is worth $10, then Indonesia could gain around $2 billion each year.

Since Kyoto, however, Brazil and other countries with large forest reserves, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, are warming to the idea of REDD. “Rather than seeing it as inhibiting their economic development, they are seeing the potential for big credits in their forests,” says William Laurance, a staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. He tells me that REDD would bring much bigger resources to the table than have ever been contemplated in global conservation, and that is opening the eyes of government ministers who had previously opposed such ideas. “What have been efforts valued in the millions, [REDD] would bring into the billions,” he says.

REDD would pay market prices for carbon storage. At the current market value for carbon, a hectare of rain forest, if left intact, could be worth anywhere from $400 to $8,000 or more. Since we are talking about millions of hectares of conservation, the sum adds up to quite a lot for the developing world. Laurance explains: “Suppose, for example, that the baseline deforestation rate for Indonesia is 2 million hectares per year, and the government manages to reduce this to 1 million hectares per year. If one assumes that every hectare of preserved forest saves 200 tons of carbon emissions and that each ton of carbon is worth $10 on the international market, then Indonesia could gain around $2 billion each year.”

Moreover, leases are now being contemplated so landowners retain land titles and receive “rent” payments (rather than selling their land to the fund). Not a bad way for a poor farmer to profit from his land.

REDD so far has commitments of hundreds of millions of dollars from a dozen developed countries. Not a large amount, to be sure, but a beginning. The program is scheduled to be formally voted on for all-nation adoption at next year’s U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen. Then the hope is that the billions will pour in.

REDD isn’t the only game in town. Many forest conservationists believe it will take a combination of efforts to save the world’s trees and, along with them, all the carbon they store.

Mark Plotkin, who heads the Amazon Conservation Team, says he is skeptical of progress being made on the national and international policy levels. “It needs to be addressed by grassroots efforts as well,” he says, explaining that by the time policy trickles down to the people to whom it applies, “it may be too late.” In addition, Plotkin believes that resources should be put toward creating attention and awareness and toward policies that make sense and are applicable to indigenous people.

When you see the squalor in which they live—under a mere tarp covering a small raised platform—and you hear that they receive less than one dollar per felled tree, you really have to think there must be a way to preserve the forests and at the same time aid the people who live off them. Indeed, as the sun begins to set and I turn away from the teenage loggers to begin my long hike out of the Borneo jungle and away from their desperate conditions, I realize this is not an option for them. But another type of dollar incentive might just give them a different way out.

REDD is one way to do it and may hopefully spark more widespread attention, laws, and policies that will further promulgate forest conservation. It gives credit where credit is due and pays out the ultimate dividend to us all: the air we breathe.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Push for green technology

CAREFUL PLANNING: Effect on environment must be taken into account, says CM Push for green technology

KOTA KINABALU: SABAH is moving towards becoming an eco-friendly state that emphasises the "Green Cities" development concept.

This is in line with the government's effort in implementing the use of green technology, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

However, development must not be done indiscriminately but take into account the effects on the environment, he said in his speech at the launch of Sabah State Planning Conference in conjunction with World Cities Planning Day 2012 here yesterday.

The speech was read by state Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Hajiji Mohd Noor.

"While we are in the process of developing, it is vital to maintain our nature and I urge everyone to work together to achieve a sustainable development for future benefits.

"It is important to ensure structured and planned development as well as appropriate provision of open space for recreation by integrating green technology features," said Musa.

He added that this was vital in order to create a living environment that was conducive, peaceful and healthy.

He said green technology has a large potential in driving the national development and the industry that uses or develops products relating to green technology would provide job opportunities for the local community.

"The market for green products and technologies are huge, particularly in the renewable energy sector. Therefore, the state government is committed to implementing the application of such technology in Sabah."

On the theme for the event, "Planning Green Cities For Sustainable Future", he said it was timely and relevant to the realisation of the government's desire to achieve a development that preserves the environment.

Source: NST

Monday, November 19, 2012

KK Talk – Wed, 28th Nov – Conserving Imbak Canyon – A Yayasan-Petronas Partnership

YAYASAN SABAH manages three conservation areas namely Danum Valley, Maliau Basin & Imbak Canyon, all of which have been designated a Class I (Protection) FR by the Sabah State Government.

This presentation focuses on Imbak Canyon, and the Yayasan Sabah- Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) Imbak Canyon Conservation Partnership.

Imbak Canyon probably represents the last opportunity for the Sabah State Government to conserve an area that is pristine, rich in biodiversity and unique in terms of geological and geomorphologic attributes.   With a total area of about 30,000 hectares, Imbak Canyon Conservation Area encompasses two ridge-top Virgin Jungle Reserves, thus making a significant contribution to the coverage of protected area in Sabah.  It is the last remaining contiguous area of unlogged lowland dipterocarp forest left in Sabah – a truly priceless heritage for future generations.

Yayasan Sabah is most lucky to have the support of its collaborative partners, namely The Royal Society, United Kingdom in Danum Valley and Danish Cooperation for Environment and Development (DANCED)/Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA) in Maliau Basin, and Petronas, Malaysia’s own National Oil Company, in Imbak Canyon.  During the first phase of the Yayasan Sabah- Petronas Partnership, Petronas provides sponsorship amounting to RM6 million for development of Imbak Canyon Conservation Area. Programmes undertaken are environmental education, public awareness, community outreach, research, ethno-forestry study and documentation, capacity building, formulation of Imbak Canyon Management Plan and preliminary works towards the establishment of the Imbak Canyon Studies Centre.  By these, Yayasan Sabah and Petronas shall strive to position Imbak Canyon as the centre of learning for the indigenous community in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources; and for gene bank conservation and the exploration of pharmaceutical and biotechnological potentials.

Speaker: Rita Galid, Senior Manager (Biodiversity & Protected Areas) Conservation and Environmental Management Division,Yayasan Sabah Group
Date:    Wednesday, 28th November
Time:     7.30pm
Venue:    The Sabah Society Secretariat, No.46,  1st Floor  Block E,  Damai Plaza Phase 4,  Luyang
Tel:         088- 250 443

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Most of Bornean orang-utans live outside protected areas

KOTA KINABALU: A recent study published in the scientific journal PLoS One by researchers working in Malaysia and Indonesia shows that about 80 per cent of the Bornean orang-utans live outside protected areas.

Using data collected over 21 years by 24 different teams from Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan the paper provides an overview of the orang-utan situation for Borneo as a whole.

“This analysis shows that the vast majority of orang-utan populations are found outside of the network of protected forests in Borneo,” said Dr  Serge Wich, the lead author of this article entitled “Understanding the Impacts of Land-Use Policies on a Threatened Species: Is There a Future for the Bornean Orang-utan?”

“Protected forests remain essential for conserving orang-utan in Borneo but most of these protected forests are found in highlands and in mountains and not in the lowland forests that are the favourite habitat of the orang-utans. The lowlands are also the prime areas selected for timber extraction and later further developed for agriculture such as oil palm,” stated Wich.

“In Sabah, the recent gazettement under Class I Virgin Jungle Forest Reserves of the lowland forests of Segama by the Sabah Forestry Department means that more than 60 per cent of the orang-utan population is now protected in Sabah. This is a huge improvement for orang-utan conservation in the State compared to the early 2000’s when only 30 per cent of the orang-utans in Sabah were living in protected forests,” said Dr Marc Ancrenaz, co-director of HUTAN and one of the leading authors of the paper.

With the biggest percentage of orang-utans being found in timber concession areas, the researchers emphasise the importance of good management in such concessions.

“These results also show that good logging practices in commercial forests exploited for timber is key for orang-utan survival. The fact that in Sabah, the Forestry Department has declared that all timber concession areas should be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) by the end of 2014 is good news for orang-utans,¡± added Ancrenaz.  Since November 2011, Sabah has five of Malaysia’s six timber concession areas under FSC certification, which includes reduced-impact logging and enforces a zero killing policy.

According to Ancrenaz, FSC certified forest provides economic benefit to land owners while ensuring the survival of wildlife such as the orang-utan.

Meanwhile for Borneo as a whole, the expansion of industrial tree plantations, oil palm plantations and other types of forest conversion into remaining orang-utan habitat will lead to the extinction of thousands of orang-utans throughout populations areas within the island. Such expansion according to the authors of this study should be halted as it infringes laws on species protection.

At the closing ceremony of the recent Sabah Orang-utan Conservation Dialogue held in Kota Kinabalu, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun proposed a moratorium for oil palm expansion within the lower Kinabatangan in order to save the orang-utan population there from extinction.

A similar proposal was done at the end of the Heart of Borneo conference to stop any new agricultural development within the boundaries of Heart of Borneo. The future lies on increased yield productivity, and not on further agriculture expansion.

Source: Borneo Post

Wildlife Conservation In Managed Forests – International Cooperation

On Monday, 7th February 2011, a Memorandum of Understanding  (MoU) was  signed between  the State Government of Sabah (Malaysia), represented by the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) and the Leibniz  Institute  for  Zoo  and Wildlife Research  (IZW)  of Germany.  This MoU will  pave  the  road  to continue  an  already  successful  collaboration  of  the  IZW,  an  internationally  renowned  wildlife research  institute, with  the  SFD by  assisting  the  SFD  in  their efforts  to monitor  the biodiversity  in Forest Management Units (FMUs) in Sabah.

Wildlife  conservation beyond borders of parks or other  fully protected  areas  is paramount  for  the effective and comprehensive conservation of biodiversity  in  the  landscapes of Sabah. Forests are a key habitat  in Sabah, since more than half of Sabah’s area  is covered by  them. As most  forests are commercially  used  for  the  production  of  timber,  a  sustainable management  of  these  forests  is  of great  importance  to ensure  the  long-term conservation of  some of  the most  threatened species  in Sabah, such as the SundaClouded Leopard.

During the signing, Datuk Sam Mannan, Director of the SFD, pointed out that the collaboration with the  IZW has proven  to be  impressively  successful during  the  last years and  that he  is very pleased that this collaboration will now be continued and expanded in the near future. The results obtained during previous  studies by  the  IZW  in FMUs  included pioneering  findings  such as  the  first  film of a SundaClouded Leopard released in spring 2010, or the rediscovery in Sabah of the Hairy-Nosed Otter – previously thought extinct – after a gap of more than 100 years.

“The research by the IZW assisted us to show how diverse some of our FMUs are” mentioned Datuk Sam Mannan during the signing of the MoU. “We know that there are orang-utans or elephants living in  our  forests  but  our  knowledge  about  other,  highly  threatened  wildlife  species  such  as  the endangered Otter Civet was very limited. With their research the IZW showed us that these species occur  in  our  forests  and  how  to  find  them.”  Previous  studies  of  the  IZW  mainly  focussed  on Deramakot Forest Reserve and its neighbouring FMUs; the new MoU paves the way to expand these efforts to other FMUs in the coming years.

Heribert  Hofer,  Director  of  the  IZW,  added  “the  biological  richness  of  Sabah’s  forests  is  a  great treasure  and  a  heritage  of  worldwide  importance.  It  is  therefore  an  important  responsibility  to manage  these  forests  in  a  sustainable  way.  Therefore,  up-to-date  scientific  research  and  wildlife surveys are important to understand the needs of threatened species. Knowing and appreciating the diversity of these forests will help to protect their richness for the benefit of all.”

Earlier  in  November  2010,  the  IZW  signed  anMoU  with  the  Sabah  Wildlife  Department  (SWD), agreeing  on  close  collaboration  on  research  and  conservation  of  Sabah’s wildlife,  particularly  the highly endangered Sabah Rhino. The MoU with the SFD now expands the research efforts of the IZW to FMUs. “Very little is known about the ecology of wildlife species in Sabah’s forests and how they respond to timber extraction. Such research is of a very high practical value because the appropriate management and protection of wildlife species requires such knowledge” Heribert Hofer added.

By  2014  the  SFD  aims  to  have  all  FMUs  in  Sabah  certified  for  Sustainable  Forest Management. Wildlife monitoring and the conservation of the forest’s biodiversity is one of the main components of  sustainability and  therefore  the  SFD  is optimistic  that  this  collaboration with  the  IZW will  assist their efforts to reach this goal. 

Source: Sabah Forestry Department

Friday, November 16, 2012

Firm prevents wiping out of sea cucumbers

Kota Kinabalu: The hatchery complex built by Borneo Green Aquaculture Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian incorporated company and member of Borneo Green Group, in Sabandar, recorded a successful spawning in October last year.

Its financial adviser Lee Sun Sui said this at a press conference at its booth exhibiting its technologies for the breeding, seed production and culture of sea cucumbers (Holothuria Scabra) at the State-level Farmers, Breeders and Fishermen Day celebration venue at the KPD Complex in Tanjung Lipat, here.

"Borneo Green Aquaculture Sdn Bhd has to date produced 250,000 juvenile sea cucumbers. The company is currently expanding facilities in its hatchery in Sabandar to increase its production capacity from the present 250,000 per month to 500,000 per month," he said.

The company has aggressively conducted research and development in growout techniques in Kudat. It has so far released 200,000 juveniles into growout test sites.

The results have been very encouraging. Further experiments are currently being carried out to optimise culture conditions and production.

Lee also said the company's future developments include the setting up of a processing plant in Kudat, which processes the beche-de-mer (smoked-dry sea cucumber) for export.

Lee stressed that the wild sea cucumbers are regularly collected along the coastal areas in Sabah.

This excessive fishing had made the stock of wild sea cucumbers dwindle drastically.

The loss of critical stocks of wild sea cucumber is likely to have a significant impact on the ecosystem condition and the adjacent marine environment, as a whole.

Lee added there is an urgent need to develop a technology for seed production and culture of sea cucumbers in Sabah.

The present work undertaken by the company could play a vital role in providing social and economic stability to the industry players and fishermen as a whole.

Sea cucumbers are widely consumed throughout Asian and Middle Eastern communities today.

The sea cucumber trade is one of the world's fastest growing international seafood industries and the demand for sea cucumbers is far from being met.

Source: Daily Express

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Tripartite Agreement to promote scientific research

Picture shows Tun Jeanne Abdullah, Chairperson of Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre, Professor Shigeyuki Baba of the international society for mangrove eccosystem and Professor Hirosuke Oku of the tropical biosphere research centre, University of Ryukyus (Riukyu) Japan signing the MOU witnessed by Dr. Yee Moh Chai representing the Chief Minister, and former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Picture shows Tun Jeanne Abdullah, Chairperson of Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre, Professor Shigeyuki Baba of the international society for mangrove eccosystem and Professor Hirosuke Oku of the tropical biosphere research centre, University of Ryukyus (Riukyu) Japan signing the MOU witnessed by Dr. Yee Moh Chai representing the Chief Minister, and former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

An agreement between the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) and Tropical Biosphere Research Centre (TBRC) from the University of the Ryukus, Japan, was signed on the 6th of November 2012, in Magellan Sutera Harbour Resort, Kota Kinabalu.

Datuk Dr. Yee Moh Chai, Deputy Chief Minister attended the signing ceremony on behalf of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman. SFD was represented by its director, Datuk Sam Mannan, whereas TBRC was represented by Professor Hirosuke Oku.

Also present to witness the signing ceremony were Professor Shigeyuki Baba of the international society for mangrove ecosystem, and the Advisor of Malaysia Landscape, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is also the Malaysia’s 5th Prime Minister.

The agreement is intended to facilitate scientific research, education and cultural exchanges and contribute to the mutual benefit and development of the two organizations.

Under the agreement both parties will  have the opportunity to exchange staff members, scientific materials, publications and information, as well as to host joint seminars and  conferences and to conduct joint research and other scientific projects.

The Sabah Forest Department was created  in 1914 to administer the vast forested land of North Borneo then under Chartered Company rule.  Today the department has administrative jurisdiction over some 3.6 million hectares of forest reserves in various parts of Sabah. According to official estimate about 50% of Sabah’s total landmass is under the jurisdiction of the SFD, which is one of the departments under the Chief Minister's Department. Appropriately, the SFD director was once known as the Conservator of Forests. 
Established in 1994, the TBRC from the University of the Ryukus is a merger of the Tropical Agriculture Research Centre, the Sesoko Island Coral Reef Research Center and the Center of Molecular Biosciences.The TBRC aims to promote broad-based research activities on the ecology and diversity of tropical and sub-tropical ecosystem, and the effects and influences of different types of environmental factors. 

Source: Insight Sabah

EIA approved for Petronas LNG re-gasification terminal in Lahad Datu

KOTA KINABALU: The project to build a liquefied natural gas re-gasification terminal in Lahad Datu by Petronas has an approved Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.

Minister of Industrial Development, Datuk Raymond Tan, said there was therefore no basis for the objection from the Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA).

He said the ministry had done what was necessary to ensure the project located within the Palm Oil Industrial Cluster (POIC) is compliant with requirements under the EIA.

“The whole piece of POIC land was approved by the Environment Protection Department before it was developed and any individual industry that wishes to operate in POIC has to be approved first, so we are very concerned about the environment too. POIC has been there with all the compliances for quite a long time already,” said Tan.

He was speaking to reporters at the Deepavali Open House at the Likas Sport Complex yesterday hosted by the Sabah MIC.

Tan said the objection from SEPA seemed politically motivated since their campaigns were selective.

He cited SEPA’s objection to the Lynas plant in Pahang as an example and questioned why it did not campaign against the coal-fired power plant in Selangor, when the association had strongly objected to the proposal to build a similar plant in Lahad Datu a few years ago.

He said he would not back down on the LNG re-gasification terminal project because the east coast of Sabah is in dire need of a power plant that can supply electricity sufficiently to the area.

After rejecting the proposed coal-fired power plant in 2006 for environmental reasons, he contended that there needed to be a replacement. The government therefore decided to opt for a greener gas-fired power plant instead.

“You cannot just reject without replacement, so the replacement was a gas-fired plant which is clean. Everyone agreed on that. And for the plant to operate, we need gas. This is a 300 megawatt capacity plant, which is huge,” he added.

Tan added that he was prepared to explain to SEPA on the importance of the project and its compliance with EIA.

“It took a long time to get Petronas to invest in Sabah, so we should be happy about it,” he said.

According to him, besides the power plant and re-gasification terminal, there are more than 20 other big investments in POIC, all of which are EIA approved.

He said the investments would solve the power shortage in the east coast and provide jobs for the people.

Source: New Sabah Times

Funding vital to make HoB happen, says Dr. Lisa King

KOTA KINABALU: To make the Heart of Borneo Initiative happen, funding is vital, says Remote Tourism expert, Dr. Lisa M King.

Speaking to reporters at the closing ceremony of the recently concluded International Conference on Heart of Borneo Initiative in the city, she said that in terms of tourism, they are lots more things to be done but they need adequate funding to timely execution.

“We can find people to do the community works and education, we have the capacity to facilitate infrastructure and things like that but we need the money to see this happen, it’s the bottom line.

“I think there’s political will, there’s certainly desire to move things forward but it can’t happen without expertise, although that (expertise) is donated in large part but some need to be paid for as well, it needs funding, we need funding. That’s the biggest challenge,” she said, responding to a question on the biggest challenge her team is facing so far.

Dr. King added that infrastructure is also another challenge as the tourism industry in the HoB needs transportation infrastructures to be accessed but according to her, it has to be done carefully and sensitively to protect the natural environment.

“The HoB is an adventure, it’s an experience, so from the minute you’re approaching in that car or on that rail road they’re proposing, you want a sense of adventure that you’re going to a place that’s special and unique. We want to build and develop HOB project as something different compared to every place in the world,” she continued.

She however said that they are still in the beginning stages so that plans may change according to new inputs and circumstances.

“When new information comes in, new experts come on board, we’ll learn new things, so we don’t want to have a static plan that can’t change, we want to keep it flexible, of course”, added Dr. King.

An expert in various disciplines including Marine Science, and an enthusiast of nature and community, Dr. King said she participated because she wants to make a difference, and the HoB is a good avenue to contribute in ways she can. In her endeavour to develop the areas, she is however keeping in mind that the native communities’ decisions must be respected. She said, part of the project is to get the communities involved in decision making, on how they want their communities to be, whether they want to participate in the projects or not is their decisions.

“It should be the choice of the locals, we should not be the external energies that say we’ll force this upon you, no. We need to work with the local people, educate them of the value of it (HoB) so they can make their own decisions on how they want to move forward”, explained Dr. King.

Describing the conference as one of the bests in terms of organization, where it brought in people of similar interest from diverse backgrounds from all over the world to exchange knowledge and learn from each other.

On top of that, she is confident that the findings and issues raised during the event will be looked into by relevant parties.

“They brought in a lot of powerful people into this project, I think they’re listening very closely and it’s a nice, safe conducive environment where they can listen, and people can ask questions to increase our knowledge base and things like that. I think this is a very important project, truly”, she said as the interview concluded.

Source: New Sabah Times