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Pan Borneo must not affect wildlife
Published on: Friday, March 22, 2019
By: Larry Ralon

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said the construction of the Pan Borneo highway should only involve expansion of existing roads and not opening up or constructing new alignments that will affect forested areas in the State.

He said while the highway is necessary for socio-economic development, its construction must not be at the expense of the forest and ecosystem, apparently in reference to concerns raised by a NGO, Leap, that construction of the highway from Ranau to Sandakan would cut through an elephant habitat.

He said existing roads should merely be expanded, as is being done in Sarawak, especially if they are to cut across forest reserves…as it would cost more to build new roads through protected areas. 

“We’ll spend more money acquiring land and cutting hills (if via forest reserves) and that is not good for the environment.”

Wildlife conservation expert Benoit Goosens also warned of adverse effects for both humans and wildlife if the Pan Borneo highway cuts through protected forest reserves. 

He feared that several stretches would be cutting through Class 1 forest reserves which are habitats and migration routes for elephants, sun bears and clouded leopards, all of which are endangered.

He suggested the highway, instead, go through settled or developed areas to benefit the people living in these areas.

Shafie said he had raised the issue with Putrajaya and hoped they take is seriously. “I told them we shouldn’t chop all the hills, trees and mountains.”

Shafie also said the State Government is committed towards the preservation and conservation of what is left of Sabah’s natural resources and wildlife. 

One of its great commitments is to increase gazetted Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) to 30 per cent of the State’s land mass by the 2025, from the present 26pc.

Thus, he said, it is good to know that the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative is the epitome of Sabah’s high profile and phenomenal achievement in the management and conservation of its old world tropical rainforests, with much effort and contribution from the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD). 

“As we all know, Malaysia is one of the mega-diversity hotspots that harbours a myriad of plants and wildlife. Our terrestrial natural ecosystems from lowland to montane, comprise one of the Earth’s treasure troves of living organisms, all co-existing in a magnificent tropical rainforest environment. 

“From the marine perspective, the life forms in the seas around Malaysia are some of the richest in all of the world’s oceans. The vast majority of the biodiverse life forms are significantly important to mankind,” he said, when officiating the International Conference on Heart of Borneo (HoB): Transcending Boundaries for a New Conservation Era and International Day of Forests 2019 at the Sutera Magellan, Thursday. 

Mohd Shafie said within Malaysia, Sabah is the beacon of biodiversity with a great number of rare, interesting and endemic flora and fauna. 

“It is the various landscapes of Sabah from mountain top to ocean deep that harbour such diverse and spectacular flora and fauna. 

“It is the montane elevation of Mount Kinabalu and the Crocker Range that is unrivalled throughout Malaysia as well as Borneo that harbours so many endemic species in Sabah. 

“It is interesting to note many of these flora and fauna species are found within the HoB areas in Sabah. We depend on them for our very existence and to meet our goals for sustainable economic development. Hence, it is very important that our rich biodiversity is duly safeguarded for posterity. 

“Since the success of the first five-year Strategic Plan of Action (SPA) in accomplishing the overall HoB vision from 2008-2012, I am confident that the second SPA which cover the ensuing years until 2020, will continue to show exemplary results in transboundary management, protected areas management, sustainable natural resources management, eco-tourism development and capacity building. 

“The State Government acknowledges the importance of having all these five areas managed in tandem, as they hold equal significance in ensuring the sustainability of our natural resources...it is important that we live in harmony with nature while at the same time practise sustainable development,” he said. 

He noted that the UN General Assembly proclaimed March 21 as the International Day of Forests (IDF) in 2012, where the importance of all types of forests are celebrated through awareness programmes such as tree planting. 

“We should educate our people on the importance of forest conservation from a young age and am also aware that the SFD and other agencies are actively promoting environment education to instil such mentality to school children,” he said. 

Mohd Shafie also commented on the tree-planting event to be held in Kawang Forest Reserve on Saturday, which he will also attend, saying it is a great opportunity to get local communities involved in forest restoration. 

He welcomed the participation from the communities who reside within the vicinity of another important watershed area, i.e. Babagon Dam which consists of three villages, namely Kampung Kolosunan, Kg Babagon Toki and Kg Tampasak. 

“I am delighted to learn that these communities are embarking on piloting a Payment for Ecosystem (PES) project in Babagon Dam with the support from local partners Yayasan Hassanah and UNDP-GEF...this would be an excellent showcase of conservation benefiting the communities directly,” he said. 



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