Inanam catchment the main Babagon source
Published on: Wednesday, September 18, 2019
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Aerial view of Babagon dam in Penampang.
Kota Kinabalu: About 57pc of water supply in the State Capital comes from the Babagon Dam, said local non-governmental organisation Forever Sabah, adding 635.37 hectares of water catchment areas in the Class I Kolosunan Forest Reserve in Inanam serve as the only water source for this dam.

It is easy to imagine people living in rural areas collecting water from primary sources like rain, rivers and wells, but the urbanites forget that they share the same resources. 

“We take for granted where our water comes from and the lengthy process of treating it that provides us with clean water straight to the comfort of our own homes,” it said in a statement issued by the WWF-Malaysia on Friday.

WWF-Malaysia said Malaysia is renowned for its pristine sites filled with complex biodiversity that the people call their national heritage, attracting vacationers, thrill seekers and researchers alike. According to Tourism Malaysia, there was an influx of 25.83 million visitors in 2018 alone, raking in RM84.1 billion towards the country’s revenue. Nature has defined our name and put us on the map.

It said much of Sabah’s history and culture command a degree of respect for nature, and the people take pride in the aesthetic values that the forests impart. The forests are more than just the country’s cash cow, especially through the timber industry. 

“Time and time again we have been told that the forests help us purify our water and air, store heat-inducing greenhouse gases, and maintain a healthy ecosystem. But how does that affect us directly? 

Forests play an important role in retaining water in catchment areas, mitigating floodwaters, and preventing soil erosion. We benefit from the forest functions that are collectively called ecosystem services.

“To us, Malaysia is not a destination, it is our home. The Malaysian Department of Statistics revealed that the Malaysian population is 32,382,300 in 2018, of which some 24 million people live in urban areas. 

Most developments are felt where major financial districts and tourism hotspots lie. Just under 25pc of us live in rural areas with limited access to modern day conveniences, and some still resort to rudimentary means of supporting their livelihood whether through subsistence farming, hunting or gathering,” it said. 

Malaysia is still a developing nation, empowered with knowledge and a voice to change the way things are done, it said. 

“But how do we strike a balance between what’s best for our people, nature, and the country’s economy? These decisions need not fall into one pair of hands, but it can be done through a collective effort by each individual to help restore our environment. 

“We all think we’re not going to be around in the next 100 years, so we waste our resources and let someone else deal with it. We need change, and to be willing to pay for services of nature the same way we pay for our food and objects we fill our homes with,” it said. 

WWF-Malaysia said the Sabah State Government in 2016 has begun exploring revenue options through the Payment for Ecosystem Service (PES) scheme, a measure to finance the conservation of forests with key environmental functions. 

“This means on top of utility bills based on our consumption, a nominal fee would apply that goes directly towards the conservation of the areas we benefit from. 

“In Sabah, PES development would primarily surround water conservation services from forests. 

These initiatives have taken effect in many countries, but watershed payment schemes have been particularly successful in certain Latin American countries, including Guatemala, Costa Rica and Ecuador. 

Closer to home, the Philippines has utilised hydropower generation funded by taxes and voluntary payments by hydroelectric companies towards reforestation, watershed management, and community development. 

“In July last year, the Star Online reiterated that PES would be a more viable solution to generate revenue whilst conserving the forests compared to selective logging, “rendering obsolete the idea that forests, if left untouched, generate little or no revenue.” 

“The kind of development the country needs is not merely economic, but social and environmental. 

PES has not yet been implemented in Malaysia, but its effect would break new ground in conservation with the cooperation of urban and rural communities involved,” it said.

“Let our natural wonders evoke a sense of national pride. Some of our iconic species cannot be found elsewhere in the world, and several are already teetering on the brink of extinction as we auction off their jungle homes. 

“Saving our forests, and ultimately our environment, is not a trend, it takes a complete willingness to change how we perceive things, and the subsequent actions we choose to make towards a cause we believe in. 

“However, we Malaysians are becoming more aware of our actions and have a better influence on our sons and daughters of tomorrow. Today, as we celebrate another year of our nation’s bond, let us also work towards a better environment for all, we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re going...in true Malaysian fashion, we are on the way,” it said. 


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