Sandakan’s eco-camp launched to support eco-tourism

SANDAKAN: A community project to provide eco-tourism opportunities for the local community to build a sustainable future was launched yesterday.

LAUNCHED: Masidi signs the plaque to mark TREC’s opening witnessed by Mannan (fifth left) and Wahiruddin (fourth left).

LAUNCHED: Masidi signs the plaque to mark TREC’s opening witnessed by Mannan (fifth left) and Wahiruddin (fourth left).

The Tungog Rainforest Eco-camp at Pin Supu Forest Reserve at Batu Putih-Kinabatangan, which was launched by Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, forms part of the wider sustainable tourism project initiated by WWF-Malaysia, known as Model Ecologically Sustainable Community Tourism (Mescot).

It has direct participation by the local Batu Puteh community, which established a community-run cooperative, Kopel (Koperasi Pelancongan) to promote eco-tourism activities since 1997.

The eco-camp, nestled next to a pristine ox-bow lake some 10 minutes from the Batu Puteh jetty, is expected to provide a sustainable livelihood for some 100 young people of Batu Puteh who are members of Kopel, a community-run cooperative initiated for this tourism-related venture.

It can accommodate up to 30 guests at any one time to stay and live in harmony with the surrounding forest environment.

The eco-camp concept involves providing a place to stay within the natural forest environment, with a particular focus on nature education, eco-tourism and research.

Local youths, as partners of the project, will be able to share the knowledge of the rich natural and cultural heritage of the area with the local and foreign visitors.

While Mescot launched a series of successful eco-tourism initiatives, including a home stay programme, handicraft cottage industry, boat and guide service, the Tungog eco-camp is expected to accelerate the transformation of economic activities among members of Kopel in the near and long term.

As a platform to monitor, learn about and take care of the surrounding forests of the Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain, the Tungog Rainforest Eco-Camp is raising the bar for tourism development to be more ecologically sustainable as well as provide meaningful participation and benefits to local communities.

The multi-stakeholder approaches on handling conservation and economic development will ensure a sustainable future for the targeted population.

Designed jointly by local youths utilizing the latest eco-friendly design principles and eco-technology, the eco-camp was constructed and will be operated with minimal impact to the surrounding environment.

During construction, there was no felling of trees for the construction of the camp and the buildings situated between the existing vegetation on site.

Construction materials were derived from natural products and sourced from nearby villages.

Other basic eco-design principles included minimising energy and water usage.

Recycling will also feature prominently in products and equipment used at the camp.

Present at the launching were Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan, KOPEL chairman Mohd Hasim Abd Hamid, Shell Malaysia General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Datuk Wahiruddin Abdul Wahid, local dignitaries and representatives from WWF-Malaysia, Raleigh International and non-governmental organisa-tions.

At the ceremony, Wahiruddin presented a cheque for RM40,000 to Mohd Hasim for the final portion of the Shell funding for the project.

“We are pleased to partner WWF-Malaysia, Raleigh International and the KOPEL in this capacity building project which we hope will benefit the community here. This project is aligned with Shell Malaysia’s core value on helping people build a better world for themselves on a sustained basis,” he said.

“We are also confident that it will further enhance the conservation of biodiversity and wildlife of the Kinabatangan flood plain,” he added.

Shell Malaysia provided KOPEL with a seed grant of RM220,000 when it signed a Memorandum of Understanding in February 2002 along with WWF-Malaysia and Raleigh International.

This funding provided financial support for the development of the eco-camp and its associated structures.

Meanwhile, WWF-Malaysia and Raleigh International provided administrative and management expertise to the project.

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