Tuesday, September 22

Proposal to make KK Wetlands a Ramsar site

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KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Biodiversity Centre is proposing that the 24-hectare Kota Kinabalu Wetlands be made as a Ramsar site under the Ramsar Convention.

“It hopes to forward the paper to the Ministry of Nature Resource and Environment earliest by November or December,” said Sabah Biodiversity Centre director Dr Abdul Fatah Amir.

He said feedback from the public would be compiled and forwarded to the State Cabinet and relevant departments.

Once the report was approved by the Cabinet, Fatah said the centre would forward it to the Ministry of Nature Resources and Environment in Kuala Lumpur.

He said the centre would try to expedite the process and aimed to complete it by November or December.

Fatah said this in an interview after the third dialogue with stakeholders here yesterday. Among the objectives of the dialogue were to inform the need and importance to register Kota Kinabalu Wetlands as a Ramsar site as well as to obtain input and feedback from stakeholders regarding this matter.

Fatah said the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands was designated as a Ramsar site in October 2008, a mere five months after the process, which included stakeholder and state agency meetings and workshops, begun in May the same year.

He pointed out that the concerns of property owners near Kota Kinabalu Wetlands raised in the dialogue, such as whether future development plans would be restricted once Kota Kinabalu Wetlands achieved Ramsar status was not related to Ramsar.

Earlier in the dialogue, Fatah explained that Ramsar was not a legal binding treaty, meaning Ramsar dids not create laws or regulations.

“Ramsar uses managing plan as guidance which complies with existing laws,” he said, adding that Ramsar dids not restrict development but used existing laws such as Draft Kota Kinabalu Local Plan 2020 or the Environmental Protection Enactment to guide property development.

Fatah pointed out that Ramsar was more on how to maintain the quality of ecosystem to preserve existing endangered species.

After achieving Ramsar status, there would be a managing plan which would be developed with the stakeholders, Fatah said.

He assured that the managing plan, which used existing laws as a guideline to maintain the quality of the site, would not be imposed on stakeholders as it would be developed based on consensus with the stakeholders.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Meanwhile, Rayner Ricky Sedomon from the City Planning Department of City Hall, said Kota Kinabalu Wetlands was under the Residential Special (Ridge Conservation), or RS(RC) zoning as stipulated in the Draft Kota Kinabalu Local Plan 2020.

RS(RC) zoning, as described in the Fifth Schedule of the draft, is intended primarily to fulfil the objectives of ridge conservation areas without adversely restricting development opportunities on hills and ridges.

This zone accommodates detached dwellings which retains the character of the site and adjoining lands and protects view to adjoining areas or between the dwellings.

The maximum height of dwellings is generally two storeys and maximum numbers of dwellings is 10 houses per hectare, or four houses per acre.

Housing lots below 700 metres square will not be permitted.

Rayner said any development plans submitted to City Hall would be circulated to 11 departments for comments. These 11 departments include Town Planning, Public Works Department (JKR), Land and Survey Department, Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB), Water Department, Telekom, Health Department, Fire and Rescue Services Department, Environmental Protection Department, Minerals and Geosciences Department, and Drainage and Irrigation Department.

“City Hall does not restrict development on this site but we have our own procedures and rules,” Rayner said.

After acquiring the comments from the 11 said departments, the development plan would be discussed at the City Planning Committee (CPC) meeting, he said, and finally to the Central Board for approval.

“Any high density residential projects at the surrounding of Kota Kinabalu Wetlands will need to rezone land use, which will have to be approved at the Central Board or Cabinet,” Rayner explained.

Another concern raised in the dialogue was whether Kota Kinabalu Wetlands would expand its land into adjacent lands owned by other land owners upon achieving the Ramsar status.

To this, Omar Abd Kadir, honorary secretary of the Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society, said the Sabah Wetlands Managing Committee has no intention to expand its land beyond the existing 24 hectares.

“We have fencing but it is rotting away, we will re-establish the fencing and we have registered surveyors to set up poles.

“We have no intention to expand tomorrow, next week or 10 years from now,” he assured.

Also present were Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society president Haji Zainie Abd Aucasa and deputy director of Sabah Wildlife Department Jumrafiah Abd Sukor.