KUCHING: Managing and implementing an initiative of national and international importance like the Heart of Borneo (HoB) in Sarawak that is straddled across a vast area of 2.1 million hectares deep in the mountainous terrains and thick forest has been a challenging responsibility for the state.
No doubt there would be stories of setbacks but there would always be successes worth sharing, Assistant Minister of Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh said.
“These success stories or achievements will not be possible without the strong political will of our Chief Minister (Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan satem),” he said when officiating at the opening of HoB Seminar 2016 here yesterday.
Among the major key achievements that Sarawak had achieved thus far, Len pointed out, was Sustainable Forest Management Certification by 2017, which proved that the state government was fully committed to sustainable forest management.
“The Sarawak’s Heart of Borneo licensed areas have received special attention by the Chief Minister where he has set a policy direction in which all timber licensed areas within the Heart of Borneo must be certified by 2017. The government will provide support and commitment through policy and in the monitoring of the Forest Management Certification Agreement.
“This initiative has been going on and we will make sure that all the big timber licensed areas will be certified by 2017. Of course, there are also areas outside this Heart of Borneo that need to be certified as well.”
On biodiversity conservation, Len Talif said there was a significant increase in Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) under Sarawak’s HoB.
According to him, when Sarawak’s HoB was first implemented in 2007, only 311,715 hectares of the HoB areas were gazetted as TPAs and presently there had been a marked increase in TPAs to a huge area of 526,652 hectares – an increase of almost 70 per cent before the HoB was conceived.
“A few more areas of high conversation value such as Batang Balleh in Kapit, Payeh Maga in Limbang are in the midst of being proposed as TPAs.”
On the Sungai Menyang Orang Utan Conservation area in Batang Ai in Sri Aman, Len Talif said a scientific orangutan survey in 2013 by the Wildlife Conservation Society discovered that a significant population of orangutans were found within the Ulu Sungai Menyang area, outside Batang Ai National Park.
He said the state government was pursuing Section 28 of the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 which provides a legal framework for the creation of Ulu Sungai Menyang covering 46,328 hectares as a special area for the conservation of these orangutans.
“This is also a great opportunity for the state to adopt a landscape conservation approach where the conservation of wildlife is done together with local communities and land owners. The success of this approach is critical as the way forward in terms of wildlife conservation where community empowerment is practised.”
With technical advice from Wildlife Conservation Society, he said the state Forest Department had produced a comprehensive Orang Utan Strategic Action Plan in 2015, and 11 key strategies or interventions were developed.
“I am happy to note that some of these interventions such as providing alternative livelihoods through Gaharu project have been initiated.”
On biodiversity documentation and studies, he said the state had recently adopted an open policy for conservation, particularly on research in its biodiversity in TPAs.
“International research institutions are most welcomed to Sarawak to document the rich biodiversity within Sarawak’s Heart of Borneo. Research for Intensified Management of Bio-Rich areas is a new state initiative on biodiversity research where collaboration with prestigious international universities has been launched in August, 2015 by our chief minister.”
Among those present at the opening of HoB Seminar 2016 were State Forest Department deputy director Jack Liam and Prof Emeritus Datuk Mohamed Abdul Majid from University of Malaya.