KOTA KINABALU (Nov 9): The State Government will expand the Total Protected Areas (TPAs) under the Heart of Borneo (HoB) Initiative to cover 30 per cent of Sabah’s landmass by 2025, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor.
As it stands, more than 26 per cent of the state’s land area or 1.9 million hectares has been gazetted as TPAs under the HoB Initiative.
Hajiji said that Sabah has achieved significant progress in forest conservation since the inception of the HoB Initiative 14 years ago.
He revealed that 75 per cent of the 1.9 million hectares TPAs are located within the Malaysian boundary in Borneo.
“The TPAs expansion target is in line with Sabah’s five-year development plan, the Hala Tuju Sabah Maju Jaya (SMJ) 2021-2025 which has included the HoB Initiative in the Green Infrastructure and Sustainability Networks,” he said after officiating the first-ever virtual international conference on the HoB Initiative – Moving Forward in the New Norm, here on Tuesday.
“From our concerted efforts, Sabah has maintained 50 per cent of its landmass under forest covers and we have increased forest covers to 65 per cent of which 52 per cent are gazetted as Forest Reserves, Parks and Wildlife Conservation Areas. The HoB Project has restored 2,000 hectares of forest reserves,” he said further.
According to him, Sabah was also the first state in the country to launch its Good Regulatory Practice, emulating the move mooted by the Federal Government.
In relation, the Chief Minister said Sabah will be implementing the Integrated Landscape Management of Heart of Borneo Landscapes under the Global Environment Facility-funded, Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration Impact Programme (FOLUR IP), a project that focuses on environmental and land development management.
“The six-year project involves 1.6 million hectares within the HoB landscape, costing USD7.3 million (RM30.3 million) to be funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“Sabah will also be involved in another UNDP-funded programme, the BIOFIN project, on Conservation Finance in the State,” he said.
According to him, Sabah has engaged with various partners, executing 79 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and Memoranda of Agreement (MoAs) in past years.
“Today, we will add another eight MoUs to the list,” he said.
Since 2009, the Federal Government has channeled RM47 million for the HoB Initiative and under the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) the Federal Government has pledged an additional RM13 million.
Hajiji said since 2007, a total of 22 field outposts have been established to enhance enforcement within Sabah’s forest reserves.
“The Sabah Forestry Department has established an elite tactical team called PROTECT, a special anti-poaching squad to assist in enforcement logistics and the team is working closely with the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) through the Khazanah Operation, to check forest encroachment issues.
“To further strengthen enforcement, we have engaged with local communities to serve as Honorary Forest Rangers, and today we have 112 of such rangers from 700 villagers,” he said.
At the same time, the State Finance Minister said that Sabah has hosted 42 scientific expeditions within the HoB boundary including 1,800 local students from 34 schools involved in the HoB awareness programme.
He said these research expeditions have yielded several key scientific discoveries, among them, the world’s tallest rainforest trees at the Danum Valley Conservation Area, Lahad Datu, and the discovery of the rare, elusive Bornean endemic Hose’s Langur in Maligan, Sipitang.
“Results from the expeditions will guide the State Government in formulating the Conservation Plan particularly in the High Conservation Value areas,” he said.
Hajiji said just like the implementation of the Malaysian Climate Change Action Council (MyCAC) at the Federal level to look at climate change issues, Sabah too would have its own CAC platform to discuss climate change policies and actions, drive green economic growth, catalyse green technology and low-carbon growth.
“Sabah will carry out carbon trading carefully so that such activities do not affect the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions commitment,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hajiji said this year’s conference will assist the Government to gather resources to formulate its third Strategic Plan of Action (SPA) for the initiative. The SPA, first prepared in 2013, will be completed by 2022.
He was also glad to see the continuing efforts in research by scientists and writers at HoB which have yielded several publications as evidenced by the publications of two new books by Markus Gubilil entitled “A Checklist of Trees of Sabah – new edition” and “Panduan Bergambar Likofit dan Paku Pakis di Sabah.”