KOTA BELUD (Dec 18): The Kinabalu Ecolinc Zone must be protected due to its location in the highlands that can have a significant impact on low-lying areas.
State Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said exploration in the area would greatly impact the lowland areas along the Tuaran and Kadamaian rivers.
“One of the main objectives of this Ecolinc project is to establish a network of community-protected areas in key places as a means of ensuring habitat and wildlife continuity between the protected Kinabalu Park and Crocker Range Park.
“Activities undertaken in pursuit of this goal have benefited not only the community and villages but also the environment as a whole, ensuring that future generations can enjoy nature,” he said.
Joniston, who is also chairman of the Sabah Tourism Board, was speaking at the launching of three eco-tourism sites and a pineapple processing centre within the Kinabalu Ecolinc Zone at Pekan Nabalu here, on Saturday.
Sabah Parks deputy director and Kinabalu Ecolinc project coordinator Ludi Apin was also present to represent Sabah Parks director Dr Maklarin Lakim.
Funded by the European Union in cooperation with Sabah Forestry Department, the Kinabalu Ecolinc Zone covers seven villages under Kadamaian, Tuaran and Ranau districts.
Since it was initiated in 2014, the Kinabalu Ecolinc project has given people the opportunity to be directly involved in reaping positive benefits, particularly in establishing sustainable agriculture activity and community-based tourism.
While the European Union provided financial aid, the Sabah Tourism Board, Sabah Parks, Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi), and Universiti Malaysia Sabah, among others, provided training support to equip the community with necessary knowledge and skills.
Calling on the people to take advantage of the Kinabalu Ecolinc initiative, Joniston said the Sabah Tourism, Culture, and Environment Ministry would continue to support such collaborative projects that can benefit the community.
“I applaud Sabah Parks’ efforts to connect communities to various socioeconomic and capacity-building activities, and I hope that more villagers would be interested in participating in such programmes.
“Today, we see the new establishment of community-based eco-tourism, and we hope, through the acknowledgment of European Union, these community-based tourism destinations will be exposed globally,” he said.
The three newly launched community based tourism sites are Kampung Kiau Eco-Tourism (Kota Belud), Kampung Tiong Simpodon Eco-Tourism (Kiulu), and Kampung Wasai Kosigompoton Eco-Tourism (Kiulu).
Maklarin, in his speech delivered by Ludi, said the Kinabalu Ecolinc is committed to implementing key activities, namely community protection areas development; restoration of degraded habitat; sustainable agriculture development; and community as well as forest-related tourism development to support forest management.
Meanwhile, villagers involved in community-based tourism activity have expressed their gratitude to the various quarters for providing them with much-needed training.
They also hoped that such an initiative would be continued as they focus on improving themselves, particularly through tourism and agricultural activities.