SANDAKAN: Sabah has doubled its 'Totally Protected Areas' from 800,000ha to 1.55 million hectares which is about 21% of the state, since the inception of the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative in 2007.
Sabah deputy state secretary Datuk Joseph Guntavid said the areas include the classification of new Class One Protection Forest Reserves, totalling some 137,000ha in the HoB linking key conservation areas such as the Danum Valley, Imbak Canyon and Maliau Basin.
"The state Government has also pledged to further increase its Totally Protected Areas to 30% or 2.1 million hectares of the state’s total land area over the next 10 years," he said during the opening ceremony of the Ninth HoB Trilateral Meeting by Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Hamim Samuri here.
The HoB initiative is a government-led and NGO-supported programme initiated through a joint declaration by the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei in 2007.
The HoB initiative is aimed at conserving and managing the Borneo highlands, and part of the Malaysian foothills and lowlands bordering Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia.
Guntavid added that the state government had set aside 53% or about 3.9 million ha of the state’s land mass as protected areas in the form of forest reserves, state parks, wildlife sanctuaries and conservation areas.
Guntavid, who is Sabah HoB committee chairman, said outcomes for the state include the rehabilitation of about 3,500ha of degraded forest corridors, documentation of biodiversity through scientific expeditions in 18 forest reserves and the establishment of 19 field outposts within the HoB landscape for wildlife monitoring and to tackle forest encroachment.
"Future plans are to continue with these activities with greater emphasis on public awareness to prevent forest biodiversity loss, develop eco-tourism attractions within the HoB for local benefit and to promote institutional linkages in existing and future protected areas," he said.
Guntavid added the initiative aims to conserve and efficiently manage the rich biodiversity within 22 million hectares of tropical rainforests in Borneo.
He said Sabah has designated about 4 million ha or 18% of Borneo’s total HoB area for various land uses.
Meanwhile, in his speech, Hamim said the Federal Government is committed to supporting the implementation of projects and activities under the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative.
He added that in the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) and 10MP, the government had allocated RM10.8mil and RM23.66mil respectively, bringing the total sum to RM34.46mil for the HoB initiative.
“Sabah received an allocation of RM24.16mil and Sarawak, RM10.3mil. Following the encouraging achievements, continuous support will be given under the 11MP.
“This is in line with the government’s effort to make green eco-tourism a catalyst, just like how Malaysia views the role of natural resources and the environment as important in socio-economic development.”
Hamim said the country’s socio-economic development would be implemented in a more sustainable manner to protect natural resources, environment and biodiversity as well under the HoB initiative.
Hamim said the trilateral meeting was a forum for Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia to discuss the progress of the implementation of the HoB initiative and related collaborations. — Bernama