MIRI: Sarawak, which has 6.5 million hectares of virgin forests, will allow more foreign experts in herbal medicine to carry out research in the field.
However, controls will be set up to ensure that any new discoveries will be attributed to the state and its people and the patent rights for such discoveries recognised as belonging to Sarawak.
Stating this in his keynote address at the opening of the International Conference on Bio-tourism 2003 here yesterday, Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said:
“Sarawak is one of the 12 mega-rich biodiversity centres in the world but all this wealth is not only Sarawak’s property.
“We have a duty to share with the rest of the world if it can bring benefit to mankind, especially in terms of new medicines.
“We need to attract the right brains to come in and help develop these resources.”
Taib said there were still some 6.5 million hectares of virgin forests in the state. Sarawak also houses 16 national parks, five nature reserves and five wildlife sanctuaries.
There are also hundreds of species of animals, plants and other types of jungle and wild and marine life.
Taib, who is also state Minister for Resource Management and Planning, said that while the state would allow foreign experts to come in to conduct research, it must ensure that all local assets were protected and preserved.
Towards this end, the state would set up control and screening facilities to regulate new research projects undertaken by foreigners.
In a working paper, researchers Dr Donald Hawkins and Dr Brian White said uncontrolled eco-tourism activities in unexplored forests and isolated communities would bring about undesirable impact on the environment and the native population.
Hawkins, a professor of tourism policy in the School of Business and Public management at the George Washington University and Dr White, head of the Centre for Tourism Leadership of the Capilano College, Canada said eco-tourism had its negative side.
“Removal of plants and animals, theft and purchases of artefacts, fossils and depletion of cultural properties occur because of the difficulty of monitoring visits and activities.
“This is a fundamental limitation of eco-tourism. Demand will frequently exceed supply to the detriment of the fragile, scarce ecosystems,” they said in their paper Policy Findings From A Year Of Global Research On Eco-tourism: Implications For Bio-tourism In Sarawak’s Protected Areas And Rural Communities.
The two-day international conference here was attended by bio-tourism experts from Mexico, New Zealand, United States, United Nations Development Programme, Canada and Malaysian universities.
Did you find this article insightful?