Heart of Borneo Seminar: The Living Treasure of Sarawak
Sarawak’s Forest Department held a seminar on Sarawak’s work on the Heart of Borneo Initiative from 26 to 27 June 2013 in Kuching with the theme "HoB - The Living Treasure of Sarawak”. Around 150 researchers and scientists from the private sector, non-government organisations, universities and government agencies were in attendance.
The two-day seminar aimed to raise awareness of the state government’s implementation of the Heart of Borneo Initiative in Sarawak; share research and ecotourism opportunities within the Heart of Borneo, and support capacity building and networking among scientists and researchers.
The program also featured the launching of the book ‘Heart of Borneo Series: Paya Maga Sarawak’s Pristine Highland Forest’ by Forest Department Sarawak.
Officiating at the seminar, Special Functions Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan Satem said that Sarawak’s contribution to the Heart of Borneo will focus on conservation and sustainable development through policies on Sustainable Forest Management (SFM), nature conservation through Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) and Transboundary Conservation Areas (TBCAs), as well as a series of socio-economic projects that will benefit rural communities.
Adenan highlighted rural development and the potential of ecotourism in the area stating that “ecotourism is particularly promising with the potential for increasing the local economy by empowering local assets coupled with people-based management of protected areas.” He further stated the importance of involving communities in conservation management of protected areas.
Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) is another key focus. The state government has called for concession areas within the Heart of Borneo to obtain SFM certification by 2017.
“We are expecting to assist and encourage major timber industry players to have their forest concessions certified for (SFM) certification,” said Adenan.
Presentations on flora, fauna, community development and ecotourism in the area highlighted the diversity of the Heart of Borneo, sustainable development opportunities and the potential of the area as an ecotourism hotspot.
Most presentations were focused around Gunung Mulu National Park and the Paya Maga highlands. Preliminary findings within Gunung Mulu NP included the habitat and distribution of orang-utans and resulting ecotourism opportunities, diversity of understorey birds in tropical heath forests and lowland dipterocarp forests and possible new butterfly species. Initial discoveries in Paya Maga included information on amphibians as no previous information had been recorded in the area, bird species including some rare and endemic and an ethnobotanical study of local plants with the Lun Bawang community.
These presentations will be used to further understand the diversity of Sarawak’s Heart of Borneo and support the movement towards sustainable development for the area.
Around 65 per cent of Sarawak is still forest despite human activities over the past 50 years. Sustainable forest management in Sarawak has meant that some production forest has been set aside as Permanent Forest Estate (PFE) for sustainable timber production and some forest has become Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) comprising of national park, wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves. Around a quarter of the HoB area of Sarawak is TPA with the remainder PFE and agriculture plantations, native customary rights (NCR) land and alienated land.
Many important conservation areas within the HoB in Sarawak, including the Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, Gunung Mulu National Park, Pulong Tau and Batang Ai National Park, offer significant ecotourism potential. Visitors to these areas can enjoy nature as well as support conservation with socio-economic benefits for local communities.
One of the objectives of the HoB is to promote the welfare of the people through effective management of a network of protected areas, production forests and agriculture.