Growing Sabah sustainably through HoB Natural Capital



Posted on 19 December 2013  | 
Sabah has a landmass of approximately 7.4 million hectares. More than half of the land in Sabah is covered by the Heart of Borneo (HoB) landscape, over 4 million hectares. A stunning array of natural landscapes, habitats and speciesare treasures belong to Sabah. In particular, the forest on the east coast and interiors are key habitats for the orangutan, Borneo pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino.

Sabah rivers and watersheds provide crucial ecosystem services to their economic sectors and even to the neighboring countries. It contributes to national economic values from, in the past it was timber industry, and now - as timber harvesting rate is declining- from other industries like oil palm and tourism.

Unleashing the HoB natural capital

To the uttermost of earnestness, The Sabah Forestry Department has been organizing the HoB international conferences to facilitate stakeholders’ discussions on its transition towards a greener economy. The most recent conference “Heart of Borneo’s Natural Capital: Unleashing their Potential for Sustainable Growth” held in Kota Kinabalu mid November, participated by around 1,000 people including 750 official participants.

HoB 2013 conference highlighted the HoB’s natural capital, and the efforts to further unleash their potential, including special focus on promoting economic activities that can be sustainably generated from natural capital. The aim is to identify and implement innovative ventures with responsible financing that could add economic and ecologic value to the HoB.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said natural capital was the foundation of all economic activities and was consequently important that economic development is approached in balance with the sustainable use of the natural capital.

The two-day conference served a place for the continued governmental, scientific, indigenous, and civil society support for transboundary and landscape-scale initiatives that take a multi-sectoral approach. The HoB Initiative an international and regional platform embracing Sabah and Forever Sabah drives tangible actions on the ground, all towards the Sabah sustainable growth.

Exploration of the future of the HoB included a focus on REDD+; spatial planning to enhance conservation efforts; the role of NGOs; training and capacity building; research needs; and communication.

On Forever Sabah, discussions evolved around seven main areas: forests; watersheds and communities; renewable energy; sustainable food and agriculture; waste water and soil; community tourism; and Forever Sabah institution. Forever Sabah is a 25-year solution to support Sabah’s transition to a diversified equitable green economy through institutional changes and capacity building. The Sabah government has taken on Forever Sabah as green economy priority.

Unleashing supports for the HoB Initiative

The government unleashed the political will to continue supporting Sabah, and Sarawak too, in implementing projects and activities under the HoB Initiative. Palanivel explained that Malaysia has committed that conservation of biodiversity is Malaysia’s top priority in the pursuance to become a developed country in 2020.

At the national level, Malaysian government unleashed enabling conditions for the initiatives with The National Council on Biodiversity would soon establish Malaysia’s National Biodiversity Centre function as a think-tank and facilitate and support biodiversity and forestry programmes including the HoB Initiative.

Furthermore with relation to post 2015 Millenium Development Goals, the HoB Initiative has been crossing the path on interests and goals. Both are striving for equitable economic growth and environmental sustainability, this becomes an additional emphasis for the effort on the preservation of natural capital in Borneo, particularly in Sabah.

Through the HoB Initiative, Sabah has increased Totally Protected Areas to 1.3 million hectares or 18% of the state’s land area, surpassing the IUCN target of 10% for countries. Connectivity of existing protected areas has been improved, particularly the corridor linking Maliau Basin, Imbak Canyon and Danum Valley within the greater Ulu Segama Malua, proclaimed as the “Green Heart of Sabah”. Community-based forest restoration has made approximately 470,000 hectares forest greener than before and around 1,400 teachers and children in schools participate actively in Environmental Education program.
Kinabatangan River in the morning light, Sabah, Malaysia.
© Alain Compost / WWF-Canon Enlarge

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