Thursday, August 04, 2005

Sabah to gazette Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary by October

BY MUGUNTAN VANAR

KOTA KINABALU: The gazetting of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary – delayed for six years now – is a step closer to becoming a reality with the state government promising that it will be done by October.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said the relevant notices had been issued and the gazetting process was in the final stages.

“As far as we are concerned, everything should be finalised by next month or the latest by October,” said Chong who is state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister.

Chong was speaking at a press conference held following a state Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

He said Musa wanted him to explain the issues raised in an article in The Star on July 25 concerning delays in gazetting the sanctuary.

The article prompted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to call Musa to enquire about the 100-million-year-old sanctuary that was declared a Gift to the Earth and Corridor of Life in 1999.

Chong, accompanied by senior officials from the forestry, wildlife and natural resources department, said that the process of re-gazetting the sanctuary from a bird sanctuary to a wildlife sanctuary would take time.

“I can tell you that there are a lot of procedures on de-gazetting and re-gazetting, involving departments such as land and survey, office of natural resources, wildlife and the state Attorney-General’s office,” he said.

While admitting that action was taken recently to stop illegal sand dredging in the Kinabatangan river outside the sanctuary, Chong refuted claims that 20% of the sanctuary was under threat from encroachment and logging.

He said an aerial inspection by forestry and wildlife directors on July 27 showed that only 1% of the sanctuary had been encroached on.

“It is clear that of the 26,000ha, only 121ha have been cleared, (and this occurred) a long time ago.

“If you talk of 20% being affected, we are talking about 5,400ha, and that is misleading,” he added.

On the illegal logging issue, Chong said a ground inspection by the officials showed that 31 logs had been removed from the area, of which 16 were recovered by kampung folk who used them for a home-stay project.

“Nine logs were old and only five were fresh logs,” he said, adding that there was no evidence of any “big-, medium- or small-scale logging in the sanctuary.”

Chong said Musa had been clear in his efforts to stop illegal logging and to safeguard the environment.

When the sanctuary is gazetted, he said, the state government would increase the allocation for more wildlife department staff to carry out enforcement in the area.

Courtesy of The Star

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