Thursday, June 14, 2007

'Big commitment' on Heart of Borneo

By Azrol Azmi, James Kon & Sim YH

His Majesty's Government has decided to manage more than 60 per cent of the country as Heart of Borneo (HoB) territory. This ambitious plan means that HoB in Brunei will incorporate a mix of totally protected and sustainably managed forest, from the interior highlands, all the way to the coast, joined across the Sarawak border to Gunung Mulu and beyond.

"The Bali Declaration is just a beginning for all three countries. Changes are needed which require planning and investment. Whilst Brunei is a small country, making a big commitment to conservation shows a true leadership by example and the government wants the support of national and international parties which includes the scientific community and the work is just beginning."

This was the defining statement made during International Conference Biodiversity Crisis on Tropical Islands, an oral presentation by Mikaail Kavanagh who is a special advisor of WWF Heart of Borneo Programme and Hans Dols who is a geologist with Brunei Shell Petroleum Sdn Bhd on the topic of "The Heart of Borneo: Implementation in Brunei Darussalam" which was organised by the Department of Biology, UBD yesterday.

The move will maintain a natural connectivity of various forest types - ranging from the highlands, through the diptero-carp communities and peat swamps to beach forest - that is fast becoming a great rarity throughout the tropical world.

The HoB initiative is a conservation and sustainable development programme aimed at conserving the last large expanse of contiguous forests on Borneo. The HoB area covers 240,000 sq kms of rainforest that straddles the transboundary highlands of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia, and reaches out through the foothills into the adjacent lowlands where there is ecological connectivity.

On February 12, 2007, an historic declaration to conserve the HoB was officially signed by ministers of the three Bornean governments.

An implementation plan will be produced by each government to fast track progress towards specific goals such as the establishment of new protected areas, restoration of damaged forests, expansion of nature based tourism, development of sustainable resource management plans and institutional capacity building.

These three national plans will then be merged to create a tri-country programme that will guide the collaborative effort and help to generate the financial and technical assistance that will be needed for implementation.

With the support of the Brunei Shell Petroleum Sdn Bhd, the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources is leading the development of a national HoB project implementation framework (PIF) that will form the basis or a road map for realising the vision of HoB in Brunei. The PIF would be drawn up for a period of approximately five months - beginning June 2007 until November 2007 - to plan the overall national approach for Brunei.

Formulating the PIF will involve desk research, field checks and consultations with stakeholders to ensure that the framework will be accurate, effective and in line with national aspirations. The objective of the PIF is to finalise the boundaries, address targets and outputs, programmes and activities, roles and responsibilities as well as funding and institutional responsibilities, to ensure the PIF is in line with the national aspirations through consultation with stakeholders, government, academia, industries, NGOs and others and lastly capacity building in which efforts will be made for the forestry department to spearhead the initiative.

The capacity building activities will include training workshops and travel to other parts of Borneo.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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