Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Brunei explores bio-prospecting potential for Heart of Borneo

By Waleed PD Mahdini

His Majesty's government is currently exploring the potential for 'bio-prospecting' its rich forest and biological genetic resources in partnership with the Japanese National Institute of Technology and Evaluation. According to a report from the World Wildlife Fund that was published yesterday, Hj Saidin Salleh from the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources explained that the report is the first of its kind, which demonstrates that protecting forest ecosystems in the Heart of Borneo (HoB) makes economic and social sense.

"Brunei recognises the tremendous value that the Heart of Borneo represents to the world, in terms of eco-system services and as yet undiscovered chemical compounds.

"The will to protect the area for future generations is very strong, but we need to generate additional financial support to achieve this vision. This report is our first steps to identifying where that support may come from," Hj Saidin was quoted as saying.

The trilateral report was issued by the governments of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia and has been praised as a leading example of how the economic value of forests is being recognised and secured through innovative finance.

Entitled: 'Financing the Heart of Borneo - a partnership approach to economic sustainability', the report outlines three main sources of finance for conservation and sustainable development activities within the 22 million hectares of trans-boundary tropical rainforest on the island of Borneo - known as the Heart of Borneo.

Two of these sources have been calculated for its long-term sustainability, which are in country government-based (royalties, incentives and tax breaks) and market-based (payments for watershed services, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and bio-prospecting). Meanwhile, the more conventional donor funding, which makes up the third source is seen as an interim form of funding to help build the enabling conditions for the first two.

"The new trilateral report sets out a pathway to understand the economic value of HoB's natural capital in terms of the ecosystem services it provides, such as carbon storage, regulating water flow and providing new genetic resources for medicines," the WWF highlighted.

Indonesia's HoB representative, Dr Andi Novianto from the coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs, pointed out that a crucial next step in securing sustainable sources of finance is to mainstream forest and watershed services into its national and local development plans.

Citing a conservation example in the district of Kapuas Hulu in Kalimantan, which is an ongoing initiative supported by WWF, the non-governmental poverty charity organisation CARE and the International Institute for Environment and Development, the watershed protection payment seeks to reward upstream communities for their stewardship of crucial watershed areas that provide a valuable 'service' to users downstream.

"The Kapuas Hulu project is our first 'district level' pilot programme. The long term aim is to encourage all 10 districts in Kalimantan to maintain their forests, in return for which, they would receive financial compensation for the carbon stored, biodiversity protection and ecosystem services that these forests provide the island, country, region and ultimately the world," Dr Novianto said.

Malaysia's contribution was the development of innovative financial arrangements, with the Malua BioBank in the federal state of Sabah, where the local government has licensed conservation rights for 50 years to the Malua BioBank, with a private investor committing up to US$10 million for the rehabilitation of the Malua forest reserve.

During the launch of the report, Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), underscored the need for multinational and multilateral agencies to continue efforts to finance conservation and sustainable development.

"The HoB is proving to be a sound investment. This is important for the negotiators of this Convention as it shows how the ecosystems of HoB can be a part of a sustainable future. It is a call to stop talking, and start acting," said Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf.

Jim Leape, Director General of the WWF commended the financial report as progress since the signing of the HoB Declaration three years ago.

"All three Bornean countries should be congratulated for their commitment towards this trans-boundary conservation programme and the progress made so far. Finding appropriate sources of sustainable finance will be vital to tri-government conservation and development efforts for the HoB. We need to capitalise on the value of nature and mainstream it within economic development plans. It is obvious that protecting ecosystems and biodiversity makes long-term economic sense."

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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