June 27, 2008

WWF Hails Borneo Conservation Initiatives

By Dr Dionysius Sharma

WE had hopes the 9MP Mid-Term Review would spell out more specific strategies and action plans. The review pledges to incorporate environmental issues in a holistic and integrated manner.

WWF would like to see rigorous implementation of the Strategic Environmental Assessment framework and greater stakeholder participation in development planning.

We are most encouraged to hear that two large conservation initiatives - the Central Forest Spine (CFS) and the Heart of Borneo - will be carried out by the government.

These are crucial initiatives that will see the designation of forested areas as protected areas and the establishment of ecological corridor.

The CFS initiative will also provide the necessary impetus to implement various recommendations of the Peninsular Malaysia Highlands Study by the government.

The Heart of Borneo tri-national initiative will pave the way for conserving and managing contiguous tropical forest on the island of Borneo, which is vital for maintaining the area's valuable biodiversity.

Species protection has scant mention in the review.

There must be greater efforts to counter the threats caused by development activities, forest fragmentation and illegal wildlife trade.

Given the ecological importance of large mammals and their vulnerability to extinction, strategies geared towards increasing baseline data collection and monitoring of priority species need to be put in place urgently.

And to meet the environmental objectives underlined in the review, it is crucial these efforts are financed - whether the initiatives are led by the Federal or state governments.

* Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma is executive director and chief executive officer of the World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia

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