August 12, 2008

Sabah to Get Its First Ramsar Site Soon

By Julia Chan

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah may get its first Ramsar site as early as October this year, during the 10th session of the Conference of Parties (COP10) to be held in South Korea.

The proposal to gazette some 78,803ha of mangrove forest reserve in the lower Kinabatangan-Segama wetlands has been sent to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, from where it will be submitted to the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands.

Japan International Cooperation Agency's Borneo Biodiversity and Ecosystems Conservation programme chief adviser Motohiro Hasegawa, who is co-ordinating the proposal, said that it was hoped that the declaration would be made during the COP10.

"The state cabinet approved the proposal in July and we have sent it to the federal ministry where it will need to be approved before it is sent to the Ramsar secretariat in Switzerland.

"We are hoping it will be in time for the COP10 in South Korea," Hasegawa said during a workshop to discuss information dissemination methods for the proposal.

The Kinabatangan-Segama wetlands will be Malaysia's sixth and largest Ramsar site.

The area will include the Trusan Kinabatangan, Kuala Segama- Maruap mangrove forest reserve and the Kulamba wildlife forest reserve.

It will also have the distinction of being one of the few areas that have animals such as the Sumatran Rhino and the Tembadau wild cattle.

"The area, once designated, is expected to be an eco-tourism boon.

"The awareness of environmental issues and funding efforts for this sector in the state will be greatly enhanced."

Ramsar is named after an area in Iran where the first international convention wetlands was held in 1971.

The convention provides framework for action at national levels, and international co-operation for the conservation and proper use of wetlands and their natural resources.

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