Malaysia: Belum Rainforest Summit

100 world experts highlight four points to conserve, manage heritage site
NAIM ZULKIFLI New Straits Times 30 Oct 16;

GERIK: THE inaugural Belum Rainforest Summit this year (BRainS), during which 100 conservationists, scientists and policymakers worldwide discussed pressing topics on the environment, closed last Saturday with the adoption of the “Belum Rainforest Blueprint”.

BRainS was held at the Belum Rainforest Resort in Pulau Banding, here from Oct 17 to Oct 22. Titled “Blueprint for Local Action to Protect and Sustainably Manage the Belum-Temengor Rainforest”, the document was the culmination of six days of expert dialogue that highlighted four areas of vital importance to the Belum-Temengor Rainforest.

Pulau Banding Foundation chairman Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Mohamad said the blueprint was the main purpose of the summit and he wanted BRainS to not be a mere “talk shop” but a proper meeting of minds to ensure measurable actions would be taken as a result.

“A lot of thought and discussion with local and international experts went into the development of the blueprint,” he said.

To address the issues systematically, experts were invited to speak on five focus areas — biodiversity conservation, climate change, funding opportunities, payment for ecosystem services and sustainable resource management.

Among them were International Union of Forest Research Organisations president Professor Dr Michael Wingfield, University of Surrey Centre for Environmental Strategy director Professor Dr Richard Murphy, BirdLife International senior adviser Martin Hollands, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Climate Change Secretariat programme director Dr Jenny Wong, and Jane Goodall Institute Nepal executive director Manoj Gautam.

Fifty-nine papers were deliberated, addressing five current issues as sub-themes — biodiversity conservation, climate change, funding opportunities, payment for ecosystem services and sustainable resource management.

“Although there are many issues of concern, we have kept the blueprint narrow and distilled it down to four vital points,” said Latif.

“The first area of the blueprint addresses the tiger population in Belum-Temengor Rainforest. It outlined steps to be taken to increase the tiger population by 20 per cent within four years by strengthening enforcement on poaching, increasing the amount of prey in the tigers’ home range and conserving the salt licks, which are vital to their survival.

“The second focuses on sustainable management of Belum-Temengor Rainforest. Using the concept of payment for ecosystem services, which has been successfully applied in other countries, it recommends collaboration with the Federal Government to produce a biodiversity fund that can be used to preserve and maintain the rainforest complex.”

Internal stakeholder management formed the core of the third area, where the blueprint called for the formation of new bodies, such as a Belum-Temengor Rainforest Council and a Joint Operation Force to ensure available resources related to the rainforest are optimally used for more effective governance of the rainforest, as well as assisting the Royal Belum state park to achieve the status of a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The final area touched on the importance of youth as key players in the conservation movement, where it pushes for more awareness among youth in Malaysia about the issues faced by rainforest conservationists and urged them to get involved in conservation through participation in activities at the community, state and national levels.

“In its first instalment, the blueprint is naturally very much focused on Malaysia, but we hope that in years to come, it will grow into an international blueprint,” said Latif.

The fact that Pulau Banding Foundation was serious about its intention to mobilise youth in rainforest conservation was highlighted by a parallel youth summit titled “Green Rangers Malaysia — Voices of Youth”, held from Oct 20 to Oct 22 at the Belum Adventure Camp.

EMKAY Group executive director Ahmad Khalif Mustapha Kamal, who is also a trustee of the Pulau Banding Foundation, said the younger generation had an important role in conservation.

“The Green Rangers will continue to reach out to youth as we want to spread the message of conservation as far and wide as possible among the younger generation.”

He said one of the points indicated in the blueprint was the establishment of Green Ranger clubs or similar organisations in schools.

On the final day, participants of Voices of Youth submitted a wish list of what they wanted to see being carried out for rainforest conservation to the main panel of BRainS.

The list will be handed over during the United Nations Environment Programme conference from Dec 12 to Dec 15 in Bangkok.

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