Malaysia: Return flood-prone land, firms told

muguntan vanar The Star 9 Aug 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Over 15,000ha of flood-prone plantation land within Sabah’s Lower Kinabatangan wetlands area should be handed back to the state for conservation, said Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu (pic).

He said the land located along the Kinabatangan River and its tributa­ries would best be conserved because it was unsuitable for cultivation.

“I would now like to see plantations return the land identified as being unsuitable for cultivation, particularly those close to the wetlands, as part as their corporate social respon­si­bility (CSR),” he said.

“This is the most logical solution that will be a win-win situation for all stakeholders.

“The companies will be applauded for CSR and we will be able to reduce human-wildlife conflict and, hopefully, prevent the popu­lation of the Bornean orang utan, proboscis monkeys, Bornean pygmy elephant and hornbills from declining further in Lower Kina­batangan, which is a global biodiversity hotspot.”

He said the state government had previously given large tracts of land to encourage agricultural expansion, and it was only fair that the companies “give a little back to the state” now for conservation.

The flood-prone areas were identified following a study carried out by Living Landscape Alliance (LiLA), the lead organisation for the project now known as Spatial Planning for Conservation and Sustainable Development.

Head researcher Nicola Abram was surprised to find that over 15,000ha of oil palm land in the flood-prone areas was simply not commercially viable.

LiLA worked together with the Wildlife Department, the Sabah Forestry Department and also NGOs Hutan-Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Programme, the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent, Imperial College London and the Danau Girang Field Centre.

“We used satellite images from 2010 to 2011 and did six months of ground work to understand and ensure that the satellite data matched the reality on the ground,” said Abram, the founder and co-director of LiLA.