By : ELAINE MAH
SABAHANS have a commitment and responsibility to their home state to protect its natural environment, said Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun at the Workshop for the Nomination of Danum Valley, Maliau Basin, and Imbak Canyons (DAMAI) as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Attended by civil servants, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and tourism agencies, the workshop was intended to discuss the progress of the proposal of DAMAI as a World Heritage Site.
"We don't have a second Danum Valley, Maliau Basin or Imbak Canyon in Sabah. This is the only one that God has given us so we need to protect it," he said.
According to Masidi, the recognition of DAMAI as a World Heritage Site is important in order to preserve Sabah's natural environment for the benefit of future generations. This recognition will also help make Sabah, and Malaysia as a whole, better known to the rest of the world.
"We now have a chance to safeguard forever the treasures of Sabah. We should take the chance now instead of leaving it to the people who come after us to safeguard them. Therefore, it is always better to insure ourselves, our people and our country from the possibility, no matter how remote, that those who inherit these treasures may not think the way we do about these treasures," he said.
Spanning over 133, 000 hectares, DAMAI is home to some 800 species of birds, a large variety of mammals including the endangered Bornean Pygmy Elephant, the Orang Utan and the Proboscis Monkey, and over 1,800 flora species.
According to the Forest Department, individually, the three areas of Danum, Maliau and Imbak have their own vital functions to the environment. However, there is an opportunity to link these areas to form a wildlife corridor. If protected and managed sustainably, this wildlife corridor will place Sabah at the forefront of wildlife and forest conservation across the globe.
The decision to propose DAMAI as a World Heritage Site was made by the state government in 2010. Following this, a committee was set up to manage and oversee this proposal.
Director of the National Heritage Department, Professor Emeritus, Dato’ Siti Zuraina Abdul MajidAccording to Professor Emeritus Dato’ Siti Zuraina Abdul Majid, who is the Director of the National Heritage Department, there are currently 962 World Heritage Sites in the world, of which only 20 percent are natural sites.
Sabah’s Kinabalu Park is one of 188 World Heritage Sites under the natural sites category. There are 4 World Heritage Sites in Malaysia – Kinabalu Park, Mulu National Park, Melaka and George Town, and Lenggong Valley.
Dato’ Siti Zuraina told the gathering that Malaysia was selected in 2011 to be part of the World Heritage Committee. As such, it is not able to propose any World Heritage Site in Malaysia as this would be deemed to be a conflict of interest. Therefore, according to her, the proposal of DAMAI as a World Heritage Site can only be made in 2015, when Malaysia’s tenure in the committee will end.
She further adds that UNESCO has now tightened the application process, whereby any proposal for recognition as a World Heritage Site must fulfill four criteria. These include the outstanding universal value of the site, its authenticity and integrity, the existence of legal protection, and whether the site contributes towards filling the gaps on the World Heritage Site list.
At a press conference after the workshop, Masidi told reporters that the application process is not going to be easy.
“UNESCO has set a stricter criteria for the listing of a World Heritage Site. They are more selective because they want to make sure that sites that will eventually receive the World Heritage status will be of exceptional quality,” he said.
Masidi adds that the state government will allocate sufficient funds to ensure that the DAMAI proposal will run smoothly.
“Money is secondary. Even if the process is expensive, I am sure that the state government will fork out the sum. We can always make money. But things like this, once it is destroyed, it is gone forever,” he said.
Masidi also told reporters that whilst there is a need to first list DAMAI as a National Heritage Site before it can be proposed to UNESCO as a World Heritage, the title of National Heritage will just be an accreditation. The management and administration of the sites will still be under the prerogative of the state government.
“There will be no changes in the way that it is managed and who manages it,” he stressed. (Insight Sabah)