Miri – The draft pre-proposal for a community initiated land and environmental conservation initiative in Ulu Baram was lauded by the Sarawak Forestry Department. The Director of Forestry Department, Tuan Hj. Sapuan Ahmad received the document from the community in a simple handover ceremony at a leading hotel in Miri on 18th February 2017. The handing over was also attended by representatives from SAVE Rivers lead by the Chairman Mr. Peter Kallang and the Keruan Organisation led by its chairman, Mr. Komeok Joe.
The proposed area is located in the north-eastern part of Sarawak, mostly in Upper Baram region while some small parts belong to the sources of the Tutoh and Akah rivers. The affected population of more than 4000 people from 32 villages within the area are from the Sarawak Orang Ulu ethnic groups of Penan, Kenyah, Saban and Kelabit. The approach proposed for the affected area is for a co-management strategy, where the villagers and the government will work together for a sustainable development and conservation.
The area of the proposed zone is 283,500 hectares, 28% of the area (79,000 hectares) is still covered with primary forest and which are proposed to be protected as “core zone” while 23% of the areas are previous and current agricultural land which is classified as “Agriculture Zone”. The remaining 49% is classified as “Buffer Zone” dedicated to sustainable development, conservation and forest restoration projects, creating local income and socio-economic development.
Commenting on the Draft Pre-Proposal, Tuan Hj. Sapuan Ahmad said, “At the department level, we welcome and support the proposal and we will study it. After that, we will give you feedbacks on it and we can assist where it is appropriate. I suggest that you give your final proposal by the second half of this year.”
Mr. Komeok Joe who is just back from leading a team from the forestry department to the proposed areas, said that he was happy to see the positive response from the government and hope that the proposal will be approved speedily. He added, “This is the wish of the people from the areas and it is for the people… they are made up from various indigenous groups. It is for everyone’s good.” Mr. Peter Kallang from SAVE Rivers commented, “This approach allows conservation and sustainable development to be achieved. It is focused on three main aspects, which are social, economy and the environment.” Based on the World Commission on Environment and Development’s definition, sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”