Monday, 14 November 2011

Don't be hasty in eco-tourism bid

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey

PROPER planning and management is needed for Sungai Ingei Protection Forest to become a national park, said a senior lecturer at Univerisiti Brunei Darussalam.

Dr Joseph Charles, who is also the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey project leader, said steps must be taken before eco-tourism is introduced in the area to prevent disasterous consequences.

The two-year survey will help the team of scientists working on the project to push for the classification of the Sungai Ingei Protected Forest into a national park.

This will set clear guidelines as to how the government can introduce sustainable eco-tourism in the area, a potential boost to the economy and creating better appreciation on the nation's green environment.

Dr Charles, however, said the word "sustainable" is open to abuse. "People use it and they do not know what it means," he added.

"We have many examples of poor management in other parts of Brunei and lack of communication between ministries and departments," the scientist said.

He an gave an example of the clearing of mangroves along the riverside near the Bengkurong village in May last year, which drove away the proboscis monkeys and endangering its population.

Dr Charles said the team is passionate about Sg Ingei because "we do not want anything that happened elsewhere to happen here, otherwise we have destroyed every part of Brunei".

Apart from thorough planning, tourist guides need to be well informed and trained. He added, "When you bring tourists, you are not just showing them the place, you are showing them how proud you are of that place. If you are proud, you must also think in terms of its sustainability."

He explained that whatever natural resource on display to tourists must maintain its beauty for many years to come. "By showing the resource, if it deteriorates in its wonder and beauty, then you are more or less committing suicide," he said.

"If we can have trained personnel and properly managed recreational eco-tourism facilities, then this will be (very good) and this can only come after proper planning, management and training," Dr Charles said.

The survey's Project Administrator Dr Ang Bee Biaw said she believes that the forests will give long-term sustainability. "If you log a forest, you gain short-term benefits and only a few (logging) companies will gain. If you protect the forests and you bring in properly managed eco-tourism, it will carry on for years and generations to come," she said.

Dr Ang added, "What is most important is we must have properly trained eco-tourism guides, who are well informed and know what they are talking about and proud of what they have in Brunei."

Commenting on the Bengkurong example, she said the proboscis monkey population will not be able survive long, as they move to an area with poor foliage, "there is not much food left (for them) and it was a sad scene to see".

"It is important to have a sense of pride of what we have in our country, and if you have pride, you will protect it," she added.

Dr Ang said members of the survey team are all volunteers. "We come here because we love the place. We are lucky to have a monarch passionate about forest conservation, but we need proper planning and management. Get input from people who live and work here, and those who know what we have in Brunei. I know many Bruneians who are proud of our heritage," she added. The Brunei Times

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