State Government Must Ensure Sustainable Growth in Sabah | WWF Malaysia

State Government Must Ensure Sustainable Growth in Sabah

Posted on 14 November 2018
The Sabah Structural Plan 2033 details its comprehensive plans for the environment.
© WWF-Malaysia / Brian Richard
Kota Kinabalu: WWF-Malaysia applauds the Sabah State Government’s commitment to the environment in its 2019 State Budget tabled last week and hopes that this sets the tone for a stronger conservation emphasis in Sabah for years to come. The State Budget’s theme of “Driving Growth for the People” is befitting the needs of the rakyat. Thus, WWF-Malaysia urges the government to prioritise green economy and sustainable growth to ensure Sabah’s environmental and conservation needs are not sacrificed amidst development.

WWF-Malaysia welcomes the government’s concern on climate change, as depicted by its acknowledgement of the adverse climate reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC report recommends the continuous protection of forests, the sustainable use of resources and the non-utilisation of coal. It is WWF-Malaysia’s hope that the government will continue to commit to these recommendations in order to help limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Tourism is an important contributor to the GDP not only for Sabah but for the country as a whole. The earlier announcement by the federal government that it will share 50% of the tourism tax collected with the state government is a positive move for conservation as it allows for an increased capital in the development of Sabah’s tourism sector.

This, and the government’s acknowledgement that tourism plays a major role in the development of the State’s economy is vital, as the link between tourism and the environment is one that cannot be overlooked. As such, WWF-Malaysia applauds the government’s move to continue developing the ecotourism sector in Sabah.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the important characteristics of ecotourism should, among others, minimise negative impacts upon the natural environment as well as promote an increase in awareness towards the conservation of nature.

With this in mind, WWF-Malaysia hopes that the Budget’s allocation of RM57.65 million to be used for the environment will be utilised strategically and effectively. This includes continuing the expansion of Totally Protected Areas (TPA), placing more boots on the ground to ensure that wildlife is protected from poachers, creating wildlife corridors in suitable areas to reduce human wildlife conflict as well as supporting the management of Tun Mustapha Park for the purpose of promoting sustainable fisheries and the protection of biodiversity.

In addition, WWF-Malaysia urges the continued implementation of the Sabah Structural Plan (SSP) 2033, which will benefit not only ecotourism but conservation in the State as a whole. The SSP identifies Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) that ranges from forested areas that are important to biodiversity and ecosystem services, to coastal shorelines where development should be prohibited, as well as designated water protection areas, major rivers and World Heritage Sites.

Through the SSP, ESA will be integrated into land use planning, which will enable land to be managed according to their categories of sensitivity. Under this system, areas falling under the ESA will be categorised into three ranks. Rank 1, which is highly environmentally sensitive, prohibits development of any sort aside from ecotourism, research and education. Rank 2 permits development with a strict set of criteria including ensuring that there will be no net loss of forest biodiversity in areas of conversion. Rank 3, allows restricted development.

The integration of ESA into land use or marine spatial planning in popular tourist destinations such as Semporna will ensure that the growth of tourism there will not be detrimental to the environment.

Access to clean water is integral to human livelihood. As such, WWF-Malaysia commends the State Government’s decision to prioritise the development and provision of water supply to the people. Yet, the continuous provision of clean water can only be achieved through the proper conservation of forested water catchments and river basins. Clouds moving over forests capture moisture in the air, which in turn will “feed” into streams and rivers – providing communities with access to water along the way.

Aside from water, access to land is also vital to communities. WWF-Malaysia acknowledges that the abolishment of the communal grant by the State Government may be beneficial to communities.

At the same time, we urge the government to ensure that land utilisation policies developed now or in the future should be in line with the three principles found within the Sabah Land Utilisation Policy (SLUP). These principles stipulate that any allocated land should ultimately ensure that Sabah’s land resources will provide the basis for the welfare of the population, revenue to fuel socioeconomic development and to sustain ecological and natural resources. 

The development of the State, whether in its infrastructure or economy is key to Sabah’s growth and this development should be governed in a sustainable manner in line with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Accord on Climate Change, and the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) that seeks for a world where people live in harmony with nature.

In a nutshell, the development in Sabah should be carried out as such that areas designated as environmentally sensitive areas are not converted and proper mitigation measures are in place to reduce environmental damage. It is only through sustainable development that Sabah can grow in a holistic manner that is ultimately beneficial to the rakyat.

- End -

For more information, please contact:
Elaine Clara Mah
Tel: +6088 262 420 Ext. 121
The Sabah Structural Plan 2033 details its comprehensive plans for the environment.
© WWF-Malaysia / Brian Richard Enlarge