FDS: Proposed Upper Baram Forest Area not endorsed yet, only submitted for approval

Hamden Mohammad

KUCHING, Dec 17: Sarawak Forest Department (FDS) director Datu Hamden Mohammad explains that it is premature for several environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to declare that the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) has endorsed the proposed Upper Baram Forest Area.

He said the announcement was incorrect as FDS has only submitted the project titled “Management of Upper Baram Forest Area for conservation and sustainable development with involvement of local communities, Upper Baram, Sarawak” for approval to ITTO but has yet to receive any funding.

“Approval by ITTO does not indicate commitment of funding because the fund for any project must be pledged by at least two donors from donor member countries. If there are no donors, then the Upper Baram Forest Area project is unlikely to be implemented,” Hamden pointed out in a statement issued here today.

Additionally, he asserted that FDS and the state government have never used the name “Baram Peace Park” to refer to the project area.

“It is only the name used and held by the NGOs,” said Hamden.

Hamden was commenting on a statement by SAVE Rivers chairman Peter Kallang yesterday that the said area has been endorsed by ITTO.

Peter had said that it was a breakthrough for several NGOs and the local people in the Upper Baram Forest Area, also known as the Baram Peace Park, after six years of hard work.

“The communities welcome the Sarawak Forest Department’s initiative and the ITTO’s endorsement. The official endorsement of the Baram Peace Park/Upper Baram Forest Area by ITTO plus full participation of the indigenous and local communities will ensure there is sustainable forest management in the area.

“It will also to ensure that the forest is properly managed to support the livelihood of the local community,” Peter told DayakDaily yesterday.

He added that the twin goals of forest conservation and sustainable development for the area was developed by FDS in collaboration with local communities and civil society organisations.

Peter said the initiative had received support from local and international civil societies such as KERUAN, SAVE Rivers, Bruno Manser Fund and The Borneo Project, before it was taken up by the Sarawak government under former Chief Minister the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem in 2015.

To ensure that the project is successfully implemented, ITTO would have to raise USD814,128.00 (RM3.3 million).

Once endorsed by the state government, the Baram Peace Park would be the second community-initiated project in Sarawak to promote conservation and sustainable development on such a scale, the first being the Pulong Tau National Park proposed by the Kelabit community in the Northern Highlands in the early 1990s. — DayakDaily