Brunei’s biodiversity still under threat
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
AS BRUNEI continues to develop, its rich biodiversity is increasingly being threatened by human activity.
At stake are the country’s abundant forms of plant and animal life and various species of flora and fauna.
But with the country’s biodiversity having the potential to contribute to the nation’s growth, it also raises the question of whether there will be enough natural resources left to utilise in order to make a significant contribution to the economy.
The issue has come to the forefront as the world today marks the 23rd international day of biological diversity, a United Nations-sanctioned celebration of biodiversity and promotion of its issues.
The global theme for this year according to the United Nations website is ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity; Sustaining People and Their Livelihoods’, which focuses on halting the loss in biodiversity around the world.
Dr Kushan Tennakoon, director of the Institute for Biodiversity and Environmental Research (IBER), said recently that the threats to Brunei’s biodiversity are mainly as a result of human activities.
He said human actions such as unsustainable levels of harvesting certain plant species and, to a certain degree, poaching are the main causes of biodiversity loss in Brunei.
Development projects have also endangered some of Brunei’s unique natural environment in recent years.
A study by three UBD researchers late last year found that construction of the Telisai-Lumut highway and other road construction along the Tutong-Belait highway has threatened the survival of the white sand forests of Tutong.
These forests were found to contain a new plant species that is yet to be recorded elsewhere on Borneo.
Forest fires earlier this year also rampaged through over 800 hectares of forests and peatlands in Belait alone, with much of the blame put on human actions, with arson as the cause.
Forest fires also occurred regularly during that period in Brunei-Muara and Tutong, but no estimates have been given as to the amount of forests destroyed by the fires.
The UBD researchers involved in the Tutong white sand forests study found that the open and exposed areas of the White Sands may not have a lot of species, but its kerangas forests are potentially species-rich and possess medicinal and economic value.
Mahmud Hj Yussof, the chief executive officer of the Heart of Borneo centre in Brunei, revealed recently that the centre is in the midst of conducting joint research with foreign institutions to explore the commercial utilisation of Brunei’s biological resources.
He said the biological industry can become a major contributor to Brunei’s economy in light of the country’s major push to diversify it and reduce its heavy reliance on the oil and gas sector.
“Oil and gas are non-renewable resources while the country’s biological resources are renewable. So by focusing on this area, we can create an industry that is sustainable that will also have no significant impact on the environment,” he said.
“Our ultimate goal is to support Vision 2035, whereby the country will no longer be dependent on the oil and gas industry.”
The Brunei Times