Biodiversity in Borneo
The Japanese government, private-sector business and NGOs are involved in many activities designed to conserve biodiversity not only in Japan but in countries all round the world. Using the government's Official Development Assistance (ODA), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is implementing technical cooperation projects for this purpose in a number of developing countries. One example, launched in 2002 and ongoing, is focused on Sabah in the island of Borneo.
The tropical rain forest that extends across Sabah, Malaysia's second-largest state, is one of the three largest rain forests in the world, and is said to be home to more than half of all known species. But the forests of Borneo are quickly disappearing due to logging and plantation projects, and the area protected within Sabah represents only 5.2% of the state's territory, a figure that compares poorly with the 14.1% of Japanese territory given over to national parks, and the 8.8% of the world's continental land mass that is protected. Many plant and animal species are headed for extinction, including the orangutan, the proboscis monkey and the Asian elephant. In light of the severity of this threat, in February 2002 JICA initiated the Bornean Biodiversity and Ecosystems Conservation Programme (BBEC). Designed to create a comprehensive and sustainable approach to the protection of the wild, this project is supervised by a steering committee and consists of four components: research and education (Universiti Malaysia Sabah), park management (Sabah Parks), habitat management (Department of Wildlife) and public awareness building (Science and Technology Unit).
"Phase One was centered on front-line activities and was concluded in January 2007, so we already have some results," reports Kanda Tsuyoshi, of JICA's Global Environment Department. "In research and education we've opened an Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation in Universiti Malaysia Sabah to provide training and education for human resource and capacity development. For park management, a new plan has been drawn up that brings local participation into park management. For habitat management, new conservation zones have been created and local people have been encouraged to get involved in eco-tourism and wildlife monitoring. In the area of public awareness, we've produced a model for environmental education, of which there was none previously, and we've increased PR through the media on the need to protect biodiversity. Together, these outcomes have helped create a common platform at the front line in each of these areas, to support the conservation of biodiversity."
Kanda went on to explain that the main aim of Phase Two of the project, launched in October 2007, is to strengthen the measures taken by the Sabah state authorities, something not covered in Phase One.
"To ensure smooth progress in front-line conservation activity, a body is needed that can coordinate among all the government offices involved. The Biodiversity Centre was opened in May 2008 to integrate and coordinate conservation activities. The aim here is to create an administrative system for conservation activities based on the Centre by the conclusion of Phase Two in 2012."
Also in Phase Two, following on from Phase One study groups are being organized at Universiti Malaysia Sabah for people from business, academia and government, and plans are in hand for larger scale environmental education programs for the general public.
Along with this project in Borneo, JICA is now running similar technical Cooperation projects in Samoa, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Thus, the Borneo project is a template for spreading know-how on biodiversity conservation round the world.