UBD gears up to go green
By Narissa Noor

Universiti Brunei Darussalam has gone green proclaiming "UBD Can! Reduce, Reuse and Recycle".

His Royal Highness Prince (Dr) Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, in his capacity as the Pro-Chancellor of Universiti Brunei Darussalam, officially launched UBD's 2009 Convocation Festival yesterday as well as the UBD Green Project.

Apropos of the climate changes that have increasingly become an unavoidable issue in Brunei, the UBD Green Project maps out over half a dozen green initiatives by the student body with full support from the university and the government.

"The UBD Green Project comprises several initiatives that not only protects the environment but raises awareness for a more sustainable development," said UBD Vice Chancellor Dr HJ Zulkarnain Hj Hanafi at yesterday's launching.

"This is a long term initiative," said Dk Dr Nurolaini Pg Haji Md Kifli, the Dean of Students.

"We already have plans to keep this effort going such as workshops on forest rehabilitation, student initiatives to plant 100 trees, and we're beginning to encourage UBD students to carpool or use bicycles.

"We're also banning the use of plastic bags on campus and selling in its place reusable bags," she added.

Declaring UBD's commitment in addressing rising global issues and climate change, the vice chancellor shared UBD's vision, which runs parallel with various international declarations such as the 2005 Kyoto Protocol under the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change, which involves 37 industrialised countries. Under protocol, the 37 countries are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 per cent by 2012.

Later this year, Copenhagen will host the UN Climate conference during which 170 countries will define the new Climate Protocol also known as the Copenhagen Protocol addressing issues of global warming and climate change.

UBD's own long-term initiatives, albeit on a smaller scale, is significant to the national effort. Some of the green efforts include the 'Plant 100 Trees for a Cause' project.

"So far over 40 students have bought tree saplings to nurture and plant on campus," Dk Dr Nurolaini told the Bulletin. "The vice chancellor himself has adopted five saplings which he intends to plant and maintain on the campus."

Other initiatives include 'Towards Less Plastic Use Around Campus', 'Pledge for UBD Environment Challenge', 'It's Fun to Use Bicycle' campaign, 'Trash into Treasure' competition, and the UBD Green Initiative Workshop for Forest Rehabilitation.

"The protection and development of the environment is everyone's responsibility," said the vice chancellor.

"I hope today's exhibition will act as a mechanism to channel awareness and knowledge to the community on the importance of protecting our environment."

The Minister of Education, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Lela Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Abd Rahman Dato Setia Hj Mohamed Taib, applauded UBD's efforts and emphasised the importance of environmental awareness within the education system.

Speaking to the media, he said: "It is part of the curriculum to ensure that students are aware of the environmental issues. At the ministry we are very conscious of them and it is part of our curriculum to ensure that our students are aware of the need to keep the environment green."

After a tour of the various exhibits at the university's Chancellor Hall, the Crown Prince, leading by example, planted the first sapling.

Speaking on the 'Plant 100 Trees for a Cause' project, Dr Kamariah Abu Salim, Director of the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre, emphasised the importance of the proper rehabilitation of the vegetation lost due to forest fires.

Two months ago, amidst the thick haze that had engulfed much of the country, forest fires blazed around UBD, which Dr Kamariah accounts partly to the nature of the forest itself.

"The campus is surrounded by a unique forest type called the 'kerangas forest' that is highly prone to forest fires because of the natural habitat," she said.

"They grow on sandy soil and cannot retain much water and nutrients. Leaves that fall stay on the ground for a long time and are not easily degraded due to the conditions of soil."

However, the rehabilitation of these burned areas is not an easy feat according to Dr Kamariah.

"It needs careful planning, skills, expertise. We have advised the students that they cannot introduce any type of vegetation into this type of forest because they might not survive.

"We've asked the university's estate department to identify areas that will be used for future construction and, from surveys conducted by the students, have identified several types of saplings that have been carefully removed and housed in UBD's own nursery and to be planted around UBD," she added.

Students have also set up a blog (ubdenvironmentchallenge.blogspot.com) where they and the community can make a pledge to help save the crippling environment by choosing one of many initiatives such as not leaving the tap running while brushing your teeth or spending one less minute in the shower.

Meanwhile, other organisations and government departments also used yesterday's launch to promote their own environmental initiatives.

Baiduri Bank sponsored over 2,000 reusable bags to the university.

"We will be promoting this initiative to our own staff as well," said Veronica Chong, Senior Manager of Human Resources.

"It is part of our CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative to expand our environmental efforts through internal awareness programmes," she added, with the hopes of infecting customers with the "green" bug as well.

Also part of yesterday's exhibition was the Environmental Planning and Management Unit.

"Reduction of plastics is the unit's focus right now," said Environmental Officer Yusrin Hady Abdul Ghani. "But it's a slow process," he admits, also revealing that environmental legislation is currently in the pipeline. - Borneo Bulletin (20th October 2009)