Call to develop culture of conservation & protection
By Azaraimy HH

As Brunei is in the forefront of conservation efforts in the region with its forest resources being managed in a sustainable manner, His Royal Highness Prince (Dr) Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office urged the country to "strive towards developing a culture of recognition of the importance of environmental conservation and protection".

The Crown Prince in his sabda last night during the opening of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) workshop, said, "Environmental education is at the heart of such a goal. UBD's Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre (KBFSC) is a focal point for environmental education and research in the country.

HRH hoped that the ASEM Workshop would be able to generate extensive global interest in the KBFSC for teaching, training and research on climate change, so that we may further enhance our understanding of its impact on biodiversity and our tropical rainforests.

The ASEM workshop, which has attracted 44 undergraduates from universities in Europe and Asia, began yesterday with the theme "Towards Understanding the Impact of Global Climate Change on Biodiversity and Tropical Rainforest" hosted by Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

The workshop, said HRH the Crown Prince, was part of the new initiatives of ASEM during the Seventh ASEM Summit in Beijing, in October 2008, with the aim to promote intercultural exchanges amongst youth from two regions and to heighten awareness of the environment and other global challenges.

The UBD Pro-Chancellor said the theme of the workshop is very relevant. "In the context of the current global initiatives and particularly the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, this workshop could not have been more timely," he added.

"Global climate change is a phenomenon that impacts on the lives of all humanity. Last year alone, we witnessed how climate change has been a major factor in the increasing frequency of natural disasters as we also saw how the world experienced shortages of food that led to the global food crisis of 2008.

"We in Brunei Darussalam believe that this global challenge requires urgent solutions at the regional, national and international levels," said the Crown Prince.

"Brunei Darussalam is blessed with some of the most wonderful natural ecosystems and pristine tropical rainforests on the planet. Its locality on the island of Borneo is well regarded as an area with an amazing diversity of plants and animals.

"We are proud that up to 58 per cent of our landmass is under conservation, where our forest resources are being managed in a sustainable manner.

"We are also actively involved in regional conservation initiatives with our neighbours in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, with the Coral Triangle Initiatives; and together with Indoensia and Malaysia in the Heart of Borneo Project," he added.

The Crown Prince reiterated that it would be a challenge to maintain our forest resources as there are many issues affecting forests and forestry in this region and elsewhere.

These include declining forest cover, land degradation, and illegal logging.

The older challenges, HRH said, now converge with newer ones, such as climate change, the preservation of food security, management of biodiversity outside protected areas, payment of environmental services, and violent conflict in forested regions.

In concluding his sabda, the Crown Prince said, "I hope this important workshop facilitated by the distinguished academics and practitioners present here, will provide a forum for sharing ideas, perspectives and strategies, that aim to affirm the role of forests with regard to sustainable development and in developing measures that will mitigate climate change."

HRH congratulated UBD and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for jointly organising the workshop and hoped the participants would gain valuable cross-cultural experience thorough interaction and intellectual exchanges with their colleagues. - Borneo Bulletin (5th January 2010)