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 Local

Wetlands restoration reduces effects of natural disasters

27th February, 2017

By MOHD IZHAM B. HASHIM

KOTA KINABALU: The restoration of wetlands can reduce the effects of natural disasters, acting as natural protective barriers against extreme weather conditions such as storms, cyclones and floods, said conservationists marking World Wetlands Day.

President of the Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society (SWCS), Datuk Hj Zainie Abd Aucasa highlighted well-managed, healthy wetland ecosystems reduce risk from natural disasters while being a refuge for wildlife as well as providing food security for communities.

“Sadly, wetlands are often wrongly regarded as wastelands, and are being cleared to make way for development,” he said, noting the SWCS played a leading role in conservation initiatives through mangrove replanting efforts to rehabilitate degraded mangrove areas.

According to Zainie, development continue to pose a major threat to wetlands despite their value and importance, with some countries making the wrongful decision that poverty alleviation is more important than conservation and protecting the environment.

“They are wrong; both issues are equally important because they are linked and they forget that one of the root causes of poverty is environmental destruction,” he said, noting degraded ecosystems would be no longer be able to support life and threaten food security for communities.

In her officiating address, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Hjh Mariam Omar Matusin noted the SCWS has played an instrumental role in spreading the message of conservation and protection of wetlands.

“I’d like to extend every success for the SWCS in its effort to protect wetlands by carrying out impactful on-the-ground programmes,” she said in her speech, delivered on behalf of the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Datuk Rosmadi Sulai.

Through its mission in the rehabilitation of wetlands, Hjh Mariam commended the NGO for its relentless efforts in forming a network among wetland protection agencies in the state as well as nationally while pushing for international recognition of KK Wetlands to continue its role as a model educational site.

With mangrove restoration and rehabilitation being the SWCS’ core activities, Zainie said the SWCS has successfully planted over 25,000 mangrove trees on the total area of 10.52 hectares provided by the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) located in the Sulaman Lake Forest Reserve, within the last five years.

“With the success of the programme, SFD Director Datuk Sam Mannan has agreed to allocate an additional five acres for replanting of an additional 25,000 mangrove trees within the reserve under the programme which saw active participation of students from local and international universities as well as local schools.

This year’s programme held at the Kota Kinabalu Wetlands on Saturday featured various interactive activities and competitions which was participated by secondary students from surrounding schools in Kota Kinabalu, as well as volunteers from local universities and the SWCS.

During the fun-filled occasion, Hjh Mariam took the opportunity to present the top prize to champions of the video making competition to SMK La Salle, while runners-up goes to SMK Bahang , followed by SMK Peter Mojuntin in third place. The competition received submissions from more than 30 schools as well as individuals, with five shortlisted teams making it to the final round.

During his speech, Zainie underlined the needs for inculcating awareness on the importance of wetland conservation which is in line with this year’s theme for World Wetlands Day which is Wetlands: A Natural Safeguard against Disasters.

“I believe through education and public awareness campaigns, the message of conservation will reach a wider segment of the people and educate on the vital role of wetlands especially how it supports life for countless of species as well as communities,” he said.

   
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