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New Sabah Times

Need for legislation on Biological Treasure

19th. September, 1998


KOTA KINABALU: An effective legislation is needed to help protect the intellectual property rights of citizens and regulate the commercialisation of the biological treasure of the State.

"All government officers, members of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academicians and community representatives must seek to ensure that bio-prospecting; eco-tourism and other ways of making money from the environment do not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs," said Culture, Envi-ronment and Tourism Minister Datuk Wilfred Bumburing yesterday.

According to him, Sabah is facing many cultural and ecological challenges, and in the course a few decades, people would be in danger of losing the plants and animal diversity on which they depend on.

"Over the next generations, the traditional botanical knowledge that local communities have built up over several millennia will be slipping away. And we are failing to train enough qualified professionals who can seek solutions to these problems," he said at the launching of the People and Plants Ethnobotany manual here.

Bumburing said that although the term ethnobotany might sound new to many people, it was an integral part of many government programmes in the State.

"The most notable example is the Projek Etnobotani Kinabalu, known as the PEK, which was launched in 1992. The project focuses on promoting and ensuring the continuity of local ecological knowledge of the Kadazandusun and other ethnic communities," he said.

"I should add that many groups have launched ethnobotanical projects and their efforts have been fruitful. We also feel that it is critical to institutionalise these initiatives to ensure that short-term ethnobotanical projects become a permanent part of Sabah's drive towards economic development," Bumburing said.

“As a state that has always relied heavily on its natural heritage, it is essential that we maintain the diversity of resources,” he added.

Apart from providing models for the appropriate management of critical habitats, he said, there is a need for ethnobotanical approaches to help formulate government policies.

Bumburing also said that the State Government had recognised the value of developing viable ethnobotanical research programmes in collaboration with the communities.

“Although some people may feel that modernisation means turning back on traditional lifestyle, projects like the ones I have described show that traditions are essential to our future," he added.

The Board of Trustees, WWF Malaysia, Tengku Datuk Dr Zainal Adlin said the manual, Etnobotani, which is written in Bahasa Malaysia, would be accessible to a wide range of people across the region.

"It is the beginning of our work together to explore innovative methods of promoting sustainable use of plant resources and reinforcing local knowledge of our natural world," he said.

According to him the manual provides access to information and training on ethnobotany, conservation and development for colleagues throughout Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.

He said that the ethnobotanical research must be designed and carried out jointly with community members and to be shared on an equitable basis with local people and colleagues throughout the world.

Copyright 1998, New Sabah Times, Sabah, Malaysia. All Rights Reserved.

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