Friday, 1st February, 2002
'Kinabatangan Floodplain Qualifies As Ramsar Site'
By Kan Yaw Chong

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah's Lower Kinabatangan floodplain easily qualifies for a Ramsar Site status - the wetland's equivalent of World Heritage Site, says Murugadas T. Loganathan, Senior Technical Officer with Wetlands International Malaysia Programme.

Murugadas was here Thursday to present a paper entitled "Wetlands - Their Significance and Economic Benefits" at the Forum on Sustainable Management of Eco-tourism in Wetlands: The case of Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain.

"Just close your eyes. It definitely qualities because of the sheer number of animals, whether endangered or endemic to the country or the region,: he noted.

"It also has high values for fish, water birds and if you look at other criteria such as unique habitats supporting globally endangered and endemic wildlife and functions of wetlands, it definitely qualifies," he pointed out.

About 130 countries, including Malaysia, are members of the Switzerland-based Ramsar Convention-the world Ramsar Site conferring authority.

In all, there are about 1,000 Ramsar Sites in the world covering an area of 90 million hectares but Malaysia has only one on that list - a lake in Pahang, although the Ministry is looking at five more in Peninsular Malaysia.

However, Wetlands International Malaysia had sounded to the Ministry about the "potential" of the Lower Kinabatangan.

He said the "add-on values" of Ramsar Site status will further its conversation cause through augmented global inputs in terms of fund raising and international collaboration.

He said the State has all the scientific data pertaining to the area to make its case.

"All you need to do is fill in the information sheets. We'll put in the paper into Ramsar Convention through the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology," he "aid.

"But the State has to give its approval. Somebody has to talk to the top leaders and advise them to nominate us," he said.

"A Ramsar Site could be a forest reserve, a state park or totally protected area, so long as it is managed sustainable.

"The important thing is the ecological integrity of the site has to be taken care of. If they feel that a site loses its ecological integrity or character, one option is to restore it or designate another site of equal importance," he said.