Brunei a valuable contributor to global wetlands database

A file photo of Kuala Balai peat swamp forest. Brunei's pristine mangrove forests and peat swamps can contribute to the database on global wetlands information. Picture: BT

Saturday, March 24, 2012

DESPITE Brunei's small size, its pristine mangrove forests and peat swamps will offer a valuable contribution for the database on global wetlands information.

In an exclusive interview with Ramsar's Coordinator, Partnerships Programme, Claudia Fenerol stated that the nation's forest management can be assisted by the international organisation.

"Brunei is in a perfect position to become a member of the Ramsar Convention," she told The Brunei Times.

"I think that more information globally can be gained by entering into more international processes. And vice versa, much can be learnt from what has been done by Brunei to keep the forest in the state that they are," said Fenerol, adding that Brunei's own specialists can contribute.

Fenerol is optimistic about the possibility of the Sultanate joining the Ramsar Convention. "There has been a discussion and looking at both sides of the coin. I think the government is looking very much into what needs to be done for the membership. The discussion has started a few years ago and is moving forward," she said, adding that the decision may be made soon.

"Brunei, with its many different types of wetlands for such a small country, has much to contribute to the ASEAN region, as well as countries with similar type of flora and fauna, such as in Africa and other places."

"It would be very nice and would be a jewel to the Ramsar family to have Brunei (join)," said Fenerol.

She also stressed on keeping the nation's pristine forests, as it is central to the heritage, culture and people. "It is a long-term investment for the country to keep this," she said.

Fenerol then cited research and development as key to tapping into the wet and rainforests of the country, taking into account their pristine conditions.

"Most of them (forests) have been destroyed or stripped for agricultural or plantation purposes. That is why the Brunei forests are very special," she said.

When asked about the significance of the nation's wetlands for the country in terms of economic value, she said that Brunei can venture into carbon, biodiversity trading and tourism. "An important fact to take into account is that about 60 per cent of the world's tourism is based on wetland."

"If done right, similar to the Galapagos Islands, it can give people an experience they will never forget because there are not many places like it," she said.

Wetlands have appeared as the focal subject in global conservation efforts due to the services they provide to the ecosystem, such as filtering out pollutants or adding nutrients to water.

In Brunei, out of the seven forest types found, three are identified as wetland forests, which includes peatland, freshwater swamp and mangrove forests. These forests cover about 15 per cent of the nation's total land area. Leo Kassim

The Brunei Times