Efforts of NGOs humble me, says Masidi
Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manun yesterday disclosed that the State Government is speeding up the implementation of the ‘Corridor of Life’ in Kinabatangan. “We are trying to initiate this Corridor of Life to connect the orangutans and other wildlife with the sanctuary,” he said, adding that the Corridor of life is basically the riparian reserve in the area, which unfortunately many people have opened up for plantations. Masidi said the Government’s focus at the moment was to convince plantation owners to give up the land “because in the first place you cannot alienate forest reserves for plantations”. The land must remain as riparian reserves and these areas are needed to be turned into access for the animals to move from one place to another, he said. According to Masidi, his Permanent Secretary has met with some of the big plantation owners and they have given their word that they will be very happy to cooperate with the Government to help and rehabilitate the riparian reserves. “But we are still talking to them, and among others, Sawit Kinabalu, Golden Hawk and Sime Darby have taken up the offer and shown very positive response to working together with the Government. In fact these companies have taken the initiative to green up their plantations,” he said. “The plantations have also given the assurance that they are not going to open up all their land bank and some of the land will be dedicated to forest reserves.” Masidi also disclosed that there are non-government organizations (NGOs) who are purchasing lands from companies in Kinabatangan to be turned into forest reserves. Some are. locally based NGOs while others are from overseas, he said, adding that he is happy to note that there is a large number ofNGOs from overseas who tirelessly work in making sure that the animals are looked after and can survive. “They have even gone to the extent of raising money to help us and it is a bit embarrassing that we need outsiders to remind us how lucky we are ... and then we have plantations who rake in millions in profit but find it very difficult to agree even to the basic terms and conditions (on forest reserves),” he stressed. “This is how good the foreigners and how bad we are when it comes to this. Sorry to say but lam amazed at the dedication of some foreign NGOs when it comes to preserving the environment. Sometimes when I see what they are doing, I feel I have done nothing. They are doing more than what lam doing in some aspects of it and you feel humbled when you see these people doing so many magnificent things for Sabah,” he said. He also disclosed that recently, a locally based NGO has purchased 50 acres from kampung folks in Kinabatangan to be turned into a forest reserve.