February 2, 2011
D’Cruz: Sarawak has many areas that can be designated as Ramsar
By ZORA CHAN
SARAWAK has several potential sites to be designated as Ramsar sites including man-made structures like Bakun
Wetlands designated as internationally important under the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, 1971) are commonly
known as Ramsar sites.
Ramsar Convention vice chairman of scientific and technical review panel Rebecca D’Cruz said people often forgot
that artificial wetlands also qualify as Ramsar sites.
Concrete building: Bakun Dam is a potential site for Ramsar.
“Bakun dam is qualified if the state government wants to designate it as a Ramsar site because the convention is
about proper management and wise use of a site for the environment and people. There are many dams in the world
that are Ramsar sites,” she said.
Such a recognition would give the dam brownie points and put it on the world map, she said in a recent
D’Cruz, however, cautioned that a site must be meticulously picked so that any future development would not
cause adverse impact on the site.
“A site is designated according to the importance and functions of the wetlands and therefore, authorities
concerned must select a site properly to avoid mismanagement that would cause one to lose that recognition and
embarrassment,” she said.
Sarawak’s first Ramsar site and the fifth in the country, the Kuching Wetlands National Park, was designated in
2005 but today faced challenges as development like housing estates were being built close to the park’s boundary,
She added that the on-going flood mitigation project would also cause environmental stress to the park.
D’Cruz said areas like Bako-Buntal Bay deserved to be designated as a Ramsar site for its birds, dolphins,
crocodiles, proboscis monkeys and mangrove forests.
“The importance of Bako-Buntal Bay is beyond question,” she pointed out.
Other important potential areas were Maludam National Park, Loagan Bunut National Park, waters off Lawas where
dugongs were spotted and Rajang River, she added.
Sarawak’s rivers were pivotal to the people who depended on them for daily use, transportation and food and the
overall ecology and therefore, deserved to be better conserved for posterity, she said.
She explained that it would be difficult and impractical, for example to gazette the whole Rajang River as a
Ramsar site as the stretch along Sibu town was heavily populated.
“But what the authorities can do is to designate Rajang’s catchment area. The headwaters of the Rajang River –
the source of the river – should be protected. The Government needs to make smart decisions,” she said.
D’Cruz said Malaysia’s sixth Ramsar site, the Lower Kinabatangan Segama Wetlands, was gazetted in 2008 and it
covered 79,000ha featuring natural coastal mangrove, brackish and peat swamp forest systems.
“The Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands is the largest in the country, larger than the other five (Kuching
Wetlands National Park; Pulau Kukup, Sungai Pulai and Tanjung Piai in Johor; and Tasik Bera in Pahang) put
D’Cruz said every Feb 2 was observed as World Wetlands Day to mark the date of the signing of the convention in
the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971.
This year’s celebration would be a big event as the convention is celebrating its 40th anniversary, she
The theme of the celebration is ‘Forest For Water and Wetlands’ which is in line with the UN International Year
of Forests. It hopes to raise public awareness on the important role and co-relation between forests (wet and dry)
Mankind cannot manage without forests, whether terrestrial forests or forested wetlands, given the critical
roles that they play in our lives – for water, for food, for livelihoods, for recreation and much more.