Participants at the Closing Ceremony on 11th August 2018 at the Rizqun International Hotel. 7 from Left in front row is the Deputy Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Brunei Darussalam, Mr Yusra Salleh
Environmental Sustainability and Management
6th – 11th August, 2018
This year’s Third Country Training Programme (TCTP) was held on the 6th to 11th August 2018 in Brunei Darussalam. It was a joint initiative between the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Brunei Darussalam through the University of Brunei Darussalam. It aimed to tackle environmental issues which are increasing at a much faster rate and resulting in extensive biodiversity loss such as excess greenhouse gas emissions, uncontrollable and illegal logging and deforestation, increased industrialization and development, introduced and invasive species spread, overexploitation of natural resources such as fish and more.
Environmental sustainability and management are paramount for the conservation of natural resources. For this reason, efforts on the proper administration of environmental problems such as waste management, creating environmental awareness and using alternative renewable energy sources of energy are vital in the long run for a better and sustainable future.
The main objectives of the Workshop include the following:
a) to disseminate knowledge, promote awareness and increase understanding on biodiversity, environmental issues and management as well as environmental sustainability in line with Sustainable Development Goals.
b) to provide an overview of the key concepts of environmental sustainability, management and policy through presentations, lectures and group discussions.
c) to facilitate hands-on training and exposure to environmental issues through field work and activities.
The Workshop revolved around tropical biology including biodiversity, ecology and conservation of the tropical rainforests and aquatic/marine ecosystems, environmental issues as well as environmental sustainability and management.
The programme was divided into two main activities; Lectures and Field Visits.
The lectures were held on the 6th and 11th August 2018. Presenters were given the chance to share scenarios on any environmental issues that are contributing to the loss of biodiversity in their respective countries as well as any other topics related to the theme of the workshop. The participants shared vast experiences on the areas of environmental policy, waste management (the plastic issue in particular), impacts of development and land use, climate change and effects of human-induced impacts on biodiversity and species existence.
Also, attached to this report is my presentation on Endangered Species. I chose this area as I believe that it is not only a common issue in Samoa but it is because of the need to conserve our native flora and fauna species and our natural resources that we come together as one Commonwealth family to solve environmental problems impacting the survival and existence of these vital natural resources.
b) Field Visits
- Brunei Tropical Biodiversity Centre (TBC) – 7th August 2018
The TBC primarily aims to house digital terrestrial biodiversity information including the microbes for the national references and academic purposes. It also documents information on the wealth of the terrestrial biodiversity to promote strategized efforts on the sustainable use of biodiversity and provide research laboratories in the area of microbes in order to produce customer-driven information to stakeholders.
- Sumbiling Eco-Village Tour – 8th August 2018
The Sumbiling Eco-Village is located in a forest and near river trails on the easternmost side of Brunei. It is home to a wide variety of tropical plants which are well known in Brunei for their medicinal purposes. The tour guides lead the participants approximately 300m around the forest and familiarized us with the different types of plants living in the forest and how the local indigenous communities make use of them in their everyday lives.
- Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre – 8th-9th August 2018
The KBFSC was set up early in 1991 by Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) deep in the country’s unspoiled forest as an international focus for research into the threatened rainforests of Borneo. It is not an area for ecotourism or recreation. The only people who are allowed to visit the KBFSC are research scientists, students who follow educational programmed run by the Centre, approved environmental government officers and other personnel who are involved in the development of the Centre.
We hiked almost 900m up from the KBFSC to where the Kuala Belalong plots are located. Participants were able to learn how to operate different types of equipment used by the KBFSC researchers to monitor plant growth over time. We were also able to learn about the different types of flora and fauna species existing in the forest.
Lessons Learned and Way Forward
The first section is divided into thematic areas based on the major environmental issues that were discussed and identified during the workshop activities.
a) Plastic pollution
The issue of plastics was the main problem identified during the breakout sessions and panel discussions. Participants shared scenarios from their relevant countries on the issue of plastic pollution in their oceans and terrestrial ecosystems. More than 50% of the participants have agreed to increasing awareness on banning plastics in countries as well as enforcing legislations and policies pertaining to the use of plastics in public premises such as supermarkets.
b) Climate change
Human-induced climate change was another major area that drew much attention. Climate change experts from UBD shared with the participants their experiences in reducing human-induced climate change. These activities include uncontrollable logging, deforestation, industrialization and development and extensive use of non-renewable energy resources to name a few. Climate change experts teaching in UBD shared experiences on how to effectively target human-induced climate change through means of policy enforcement and behavioural changing awareness.
c) Flora and fauna conservation
The conservation of flora and fauna species is divided into two main parts known as Ex-situ and In-situ conservation. Ex-situ conservation refers to the conservation of species outside of their natural habitats such as growing plants in nurseries and In-situ conservation refers to the nurturing of species inside their natural habitats such as national parks. Although invasive species is not known to be a major threat in Brunei’s forests, it is in the Pacific Islands. The proper management of invasive plant and animal species contributing to the loss of native flora and fauna species must be well-addressed in-country management strategies and action plans.
- Initiate and implement the banning of single-use plastic in countries. This includes the banning of single-use plastics such as plastic straws and alternate to natural environmentally friendly methods such as the use of bamboo or pawpaw stems.
- Propose to start public and nationwide plastic ban initiatives such as the following:
- No plastic weekends – Due to the fact that most people do their shopping on the weekends, it is possible to minimize the amount of plastic used if plastic use is banned throughout this time of the week in supermarkets, small stores/shops, stalls, restaurants and local markets.
- Sell affordable reusable shopping bags in supermarkets.
- Charge a small fee for plastic bag in large supermarkets and restaurants etc….
- Put in place Plastic policies to officialise and legalize the banning of plastics. This includes proper and effective policy and law enforcement through means of law enforcement officers in all relevant government agencies.
- Limit the amount of plastic imported into the country. The less demand for plastics, the less production.
- Initiate activities that will contribute to reducing climate change effects such as the following:
- Car-free day–The Government of Brunei Darussalam has a car-free day every week where the people travel by foot or bicycles throughout the island. This minimizes the amount of vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.
- Increase percentage of forest cover through tree planting activities and ex-situ conservation of native flora species. Brunei has a total of 70% forest cover and most of its forests are still unspoiled. The more trees, the less carbon in the atmosphere.