By Irelyn "Princess" Mae Bantilan Libo-on

News Express Issue (His Majesty's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah 56th Birthday Supplement)

Monday, 15 June 2002 at 09:52

Brunei Haze 1997
For two years, Brunei Darussalam experienced an ecological dilemma where the entire nation was blacketed with a thick haze in the late 90's.

The haze that brought the tourism industry and investment inflow to a standstill. Tourists came to Brunei in trickles, and the occupnacy rate of the Sultanate's hotels was at its lowest ebb. Aside from the tourism industry, foriegn investments to Brunei Darussalam dropped drastically.

Vis-a-vis or slash-and-burn
Much more, the people started clamoring: could haze-related illnesses be around years? Barely, after that ecological disaster which Brunei Darussalam and its neighboring nations experienced, the government was opted to makea swift response. Laws was introduced to stop people from conducting open burning vis-a-vis or slash-and-burn environmental protection. Cleaning campaigns were implemented.

The forestry Department undertook tree planting in areas devastated by fire and erosion. His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah's government did not stop on domestic efforts. Under his stewardship, Brunei pushed for a regional cooperation. Brunei Darussalam and the rest of the ASEAN leaders signed an Air Pollution Treaty, the first international agreement on bush fires, on June 10, 2002.  The treaty has been agreed by the ten member-countries of ASEAN which follows the thrust of strengthening their fire fighting forces. It is expected to avert any future spats among ASEAN countries which may be affected by haze in the future.

It should be noted that the haze resulting from forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra blanketed the ASEAN Region, particularly Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia for many months in 1997 and 1998.

Government of these countries experienced diplomatic rows after the first forest fire broke out in 1997, and the haze brought down the tourism industry of the said countries. Negotiations started for transboundary agreement to fight the forest fires.

Merimbun Lake Heritage Park in Tutong District
Lately, His Majesty sent a delegation to Indonesia to participate in the preparation of environment-related documents. Datu Dr. Haji Ahmad Jumat, Minister of Development, led the delegation which took part in preparing documentary papers for consideration and adoption for the fast approaching United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development schedule in Johannesburg, South Africa.

As a member of ASEAN, the Sultanate is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It is also instrumental in the formulation of the ASEAN Strategic Plan on the Environment.

Pulau Selerong, Negara Brunei
Currently, Brunei Darussalam has preserved its vast rain-forests which cover most of the total land area of this oil-rich country. This makes Brunei Darussalam more attractive to foriegn guests. His Majesty's government has conserved such ecological parks as Batang Duri Park in Temburong District, Berakas Forestry Recreational Park, Kuala Belalong Mini Park in Bangar, Luagan Lalak Recreational Park, Merimbun Heritage Park in Tutong District, Sungai Basung Recreational Park, Sungai Liang Forest Recreational Park, Ulu Temburong National Parks, Wasai Wong Kadir and Taman Mini Perayaan Kampong Parit.

Ulu Temburong National Parks

The government has also developed Pulau Selerong, a little mangrove island situated off Brunei Bay. The development and conservation of these ecological parks, gardens and jungles demonstrate His Majesty's strong vision to preserve Brunei as an ecologically viable and sustainable Southeast Asian Nation. As visitors remark, "Brunei is a clean, green country amidst the era of globalisation and age of information technology".