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Maliau Basin Conservation Area is indeed important and worth saving.

Maliau Basin Conservation Area....

• is one of the few remaining areas virtually untouched by man – not just in Sabah and Malaysia, but in the whole world!
• contains unusual forest types and a high botanical diversity.
• is a refuge for rare and endangered animals such as Sumatran Rhino, Orang utan, Banteng, Proboscis Monkey and Bornean pygmy elephant.
• boasts extraordinary geomorphological features including an exceptionally high number of waterfalls – probably the highest number of any area in Malaysia.
• is the catchment of one of the headwaters of Sabah’s largest and most important rivers – the Kinabatangan.
• offers unique opportunities for research, education and wilderness recreation and eco-tourism.

Aerial View of Maliau Falls. Photo By J.OmarThe 390 km² (39,000 hectares) Maliau Basin was originally part of a 10,000 km² (one million hectares) timber concession belonging to Yayasan Sabah, an organization formed in 1966 through an Enactment by the State Legislative Assembly, with the objective of improving the standard of living and education of Malaysians in Sabah. In 1981 Yayasan Sabah voluntarily designated Maliau Basin as a Conservation Area for the purposes of research, education and training, along with Danum Valley Conservation Area further to the east.

In 1997 the Maliau Basin Conservation Area was upgraded by the Sabah state government to a Protection (Class One) Forest Reserve and extended to its present size of 588.4 km² (58,840 hectares).

According to the Sabah Forest Enactment, an area under this forest classification cannot be granted timber concession rights. With the publication of the Government Gazette, The Maliau Basin Conservation Area Forest Rules (1998), the legal status and modus operandi of the area were established.

Day to day management of Maliau Basin Conservation Area is carried out by Yayasan Sabah, on behalf of an inter-agency Maliau Basin Management Committee comprising:

• Yayasan Sabah (Chairman) & (Secretariat)
• Sabah Forestry Department
• Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment
• Universiti Malaysia Sabah
• Sabah Wildlife Department
• Sabah Parks
• Sabah Museum
• National University of Malaysia
• Universiti Putra Malaysia
• Universiti Malaysia Sarawak
• Department of Environment Conservation
• Danum Valley Management Committee
• Department of Town and Regional Planning
• World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia
• Academy of Science Malaysia
• Tawau Municipal Council
• District Office Tongod
• District Office Keningau
• District Office Nabawan

The Maliau Basin Management Committee was established in April 1998 with the responsibility to advise the state government on policy in regard to all aspects of management of the Maliau Basin Conservation Area, according to the rules in the gazetted Order. The current Chairman (2004-2008) of the committee is Tan Sri Datu Khalil bin Datu Hj. Jamalul, J.P., who is also the Director of Yayasan Sabah, while Dr Waidi Sinun also from Yayasan Sabah is currently the Secretary.

Maliau Basin Conservation Area is also gazetted under the state Cultural Heritage (Conservation) Enactment 1997, which affords provisions for the preservation, conservation and enhancement of the cultural heritage of Sabah.

In 1999, a four-year project was initiated by Yayasan Sabah in collaboration with DANCED / DANIDA (Danish International Development Assistance) to prepare a management plan for the area and to establish a new facility, the Maliau Basin Studies Centre, at the southeast edge of the Basin, for conservation, research, education and ecotourism purposes.

Maliau Basin Conservation Area Management Project 1999 – 2003

The “Management of Maliau Basin Conservation Area, Sabah, Malaysia” project was agreed upon as a Malaysian-Danish Government to Government cooperation project in the field of environment in October 1998. The development objective of the project was to secure the conservation of Maliau Basin for the benefit of Sabah, Malaysia and the international community.

Danish input provided through DANIDA (Danish International Development Assistance) was further defined and a Danish consultant was selected to be responsible for the actual provision of the DANCED inputs. These inputs and the related conditions were settled in a contract signed October 1999 between DANCED and the consultant, Ornis Consult Ltd. and NEPCon Joint Venture, while Malaysian input was through Yayasan Sabah, on behalf of the Maliau Basin Management Committee.

A Project Steering Committee (PSC) was established to monitor the progress of the project, and to approve all major changes to project implementation. The PSC was thus responsible for the formal overseeing of the project by the Malaysian Government and DANIDA.

Members of the PSC comprised:
• Secretary of the Natural Resource Office of the Chief Minister’s Department, Sabah (Chairman)
• Director, Sabah Forestry Department
• Director, Yayasan Sabah (Sabah Foundation)
• Director, Sabah Economic Planning Unit, Chief Minister’s Department, Sabah
• Representative from Sabah Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment
• Principle Assistant Director, Federal Economic Planning Unit
• Environment Counselor, Royal Danish Embassy Malaysia

A Project Management Group, consisting of the Project Director, Dr Waidi Sinun, of Yayasan Sabah, Research & Development Division, and Chief Technical Adviser, Mr Hans Skotte Moeller, Orinis Consult/NEPCon, supervised a project team comprising both local and international staff.

The four-year project ran officially from October 1st 1999 to September 30, 2003 and the objectives included:
• Establishment of a functional management structure for the Maliau Basin Conservation Area;
• The development of field facilities for research and other activities;
• The production of a comprehensive 10-year Management Plan;
• Enhanced capacity among staff of Yayasan Sabah and other stake holder agencies;
• Raised awareness about the needs for long-term conservation among Sabahans and Malaysians at large; and eventually,
• The successful implementation and institutionalization of the Management Plan.

Side view of the Maliau Falls

Only about 30% of Maliau Basin Conservation Area had so far been explored, and during the Project researchers carried out botanical, faunal, meteorological, hydrological, geological and soil studies as well as detailed mapping surveys.

The project also addressed public awareness and environmental education about Maliau Basin Conservation Area, and its potential for ecotourism.

Agathis Camp