Sunday, 28 June 2009

River lodge operators band together in a corridor of life


River lodge operators band together in a corridor of life

By : Jaswinder Kaur

KOTA KINABALU: Several lodge operators on the Kinabatangan river are setting up an association to safeguard their interestsand to coordinate the collection of a voluntary fee from travellers who want to do their part to protect the orang utan and other wildlife.

About half the estimated 17 operators have agreed to become members of the Kinabatangan-Corridor of Life Tourism Association (KiTA), which will be launched on Monday, while several others have shown interest.

KiTA protem president Alexander Yee said the idea of an association was mooted by Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia's Corridor of Life project.

Once it gets off the ground, the grouping will collaborate with non-governmental organisations and government agencies such as the Wildlife Department.

"There are a number of issues at the Kinabatangan, including deforestation. Each lodge calls up WWF when they see something that is not right, so one of the things the association wants to do is to encourage its members to collect a RM20 voluntary conservation levy from tourists," Yee said yesterday.

"KiTA can use the money for patrolling, like what is being done by WWF.

"We will inform our members why it is important to collect the levy."

The 26,000ha Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary shares its boundaries with oil palm plantations and villages, leading to human-wildlife conflicts and other environmental concerns such as river pollution.

Yee said KiTA would also sign a Memorandum of Understanding with WWF's Habitat programme to promote tree planting among tourists who stay at lodges in Sukau, Abai and Bilit.

"KiTA also wants to come up with a standard of practices for lodges to follow. Some operators are still dumping dirty water straight into the river as they don't have proper sewage systems. We need to achieve certain standards and we want to be a brand."