Boosting Sarawak tourism

Posted on : 23 Jan 2019  Source of News: The Borneo Post

Sarawak govt to upgrade facilities at Niah Caves, prohibit quarrying in the area in bid to get Unesco World Heritage site listing  

Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg

KUCHING: The Sarawak government will not issue any quarry licence that will affect the limestone caves of Niah as it has proposed through the federal government to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to list the Niah Caves as a World Heritage Site in 2010.

This assurance was given by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg at the Stakeholders Consultation on the Proposed Forestry Policies here yesterday.

He said Niah Caves have the potential to become a world attraction as on a recent visit to Niah Caves in Miri Division,  he was  briefed on the archaeological evidence of human settlement at the site 65,000 years ago,  based on a joint research conducted by the Sarawak Museum  Department and the University of New South Wales, Australia.

“On record, human settlement in the world is about 40,000 years ago, but Niah has got evidence to show that human settlement there begun about 65,000 years ago,” he said.

Abang Johari added that given there is sufficient evidence to show that early humans settled there more than 65,000 years ago, the Sarawak government has to maintain the national forest around Niah and protect the caves from destruction by quarrying activities.

“I am going to upgrade the facilities in Niah Caves while waiting for it to be listed as a World Heritage Site.

“A Unesco world heritage site (listing) for Niah Caves will give us additional tourism revenue…this is how we can manage our forests and national parks,” he said.

The Gunung Mulu National Park, which boasts the world’s largest natural cave chamber, is the only certified Unesco World Heritage Site in Sarawak.

Abang Johari, who is also Minister of Urban Development and Natural Resources, said in diversifying the revenue base, the Sarawak government is also exploring non-timber forest resources
such as eco-tourism, carbon trading, payment for ecosystem services and community-based forestry as alternative sources of revenue.

“The forests’ cultural, recreational, spiritual and aesthetic values are also significant for both urban and rural population, with about 50 per cent of Sarawak’s population still very much dependent on forests and forest resources for their livelihood and employment,” he said.

On the wealth of Sarawak’s forest biodiversity, he said it has the potential to become the basis for the development of biotechnology industry that could churn out products ranging from nutritional supplements and spices to cosmetics, perfumes and ornamental plants.