Sabah will focus on expanding marine and land protected areas as part of efforts to boost sustainability under the state's Budget 2023, says Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor.
The Chief Minister said RM6.92mil will be allocated to environmental protection to draw up strategies, programmes and action plans for the state to incorporate key elements of sustainability.
In order to incorporate environmental aspects into the socioeconomic planning and development of the state, Hajiji said efforts to gazette the expansion of marine protected areas will begin next year.
This will include Pulau Mengalum and Pulau Ligitan, he added when tabling the state budget at the assembly sitting here on Friday.
As for land areas, he said the state government will also gazette the former Mamut copper mining area in Ranau, Long Pasia Highland in south-western Sipitang district as well as the forest areas along the Keningau-Kimanis road in Papar.
He said a further RM26.41mil would be allocated to the Wildlife Department for conservation activities including operations, enforcement activities and implementation of wildlife awareness and protection programmes, besides managing human-wildlife conflict.
"New initiatives have been introduced such as establishing the Rapid Response Team, taking active approaches to increase elephant habitats in Tawau, and the collaboration between the state government and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council Green Foundation to monitor wildlife populations and protect endangered species," he added.
He said a total of RM118.88mil has been allocated for the state Forestry Department and Biodiversity Centre that also contribute to the development of nature-based tourism.
"The Forestry Department will implement two new projects: Sandakan’s Pulau Berhala Forest Reserve Eco-Tourism and Management Project, as well as the Kem Cinta Alam Project in Paitan’s Forest Reserve," he said.
Hajiji said the Biodiversity Centre will continue the Sabah Atlas Biodiversity development programme, and nominate the Sukau-Kinabatangan area as a Unesco Reserve Biodiversity Site.
It will also conduct a study on the state's Biotechnology Development Roadmap for next year.
Hajiji said the focus on the environment was to ensure implementation of social and economic development guarantees and a sustainable environment for the people’s prosperity.
"The management and environmental governance are in accordance with environmental themes consisting of land, air, water, biodiversity, and social," he said when tabling the proposed RM5.138bil budget.