Royal concern for environment
By Sonia K

"Terrible floods, deadly landslides, poisoned rivers, dwindling water supplies and watching our young growing up breathing noxious fumes, these are just some of the painful and lethal legacies that we stand to inherit and pass on to our children and their children."

This was highlighted in a sabda by Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah yesterday during the opening ceremony of the ISB Borneo Global Issues Conference (BGIC) V at the International Convention Centre.

"Our degradation of the environment is also sentencing more species of plants and animals to extinction as we continue to inflict untold damage upon the fragile ecosystems in which they exist," HRH added.

The Crown Princess continued to state that the rising temperature of the earth's atmosphere is bringing with it dire consequences of drought, disease, floods, deadly storms and rising seas.

"We have witnessed these tragic events happening on previously, unheard of scales in many parts of the world, and even the most developed nations in the world have struggled to cope, in the face of the devastation wrought by environmental disasters.

"With the facts and evidence before us, we must begin our efforts now, to reverse the destruction of the environment, before it is too late. There are solutions in sight and we must start by shifting the perception of global warming as in abstract threat, to that of a pressing reality.

"We must promote real action and advocate international laws, that will help to sustain and preserve our forests, seas, rivers and wildlife and ultimately mankind itself," HRH stressed.

The Crown Princess added that since the middle of the last century, the world has undergone a great shift in environmental awareness, which has led to the institution of numerous efforts worldwide by both government and non-government organisations, aimed at protecting the many fragile ecosystems and habitats that make up the earth's natural environment.

"It is now more apparent than ever, that we must balance our goals of sustainable social and economic development, with the need to conserve and protect our natural environment," HRH added.

"All around the world, we have seen the toll on the environment, from the relentless pressure of rapidly growing populations and the unsustainable harvest of natural resources to fuel economic growth.

"Already there are many who are paying the price for unsustainable deforestation, water and atmospheric pollution, the destruction of natural habitats to create arable land and the destruction of marine ecosystems. It is also clear that the fallout from the damage to our environment is affecting everyone on a global scale," HRH said.

HRH's sabda also stated that recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based in Geneva, Switzerland, cited global warming as one of the most serious challenges facing us today.

"With the astounding beauty of our rainforests, the rich bio-diversity of our coastal mangroves areas and our incredible variety of wildlife species, Brunei Darussalam represents an ideal location to discuss this important issue," Her Royal Highness praised.

"Every worthwhile endeavour begins with small steps and big ideas, and that is what this conference has been all about. From its inception as a modest inter-school conference, ISB has pioneered the BGIC to become an international-scale congregation of students from many countries in the region. This is indeed an impressive accomplishment," HRH concluded.

Before the launch, a welcoming address was delivered by Director of ISB, Mr David G Taylor, followed by a sponsor's address from the British High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam, Mr John Saville.

Mr John Saville hoped that the aims of BGIC V, which are to focus on and highlight the visionary and voluntary trans-boundary environmental cooperation, will provide the opportunity for delegates not just from the three countries involved, but also from further afield in the region and to get to know better what the initiative is all about.

"And to begin to understand both how it has direct practical relevance to you and how you personally can help make it work," he added.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Dato Hamdillah bin Haji Abdul Wahab also delivered a presentation entitled "Heart of Borneo - What it is for Brunei Darussalam".

Two special invited speakers - conservationist, author and television presenter Professor David Bellamy and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Professor Wangari Maathai - also each delivered a presentation. (4th March 2007)