Sustainable Island Programme to encourage sustainable tourism

Date May 21, 2009

The Sustainable Island Programme (SIP) 2009-2010 was approved by Sime Darby Plantation (SDP) on January 19, 2009, as a continuation of conservation efforts in 2008. A joint collaboration between Wild Asia (WA) and Reef Check Malaysia (RCM), SIP’s vision is to promote sustainable destinations and responsible island development between the private sector, local communities and the Government.

The objectives of the SIP are to create the awareness about the fragile marine ecosystem, while at the same time highlighting the negative impact on the reefs and communicating these findings in order to develop holistic strategies to conserve and protect them.

A much more comprehensive and extensive programme this time, the activities under SIP 2009-2010 encompass the following:-

  • Underwater reef monitoring surveys covering more dive sites and more islands to determine the impact and pressures on the reefs.
  • Community outreach programmes through schools to instil the awareness amongst children and create a sense of responsibility towards the environment.
  • Eco-checking island resort operators to identify environmental concerns and suggest ways to improve their practices to mitigating them.
  • Marine water quality monitoring to supplement data gathered from reef surveys.
  • SIP workshops to engage the private business sector (i.e. resort operators) to promote and share the best practices of responsible tourism.

Eco-checks on resorts

WA has aligned its Responsible Tourism Awards checklist with the first global standards called the Sustainable Tourism Criteria, which was launched by the Rainforest Alliance, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Foundation, and United Nation’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) at the World Conservation Congress in October 2008.

Over the month of March and April, WA eco-checked a sample of willing resorts on Perhentian and Tioman islands using the revised checklist. The criteria serve as the minimum standard that any tourism business should aspire to reach in order to protect and sustain the natural and cultural resources – the very essence of tourism!

Using the checklist to eco-check resorts in Perhentian and Tioman Islands yielded insights on not only the negative impacts the resorts’ operations create on the environment, but also the challenges the operators face in dealing with them, especially with regards to effective solid waste management, sewage treatment and managing sustainable water consumption.

Water quality monitoring

Upon reviewing the results of last year’s reef surveys, RCM and WA mutually agreed that conducting marine water quality tests at the same survey sites would better support the findings and assist in identifying the root causes behind the stresses that coral reefs are facing.

The first round of water quality monitoring has been carried out in Tioman Island (on April 3-5, 2009), particularly along Salang River, which is an important mangrove ecosystem. The next batch of marine water samples will be taken from Perhentian Island’s 10 reef survey sites from May 8-9, 2009, around the same time a group of certified EcoDivers will be conducting underwater reef surveys there.

The samples will be sent to an external lab where they will be tested for 11 physical-chemical parameters and 2 biological parameters, results of which will be interpreted using the Interim Water Quality Standards from the Department of Environment, based on the Malaysian Marine Environmental Quality Parameters.

2 Responses to “Sustainable Island Programme to encourage sustainable tourism”

  1. Eco Resorts said:

    Great that there is more movement towards ecotourism. This program is very extensive and specific! i hope the rise on eco resorts and green travel continues, it’s about time that this becomes a priority!

  2. debby said:

    The term Eco Resort has really caught on in the tourism industry. Consumers now have to be discerning that service providers are not green washing. By asking a simple question like “how are they eco?” can make a lot of difference. For example, Hilton’s Batang Ai Eco Resort is far from the assumed meaning of what is “Eco”. Built on the edge of a dam and then poisoning and fumigating the local wildlife out of their compound is hardly bringing guests close to nature in the manner that is appropriate.

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