Wednesday, November 16, 2011

DiscoverUBD: Current pace of urbanisation unsustainable (Students' project findings)

Urban Expansion in Brunei is Unsustainable

DiscoverUBD posts highlight articles that have been featured in the UBD newsletter. The following was taken from the third issue (July-September 2011).

Urban expansion has certainly had an impact on two of our districts, Brunei-Muara and Tutong. A project studying the urban expansion for Brunei-Muara and Tutong district uncovered a decrease of approximately 22.6% of forested areas from 1984 to 2009. The study was carried out by students of the Research Methods and Fieldwork module in the Geography department in FASS.

To identify the extent of the forest lost due to urban expansion, the 1984 Forest Map of Brunei Darussalam was compared with the high resolution satellite imagery of 2009. This allowed for the identification of previously forested areas which had since been converted into urban and industrial sites.

The outcome of the results showed that, due to urban expansion in Brunei-Muara and Tutong between 1984 and 2009, about 10,546 ha and 7,283 ha of forest had been lost, respectively. In relative terms this means that in the Brunei-Muara districts the urban areas have expanded from 19.4% in 1984 to a staggering 62% in 2009. Corresponding figures for Tutong are 6%
and 34%, respectively.

The rapid urban expansion was caused by several projects such as the Pulau Muara Besar project, housing schemes, the construction of the Telisai-Lumut highway and the fall-out from the expansion of the Bandar Seri Begawan boundary.

According to the Town and Country Planning Department, only 5% of the remaining space is available for development. This figure accounts only for land area which requires less cost to be developed. Housing is currently the largest development project in the sultanate and has already consumed a huge amount of land compared to other development projects, including industrial and commercial development. Fortunately, the Housing Development Department has come up with the alternative of a vertical housing scheme to minimize land consumption in the country, to meet the increasing demand for housing.

The Town and Country Planning Officer stated that “there is not much land left anymore for further development except forest reserves.” He also added that protected areas were traditionally exempt from development. However, due to increased demand for development, some forested areas might be sacrificed.

He further explained other alternatives such as taking the hinterland area for development if necessary. This matter is subject to permission from the Forestry Department, which is responsible for assessing the environmental issues regarding development in Brunei.

Fortunately, the Sultanate’s initiative to protect the natural environment through the Heart of Borneo (HOB) and other conservation initiatives has helped the country to prevent the loss of much of its pristine forest.

The study of the impact of urban development on the natural environment is important in order to reduce the negative effects of rapid urbanization, as well as to increase awareness of the need for sustainable development.

The study was carried out by Muhammad Hairi bin Abdul Halim, Azimah binti Ahman, Siti Nazurah binti Maidin, Nor Amalina binti Ahmad and Willyza Bibiana binti Ibrahim, under the supervision of Dr. Kazimierz Becek.

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