Sarawak wants Niah Caves listed as Unesco world heritage site

Research has shown that there is archaeological evidence of human settlement at the Niah Caves site 65,000 years ago, says Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg. (Facebook pic)

KUCHING: The Sarawak government is pushing for Niah Caves to be listed as a Unesco world heritage site, Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg said.

He said this would serve as a catalyst for the growth of the state’s eco-tourism industry.

“A Unesco world heritage site status for Niah Caves will give us additional tourism revenue. This is how we can manage our forests and national parks,” he said when officiating at the Stakeholders Consultation on the Proposed Forestry Policies here today.

Abang Johari said that on a recent visit to the caves in Miri, he was briefed on the evidence that humans had settled on the site 65,000 years ago, and called it a “historic success”.

Abang Johari, who is also the state urban development and natural resources minister, said the state government was 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 populations, with about 50% 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 had the potential to become the basis for the development of the biotechnology industry that could churn out products ranging from nutritional supplements and spices to cosmetics, perfumes and ornamental plants.