UTB offers help in peatland conservation

Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) hopes to play a role in helping provide solutions to conserve the peatland ecosystem in the country through cross-cutting research projects that involve technology and biology, said UTB Vice-Chancellor Professor Dr Hajah Zohrah binti Haji Sulaiman.

She made the statement during the 2nd Brunei-Networked ASEAN Peat Swamp Forest Communities (BRU-NAPC) Dialogue Session under the ICT Virtual Organisation of ASEAN Institutes (ASEAN IVO), National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) at UTB.

Professor Dr Hajah Zohrah highlighted that peat swamp forests – the second most dominant forest type in the country – is still facing threats due to development, peat drainage and fire.

She said the impacts of these threats to the peatland can be seen in the changes of climate, and drained peatland also increases the chances of peat fires thus releasing huge amount of greenhouse gases.

“I understand that the dialogue session is a platform where academics, research students, policymakers, and practitioners discuss their research findings and critical analyses on current issues on peatland,” Professor Dr Hajah Zohrah said.

UTB Vice-Chancellor Professor Dr Hajah Zohrah binti Haji Sulaiman officiating the session. PHOTO: UTB

Hence, she said, through regular academic exchanges among scholars and experts from the public and private sectors, “this human network will contribute to the consolidation for mutual cooperation”, and hoped the session will also bring impactful research outcomes.

Country Lead BRU-NAPC and Assistant Professor at UTB Dr Wida Susanty binti Haji Suhaili touched on the ongoing peatland projects, that began in 2016, by saying that “the research project on peatland has elevated UTB to another level when one of the research deliverables transformed and won the 1st Best NGO in the King Saudi Arabia Award, and showcased in the ASEAN-US Science Prize for Women 2020 as the context for Brunei’s National Finalist”.

The project is one of the approved 2018 initiatives under ASEAN IVO funded by Japan’s NICT aimed at deploying an IoT-based solution for peat swamp forest monitoring, targetting environmental and agricultural issues, analysing and disseminating information using an IoT-based peat swamp forest monitoring system, especially on sustainability, and engaging with the peat swamp forest communities for social innovation.

“The dialogue session is one of the several works done to hopefully get the locals to appreciate and gain an insightful understanding of the need to sustain and mitigate any forest fires in peatland,” Dr Wida added.

Themed ‘Lesson Learned on Peatland within the Region’, the event aimed at raising awareness on the best way forward to manage the peatland. The session brought together experts from local and regional organisations, universities as well as Japanese academicians to deliver their experiences on peatland-related areas.

Dr Hiroshi Emoto of the ASEAN IVO Secretariat, NICT Japan participated in the session virtually, joined by UTB principal officers, researchers and other stakeholders.