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Oleh Chris Maskilone

Yahiya (second left) presenting a memento to Roselan, while BEBC, Sabah Head of SME and Kota Kinabalu Chairman, NK Foo (third from left) as well as DID Sabah section heads look on. SNT Pix/Chris Maskilone

KOTA KINABALU: The BIMP-Eaga Business Council (BEBC) Malaysia hopes to work closely with the State government to transform waterway and rivers into an eco-tourism niche market.

BEBC, Malaysia Chairman Datuk Roselan Johar Mohamad said the intrinsic values of Sabah’s rivers and waterway has always been overlooked.

“The BEBC intends to glorify these values by proposing the concept of high visibility.

Yahiya (second from left) listening to Roselan’s presentation during the meeting.SNT Pix/Chris Maskilone

“Our rivers and waterway must be visited to be noticed, and ought to be developed to attract attention,” he said.

Roselan pitched the business proposals during a meeting with the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) Sabah Director, Datuk Ir Haji Yahiya Awang Kahar at Wisma Pertanian here on Wednesday.

He said BEBC was seeking assistance from the DID to identify locations along waterways in the State that possess touristic values

An example of a modern version of log cabin that can be built along the river. SNT Pix/Credit BEBC Malaysia

Once identified, Roselan said BEBC can get its investors to set up log cabins equipped with modern facilities and cater for the discerning visitors.

“Our waterways are an ecological niche and it has to be developed that way. A high degree of pampering services are required to lure the monied tourists,” he said.

“Building ‘flying fox lines’ and ‘zip-lines’ to criss-cross our rivers would be interesting while canopy walking is also another venture worthwhile to be considered,” he said.

Roselan (seated right) and Yahiya (seated middle) together with DID Sabah section heads and BEBC, Sabah Head of SME and Kota Kinabalu Chairman, NK Foo (standing first right) in a group photo after the meeting. SNT Pix/Chris Maskilone

Roselan said another niche eco-tourism product that can be done in rivers, particularly those with gentle and slow flowing current along non-populated routes, was the Floating Chalet of the luxurious kinds.

“The tranquility and ambience will give a tired mind a complete rest and recuperation,” he said.

He said that since the unique tagal system has been a huge success in preserving the riverine ecology, BEBC hoped it can be further expanded apart from the normal fish-rearing business.

Roselan said BEBC opined that riverine cruises and homestay programmes on water ought to be introduced and expanded in Sabah.

“This feels very exotic and given the wide internet access, it is only a matter of time that it will become popular.

“We are hoping that rivers can be another highway where loading and discharging ramps can be built, thus giving more business and employment opportunities to the riverine dwellers,” he said.

Roselan said it must be noted that a gentle flowing river can be hazardous during the monsoon seasons especially in desilted river where sedimentation at the river mouth blocked water flow into the ocean.

As river mouths are often sandy in nature, he said partners of BEBC were offering desilting service and collection of sand for exports.

“Of course this would be done in accordance to the State’s regulations including royalty payment, which is another source of income for the government,” he said.

In this respect, BEBC was seeking advice from the DID on ways to go about it, as well as identifying the ideal river mouth for the venture.

On another note, Roselan extended an invitation to the DID Sabah to nominate one of its experts to visit a factory of one of BEBC’s partners in Finland and evaluate the performance of its cutter-suction pump dredger in April next year.-SabahNewsToday