BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Inside a remote district in Brunei that is largely uninhabited and covered with virgin forest, the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) is at the final stages of constructing a bridge, which is expected to boost economic development in the area.
At the heart of Temburong, Brunei's easternmost district that hosts endemic wildlife and indigenous flora, CSCEC is proceeding with the megaproject while ensuring that minimal damage is done to the natural landscape.
Temburong, with an area of 1,306 square km and borders Limbang, Malaysia, forms part of the green lung of the island of Borneo. It is currently accessible from Brunei's capital Bandar Seri Begawan either by an hour-long ferry ride on the Brunei River or by crossing land borders.
The bridge, which is set to be the longest in Southeast Asia upon its completion, aims to connect the isolated district with the rest of the country.
CSCEC is building 11.8 km of the 30-km viaduct.
"We are doing our best not to disturb the natural environment and its inhabitants," CSCEC Environmental Officer Carin Wong Ling said.
She said the key is to keep in mind that in implementing the project inside the forest, humans are the ones encroaching on the wildlife, and not the other way around.
Wong said trainings and inspections were conducted to ensure that the flora and fauna are not disturbed.
Ecofriendly practices are encouraged, she added.
"We encourage our people to practise the four Rs, which are to refuse disposable plastic, reduce plastic footprint, reuse plastic containers and bags and recycle," said the environmental studies graduate from the Universiti Brunei Darussalam.
"The most important thing for us is the cleanliness of the site. We do our best by training our people to use the facilities provided and telling them not to litter," she said.
Wong said the workers have also been instructed to report any sightings of wildlife that they may encounter.
"We are not allowed to harm any of the wildlife here as this site is under the Environmental Protection Act," she said.
Wong told Xinhua that the most common animals sighted include birds, snakes, crocodiles, monkeys and frogs. Sightings of panthers, though not as common, have also been reported.
"So far, only snakes have come into close contact with humans as they sometimes venture into our site and living quarters. When this happens, our staff have been instructed to not touch them and just let them move away on their own. After that they have to report to our environmental team so we can compile and present monthly reports to the Department of Environment, Park and Recreation (JASTRe) and the Forestry Department," she said.
In the report, there are also incidence where accidental damage to the environment may have occurred.
Wong said that CSCEC has been given a 50-meter boundary where construction work can take place.
They have to submit applications or reports if any land clearing activities or accidental damage, usually by means of heavy machinery use, occur outside the boundary.
"When it comes to land clearing, we have to engage with the Forestry Department and JASTRe. We propose to them how much we want to clear then they will come and do an inspection to see if it is okay. Then they will charge us unless it is within the 50-meter boundary of the construction site," she said.
"We write reports when we accidentally damage something as well but this does not happen frequently," she said, adding that they will also carry out replanting efforts following the completion of the project.
Supervisor Md Sabuj Howlader from Bangladesh said the workers have been informed on the importance of keeping Brunei's natural forest intact and clean.
He said he and his colleagues have had run-ins with many of the country's wildlife but they know not to agitate or disturb them.
"We just leave them alone and they move away on their own," he said.
The Temburong Bridge is expected to be completed in November this year. It will connect the districts of Brunei-Muara and Temburong, reducing traveling time between the two districts from two hours to just 30 minutes.
Minister of Development Hj Suhaimi said during last month's Legislative Council meeting, all projects that may potentially impact the environment were required to do a compliance or Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to ensure that no harm will be done to the country's natural scenery.
"Companies involved in projects where the management of the environment is an issue will be monitored from time to time," he said.