Friday, August 17, 2012

Images of Ramadan

It's almost the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which we observe closely here in Brunei Darussalam. There is so much to say about the message and spirit of Ramadan, but I don't know where to start. 

In lieu of words, please hop on to these websites to see the geography of Ramadan observance through pictures taken from all over the world (note the almost identical titles!):

To all Muslims in Brunei and beyond, I hope you have had a blessed and productive Ramadan, and wish you all a safe and merry Eid-ul-Fitr. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Borneo Research Council Conference, 25-27 June

Last June, UBD hosted the 11th biennial Borneo Research Council Conference here on campus, and received over 180 paper submissions from all over the world. 

With my colleagues Dk Dr Noor Hasharina and Izni Azrein, I was involved with the organisation and running of the conference alongside other working committee members. The secretary of the conference was Dr Adrian Clynes who oversaw practically everything. It took months of preparation and alot of time and energy, but in the end we all took pleasure in the fact that most attendees enjoyed and benefited from the conference. 

The conference also provided our combined three programmes the chance to shine - we were among the programmes with the most submissions in the conference. Below is a list and abstract of the papers that were presented by members of the Geo&Dev-Env Studies-Tourism programmes. 


1. Dr Debra Enzenbacher was the first among us to present. Her paper was on Monday, at 2pm

Borneo rain forest tourism: An exploratory case study of Brunei Darussalam tour operations in Temburong District and the environmental parameters of these visits

Debra Enzenbacher
Universiti Brunei Darussalam

Brunei Darussalam is marketed as an ecotourism destination.  The jewel in the country’s tourism crown is a visit to Ulu Temburong National Park in Temburong District.  Various tour operators offer day and overnight trips to the national park in Temburong.  This study explores the tour operations, tour product components and various operational challenges of these companies.  It asks whether taking visitors into primary rain forest can constitute a form of ecotourism and considers some of the environmental parameters of these visits.  The study focuses on three of the main private tour operators offering Temburong trips that depart from Bandar jetty.  The methods include participant observation and informal interviews with tour company staff.  The rain forest tours took place between May 2011 and May 2012.  Brunei tour operators differ with respect to their rain forest tour operations, tour products and environmental practice.  Whether the trips that are delivered at present may be described as eco-tours is subject to debate.  More research is needed to understand the effects that primary rain forest tours have on the environment. 

2. On the second day, we had four back-to-back presentations in Basement Room 5 from 8.30 to 10am. 

Mangroves in the Inner Brunei Bay: Updating the Knowledge Base using QuickBird Satellite Imagery

Jose Edgardo L.Aban, Gabriel Y V Yong & Khairunnisa Hj Ibrahim
Universiti Brunei Darussalam;

The mangrove and mudflat system of the inner Brunei bay is largely still in a pristine state and supports a number of unique and endangered wildlife, including the Proboscis monkey (N. larvatus) and the large flying fox (P. vampyris).  It also serves important functions in regulating the water quality of the bay and coastal seas, as well as, the marine ecosystems’ natural fishery nursery. The mangroves were last mapped during the 1987-1992 ASEAN-US Coastal Resource Management (CRMP) Project, which culminated in the development of an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan (ICZMP) for Brunei Darussalam. Although the Plan included mangrove and wildlife conservation projects, there has not been adequate progress. Presently, there are at least two major infrastructure project proposals which may threaten these mangroves as they would involve cutting large swathes through the 15-km mangrove zones in Northern Temburong. Although the projects appear likely to have significant negative impacts on the ecosystem and certain wildlife, current information is much too outdated to support accurate environmental impact analysis, environmental management or mitigation initiatives, or conservation programmes. The paper is part of a Universiti Brunei Darussalam funded project aimed at mapping changes in the Brunei bay mangroves. It combines the use of QuickBird Satellite imagery and field surveys conducted over a period of a year beginning in May 2011. It aims to update the existing knowledge base to reflect recent environmental changes over the area. A key part of the project involves identifying satellite-based spectral signatures of the main mangrove species, which will significantly improve monitoring and management efforts. The paper also provides an overall assessment of the health of mangroves using 2009 satellite images.
Use of WorldView Satelite Imagery in Wildlife Conservation at Pulau Berambang

Gabriel Y V Yong, Jose Edgardo L Aban, Khairunnisa Hj Ibrahim
Universiti Brunei Darussalam;

The mangroves that surround Pulau Berambang have been proposed as a wildlife sanctuary for the conservation of the proboscis monkey (N. larvartus) and migratory birds. However, since the early 2000s, a large population of flying fox (P. vampyrus) has begun roosting in the eastern area of the island. However, the wildlife sanctuary is not managed. It has not been mapped or supported by studies of the habitats, environmental conditions and potential impacts from development taking place in its vicinity. Presently, a large “dead zone” has developed in the mangrove where these flying foxes roost. Also, much of the southern portions of the sanctuary have been converted for farming. A proposal to link the island to the mainland via a bridge further threatens wildlife conservation and the sustainability of the island as a wildlife sanctuary, as it is likely to spur development of the island, particularly to support trade and increase in human migration. The paper aims to fill in the large data gaps on the state of the wildlife sanctuary at Pulau Berambang and its surroundings to support wildlife conservation through the use of Worldview-2 satellite imagery. Worldview-2 is a high-resolution multispectral satellite with enhanced capability for differentiating between vegetation types and mapping sub-tidal environments. The paper will present preliminary findings on distinctive habitat types and their health based on a 2010 Worldview-2 scene that includes the eastern part of Pulau Berambang and associated mudflats and channels.

Impacts of Landuse Change on Boundary Climates: Forest Cover in Brunei Darussalam

William John Duane, Jose Egardo L. Aban, Gabriel Y V Yong
Universiti Brunei Darussalam

The negative impacts of removing large areas of forest cover are well known.  Such action results in a reduction in CO2 absorption, an increase in CO2 emission (through burning or natural decay), an increase in soil erosion, as well as disturbance to the natural habitat of many flora and fauna that rely on the trees for their existence.  Additionally, tree cover reduces temperatures at the surface and near-surface (boundary layer).  This is achieved by not only providing shade but also, through the process of transpiration, converting sensible heat into its latent form and transporting it away in the form of water vapour and, also, acting as a heat sink due to the forest’s higher specific heat capacity (compared to the surface and air).   With removal of tree cover the surface temperatures will increase, although the absolute amount of increase depends upon many factors. This research combines field measurements of surface and near-surface temperatures with satellite imagery of Brunei Darussalam to calculate the increase in temperature due to the removal of forest cover.  The thermal channel for Landsat data is used to calculate surface temperatures while the visible and near-infrared channels are used to calculate the normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) which is used as a surrogate for vegetation cover.  Field observations are used to develop the relationship between surface and near-surface temperatures under varying tree cover.  The analysis extrapolates the field measurements to the changes in forest cover obtained from a sequence of Landsat images of Brunei from 1972 up to 2007, producing an estimate of change in surface and near-surface air temperatures due to forest cover change.

An investigation of cliff erosion at Berakas, Brunei Darussalam

Maurice Boon, William John Duane, Gabriel Yong
Universiti Brunei Darussalam;

Various coastal processes are responsible for high rates of erosion of soft, unconsolidated landforms, typical of that which dominates the Brunei Darussalam coastline exposed to the South China Sea, particularly along the Berakas area. Knowledge of how much material is being eroded and greater understanding of the processes involved is of considerable importance to estimate future losses and assess source material contributions to the littoral sediment budget. The major aim of this research is to quantify and map the amount of material lost from the cliffs. This is achieved using a servo-driven, reflectorless, scanning total station (Trimble S6) to provide a series of points defined by X, Y and Z coordinates, such that digital elevation models can be constructed. Spatially-referenced volume loss can then be calculated from repeated scans over a period of time. Drivers of erosion are also monitored to assess the relative contributions of the drivers towards rates of erosion. These drivers include lithology, climate parameters and geomorphological features. Description of the cliff sequence, using different methodologies, is of fundamental importance in determining likely types of erosion, such as mass movement, soil creep, etc. Various methods of describing the cliffs are explored as well as the dominant processes responsible for cliff erosion. A risk map to indicate exposure and vulnerability to coastal erosion along the Berakas coast is to be produced to provide shoreline managers and competent authorities with relevant information for better decision-making with regard to future land use planning.

3. The same day at 10am, Dr John Odihi presented his paper.

Up against the tide: the challenge of sustaining indigenous knowledge in Brunei Darussalam and implications for environmental sustainability

John Onu Odihi 
Universiti Brunei Darussalam

This study used the concept of an intergenerational custom filter to understand the younger generation’s level of indigenous knowledge of its community or ethnic group.  The results show that there are differences in such levels along the lines of ethnicity and gender. The younger generation of females was more knowledgeable about the ways of their people than their male counterparts. The state of indigenous knowledge in the future in some longhouse communities is perilous due to lack of interest among the male younger generation, inadequate archival or documentation of indigenous knowledge and the inevitable passing on of the older generation, the present custodians of indigenous knowledge. Other factors include stiff competition from other countries with a comparative advantage in the production of indigenous arts and crafts, emigration from the land and imperial influences on communities due to the penetration of foreign ideas via television programmes and most recently, the cancerous spread of the internet and social media. For this study, I developed a concept known as the Intergenerational Indigenous Knowledge System Filter (IIKSF) and used it to gauge the level of IK among the present young generation in the Brunei Darussalam communities, which I studied. Simply, IIKSF technique determines the levels of IK and technical competence among generations in a community and seeks explanations for their mediation or hindrance. The aim of this study is to provide some information to contribute towards sustaining IK from the perspective of Brunei Darussalam or Southeast Asia which the country and the study communities are an important part of. Surveys of indigenous communities in Brunei Darussalam with varying degrees of integration/isolation with/from the larger society were carried out in a period of about 10 years from 1997 to 2006. The results show that whereas each community has developed its own system of beneficial interaction with its immediate environment, there is a danger of losing IK and skills, which have helped these communities to survive in the natural environment. This paper presents the results of the surveys, discusses them and makes suggestions for the sustainability of IK.

4. We were also represented in the afternoon with a paper from Dk Dr Noor Hasharina and Gabriel

My rumah or my crib: Changing living spaces of young Bruneians

Dk Noor Hasharina Pg Hj Hassan, Gabriel Y.V. Yong
Universiti Brunei Darussalam

Often scholars propagate the need to maintain local traditional cultures to conserve local identity and traditional culture. However, transformation and hybridisation of culture seems inevitable in today’s society. Geographical studies of consumption involve the transformation in the consumption culture and the possible imprints on physical spaces including living spaces. The aim of this paper is to examine to what extent is consumerism and globalisation altering living spaces in Brunei. The study will investigate firstly, how globalisation is shaping Bruneians’ consumption, focussing on living spaces preferences. It will also consider how traditional roots such as experiences of living in local traditional homes have any impact on their living preferences and consumption. This study reflects on the hybridisation process of cultural transformation on Bruneians and emerging trends in living spaces preferences and consumption patterns
5. Even on the last day, the Geo-Envi-Tour group had a showing! Dr Yusnani presented a paper in the afternoon. 

Regeneration of retail spaces in Bandar Seri Begawan

Yusnani Mohd Yusof
FASS, Universiti Brunei Darussalam

Too many new shops but many existing vacant ones! Was it the fault of developers who have gone on overdrive, building regardless of demand for retail spaces? Or, could it be the case that when new shops are erected, they become the current excitement centre, the older premises, abandoned? This paper examines vacant retail areas in Bandar Seri Begawan, their decline and the importance of urban image through a better understanding of the processes of revitalising degraded urban environmental spaces. Using four selected case study areas and non-probability convenience sampling method, retail spaces are identified using ANZSIC standards. A visual analysis identifies the type, size and location of vacant non-domestic property. The paper concludes by drawing out the implications for extending the research to cover all retail spaces of the city in regenerating the sustainable urban identity. 


Well done team! I'm quite proud to be part of this trio of programmes that has and is actively producing and presenting research on a range of issues. 

My apologies to my collaborators on papers that I was supposed to present on the second day, but couldn't due to ill health. 

Hope we will have a similarly healthy representation in the next BRC Conference =)


High hopes in Hanoi

Our colleague Ken has shared a short video of a Hanoi street scene that shows so much of the city's character in the space of two minutes. Shot at ground level, it shows the hustle and bustle of a busy urban area.

Towards the middle, there was a buildup of suspense that culminated in a truly delightful sighting. You'd have to watch the video to find out what that is. 

Thanks to Ken for sharing this lovely, sense-of-place snippet and hope you'll have more to share. If any of you out there want to share your own, please do get in touch with me and I'll post your video/photo and story here. 

What a hiatus!

Three months of non-posting is rather too long, and I apologise for the drought. Interestly, my long absence coincided with the UBD summer break. 
We are now about a week into the new semester, and here I am again, blogging.

Perhaps presence of students helps facilitate blogging? Or is my posting pattern motivated by classes and interaction with students and colleagues?

Lots of news to share - hope I can remember them all. 

Onwards with the posts.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Local places and progress: Royal birthday landscape

Every July, Brunei's streets and public areas will undergo a festive transformation. Flags will be flown, banners with His Majesty's likeness will start swinging from lampposts, celebratory banners will start appearing everywhere - all in commemoration of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam's birthday anniversary on July 15. 

In recent years, large posters sponsored by companies and organisations were put up strategically by road junctions using space that, during other times, would carry advertisements. 

This year the same trend may not reappear, as His Majesty questioned the use of advertising space for this purpose during a visit to the Ministry of Home Affairs earlier this month. According to this Brunei Times article on the subject:

The monarch pointed out how some [posters] are put up at inappropriate places such as junctions with the idea that it would be seen by all motorists who pass by as if it were advertisements. "Why I am commenting on this, because even as I speak, the places which normally carry these advertisements, will soon be replaced with my images," said His Majesty.

This has been going on for quite some time, said His Majesty, as he queried on how the choosing of locations for these promotional campaigns that normally carry advertisements automatically become the place where national celebrations are promoted as well.

"Is there no other place which is appropriate or strategic?" asked His Majesty. "It is my opinion that, national celebration landmarks are not advertisements, and should not be intended to charm consumers as advertisements do, but should be strategically placed to evoke the spirit of patriotism and nationalism," said His Majesty.

The festive landscape that appears during National Day and the royal birthday celebrations is a temporary one - dismantled as soon as the celebratory period is over. Would His Majesty's titah alter the July incarnation in a significant manner?

According to Ken, who alerted me to this story (thanks Ken!), he's going to make this story his next project. Look forward to his findings and sharing them here. 

If you have any thoughts or opinions about this topic, feel free to contribute in the comments section.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Local places and progress

Thought I'd introduce a new series focusing on developments taking place in different parts of Brunei Darussalam. The idea struck after reading quite a number of articles in The Brunei Times today relating activities happening in particular landmarks.

Four articles today - please click on the links to get to the full articles from BT. 

  • I have mixed feelings about the BSB-Lumapas bridgeway - on the one hand it will improve accessibility to that mukim and surrounding ones, and raise their profiles and economic opportunities; on the other, a long bridge cutting through picturesque Kg Ayer will have repercussions, not to mention serious environmental impacts - which after a long delay is finally underway.
  • The ever-popular Gadong night market (pasar malam/tamu Gadong) is expanded with the launch of a new section tonight. When I passed by the area a few nights ago, the temporary stalls are still up and running, so not sure if the new $2.6m permanent stalls will completely replace those.
  • BSB doesn't have the monopoly on waterfronts - Tutong town now boasts its own. The Pekan Tutong waterfront which was launched recently is quite popular with residents and visitors who fish and jog along the area, among others activities.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Interesting reads

Happy exam season! The final semester of the 2011-2012 is coming to a close, and exams kicked off just this morning. 

To pick things up after a lengthy lack of posts, here are some readings that might be of interest: 

  • The world of academic publishing may be radically changing as social media becomes more advanced and the need for instant access to scientific knowledge more pressing. Richard Price writes compellingly about this vision of the future of science.
  • The opening line of Richard Mabey's article, the second in an essay series on nature and landscape, makes it an instant must-read: Psychogeographers, the cognoscenti tell us, have been rebranded less dizzily as “deep topographers”.
  • Urban geographers might enjoy this textual and visual feast of Teufelsberg, Germany in this article on the city as a palimpsest