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Advancing Conservation through Technology

Image Credits: Sunway University, Press Release
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In an ambitious move towards environmental preservation, Sunway University, one of Malaysia’s top private institutions, has joined forces with two Japanese tech giants along with local partners Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and the University of Technology Sarawak (UTS), to spearhead a cutting-edge project under the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT)’s ICT Pilot Projects for Rural Areas (Category-II).

Building upon the success of the previous ICT Pilot Projects for Rural Areas (Category-I) initiative, which focused on mangrove research in Sarawak, this new Category-II endeavour aims to extend the study to the Kuching Wetlands. The primary objective is to capture multispectral and hyperspectral images of the mangrove forest using drone technology and use machine learning to aid experts in identifying mangrove trees through digital imagery.

The project area encompasses the vast wetlands of Kuching Wetlands National Park, situated approximately 15 km from Kuching and 5 km from Damai Beach, covering an impressive 6,610 hectares along the estuarine reaches of the Sibu Laut and Salak Rivers.

The President of Sunway University noted that the groundbreaking collaboration brings together Japanese companies, local institutions, and Sunway University to leverage human-machine collaboration for the assessment of mangroves along the Sarawak River, promoting Planetary Health.

Under the guidance of the Head of Sunway University’s Research Centre for Human-Machine Collaboration, the Human Machine-Collaboration (HUMAC) research team serves as the central coordinating force behind the project, managing the various teams involved.

Their comprehensive plan involves employing Vertical-Take-Off-and-Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology and global position system (GPS) technology to capture detailed hyperspectral images of mangroves and nipah, thus creating a high-definition mapping of the protected mangrove site.

The data obtained from this comprehensive mapping will then be used to develop a sophisticated classification model through machine learning and image processing. This model will serve to assist the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) in conserving the protected mangrove area by digitising plant health monitoring and supporting mangrove tree replantation efforts.

Technical expertise and guidance throughout the duration of the project will be provided by the Japanese experts.

The Deputy Minister for Urban Planning, Land Administration, and Environment emphasised the significance of drone surveillance and data collection for advancing forest protection efforts in Sarawak. He stressed that this data will play a crucial role in guiding the state government’s forest management strategies while ensuring the preservation of surrounding habitats and the environment. This initiative aligns with PCDS 2030, embodying social responsibility by engaging the community for economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.

The collaboration’s ultimate goal is to promote the sustainability of mangrove ecosystems in Sarawak and bridge the technological gap in rural areas, contributing to several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) launched by the United Nations (UN). This innovative tech-driven approach marks a significant step forward in safeguarding the precious mangrove forests of Sarawak for future generations.

The the collaborative efforts between Sunway University, two Japanese tech companies as well as local partners in the mangrove conservation project under the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT)’s ICT Pilot Projects for Rural Areas (Category-II) exemplify the tremendous potential of technology in driving environmental conservation.

By leveraging cutting-edge drone technology, hyperspectral imaging, and machine learning, this project not only advances our understanding of mangrove ecosystems but also empowers experts to make informed decisions for their protection and sustainable management.

Through this amalgamation of human-machine collaboration, the project exemplifies how technology can pave the way towards a greener and more sustainable future, setting a precedent for similar initiatives worldwide and contributing significantly to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on a global scale.

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