Monday, September 17, 2012

Promise to the Environment Not Fulfilled

‘Janji ditepati’ ('Promises fulfilled'), but probably not towards the environment.  And that falls on both sides of the party lines, as well as among us regular members of the public.

How have we all let the environment down?  Sadly, there are so many examples to site, and nearly every community probably has a local example as well.  A few obvious missed promises come to mind, but this article is not even close to being complete. 

The Selangor State Park, promised to be protected as 108,000 ha state park, yet till today, gazettement is not complete.  Further more, despite the area now being classified as a Rank 1 forest in the National Physical Plan, the park is under serious threat from development of expressways and housing.

Unfortunately there seems to be a disregard for the National Physical Plan in current development activities. Approved in 2006, the National Physical Plan is the ‘statement of strategic policies on the physical development and conservation throughout the peninsular of Malaysia.’   ‘The plan needs to be a guideline for the physical planning and should be implemented at federal and states level throughout Peninsular Malaysia’ as quoted from the Town and Country Planning Department’s website.

Ulu Muda, also listed as a Rank 1 forest in the National Physical Plan, which is the water tower for our rice bowl, Kedah, Perlis and the densely populated, Penang, still continues to be threatened with deforestation and unsustainable logging.

One of our only natural lakes in the country, Tasik Chini, listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reverse in 2009, has been dying over the past 20 years, due to the man-made dam, pollution and land clearing around the lake.

Even a small, 32 acre green lung, in Balakong, Cheras Jaya, gazetted under the land office as a green lung for ‘recreation and flood mitigation’ still lies uncared for, and is being encroached upon by the factories and highways that surround this once mini-wet land and bird heaven.

The unkept promises continue.  Over 90% of our drinking water comes from rivers, yet government, business and individuals do not respect rivers in Malaysia. Every Malaysian is responsible for this - the lorry contractor who dumps the rubbish illegally, the factory manager who neglects the factory waste discharge, the farmers leeching their agriculture waste and even the young school student who throws their rubbish into the drain.   While the government is now initiating programmes such as River of Life and the river pollution-mapping project, it is yet to be seen if these will be effective in cleaning up our rivers.

Green buildings are hot news items.  It is exciting to see homes and buildings incorporating green technology and innovation.  But green buildings are still not the norm, as they should be by now.   More so, green initiatives such as rainwater harvesting and solar energy often seem to be limited to high-end properties.

When it comes to energy, the government has promised to incorporate renewable energy. But the target of renewable energy generating 5.5% of our energy by 2015 is far too small to make a real impact. By 2050, we aim to have 25% renewable energy, which will be lagging behind other developed countries.  What more, the government plans to build a nuclear power plant somewhere in Peninsula Malaysia, but at what cost?

During the recent Merdeka and Hari Malaysia, we have reflected proudly on our nation’s achievements (in addition to just enjoying the time-off!).  But we must remember, these achievements could not have been made possible without our natural environment.  While Malaysia is blessed with a rich natural environment, these resources are being destroyed and damaged beyond repair.  We must start seriously addressing the promises to maintain a healthy environment, so that future Malaysians will have the same opportunities for prosperity we now have.