Archive for the ‘Environmental Education’ Category

Climate change: Nature-based solutions

Sunday, October 14th, 2018
(File pix) Locals remove debris on a street covered with muddy water at Majorca, on October 10, 2018. Extreme floods and droughts have a profound impact on development, particularly in less developed parts of the world. AFP Photo

ALMOST every day we hear news about catastrophic flooding or drought somewhere in the world. And many nations and regions are on track for even more extreme water problems within a generation.

This is the warning that is sounded in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Extreme floods and droughts have a profound impact on development, particularly in less developed parts of the world. About 140 million people are affected — displaced by the loss of incomes or homes — and close to 10,000 people worldwide die annually from these twin calamities. Global annual economic losses from floods and droughts exceeds US$40 billion (RM166.14 billion); add in damages from storms like America’s recent Hurricanes Florence and Michael, and the cost balloons.

Flood and drought economic losses — comparable in dollar terms to all global development aid — affect the water, food and energy security of nations. To cope with these problems, massive investments continue to be made in large reservoirs.

However, in certain regions it has started to make little engineering sense to build additional “grey (concrete and steel) infrastructure” due to a lack of suitable sites and, or, rapid evaporation. In others, ageing grey infrastructure may no longer provide the originally envisioned benefits because hydrological parameters and patterns are changing.

The appropriate response is to recognise the benefits of “green (natural ecosystems) infrastructure” and to design grey and green infrastructure in tandem to maximise benefits for the people, nature and the economy.

“Nature-based solutions” were the theme of this year’s UN World Water Development Report. Nature-based solutions include:

SOIL moisture retention systems, and groundwater recharge to enhance water availability;

NATURAL and constructed wetlands and riparian buffer strips to improve water quality; and,

FLOODPLAIN restoration to reduce risks associated with water-related disasters and climate change.

The role of green water storage infrastructure is particularly important.

The enormous potential of such approaches are only now being fully understood but its clear that green infrastructure can directly improve the performance of grey infrastructure for disaster risk reduction.

Indeed, large-scale managed aquifer recharge efforts can, in certain conditions, alleviate both flood and drought risks in the same river basin.

Recent studies suggest that agricultural income could be boosted by about US$200 million per year in a river basin greater than 150,000 km2 in area, with only 200 km2 of land converted for accelerated groundwater recharge in wetter years. Not only is additional water made available to farmers in drier periods, downstream flooding costs can also be eliminated. And the capital investment required could be recouped in a decade or less.

Such sustainable, cost-effective and scalable solutions may be relevant in developing countries, where water-related disaster vulnerability has risen to unprecedented levels and the impacts of climate change are most acutely felt.

Nature-based solutions are not feasible everywhere and, where they would help, they alone are not the silver bullet for water risks and variability — they cannot be counted on to replace or achieve the full risk reduction effect of grey infrastructure.

Nevertheless, nature-based solutions need to be considered in all water management planning and practiced where possible. Especially at river basin and regional scales, management planning should consider a range of surface and subsurface storage options, not just large concrete dams. The challenges include:

AN overwhelming dominance of traditional grey infrastructure thinking and practices (and associated inertia against nature-based solutions);

THE need for more quantitative data on the effects of nature-based solutions;

A LACK of understanding of how to integrate natural and built infrastructure for managing water extremes;

OVERALL lack of capacity to implement nature-based solutions;


A PREDOMINANTLY reactive rather than proactive approach to water-related disaster management.

Nature-based solutions have much greater potential if included in risk reduction planning and adopted before disaster strikes.

These challenges will take time to overcome, but there is hope. The UN General Assembly has designated Oct 13 as the International Day for Disaster Reduction, which this year has taken the theme of reducing economic losses from disasters.

The theme corresponds to a target of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which underlines the need to shift from post-disaster planning and recovery to proactive disaster risk reduction and calls for strategies with a range of ecosystem-based solutions.

Some 25 targets within 10 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals the of UN Agenda 2030 either explicitly or implicitly address various aspects of water-related disaster management.

By Vladimir Smakhtin.


Read more @

Strong risk of crisis as early as 2040

Thursday, October 11th, 2018
Water from a melting glacier runs down through a hole in the Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland. The UN climate change report says to prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2050. REUTERS PIC

A LANDMARK report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought, and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent”.

The report, issued last Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.

The report “is quite a shock, and quite concerning”, said Bill Hare, an author of previous IPCC reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organisation.

“We were not aware of this just a few years ago.” The report was the first to be commissioned by world leaders under the Paris agreement, the 2015 pact by nations to fight global warming.

The authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7°F (1.5°C) above pre-industrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty. Previous work had focused on estimating the damage if average temperatures were to rise by a larger number, 3.6°F (2°C), because that was the threshold scientists previously considered for the most severe effects of climate change

The new report, however, shows that many of those effects will come much sooner, at the 2.7-degree mark.

Avoiding the most serious damage requires transforming the world economy within just a few years, said the authors, who estimate that the damage would come at a cost of US$54 trillion (RM224.6 trillion). But while they conclude that it is technically possible to achieve the rapid changes required to avoid 2.7 degrees of warming, they concede that it may be politically unlikely.

For instance, the report says that heavy taxes or prices on carbon dioxide emissions — perhaps as high as US$27,000 per ton by 2100 — would be required. But such a move would be almost politically impossible in the United States, the world’s largest economy and second-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China. Lawmakers around the world, including in China, the European Union and California, have enacted carbon pricing programmes.

President Donald Trump, who has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, has vowed to increase the burning of coal and said he intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement. And on Sunday in Brazil, the world’s seventh-largest emitter of greenhouse gas, voters appeared on track to elect a new president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has said he also plans to withdraw from the accord.

The report was written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries who analysed more than 6,000 scientific studies. The Paris agreement set out to prevent warming of more than 3.6 degrees above pre-industrial levels — long considered a threshold for the most severe social and economic damage from climate change. But the heads of small island nations, fearful of rising sea levels, had also asked scientists to examine the effects of 2.7 degrees of warming.

Absent aggressive action, many effects once expected only several decades in the future will arrive by 2040, and at the lower temperature, the report shows.

To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, the report said, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2050. It also found that, by 2050, use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40 per cent today to between one and seven per cent. Renewable energy such as wind and solar, which make up about 20 per cent of the electricity mix today, would have to increase to as much as 67 per cent.

The World Coal Association disputed the conclusion that stopping global warming calls for an end of coal use. In a statement, Katie Warrick, its interim chief executive, noted that forecasts from the International Energy Agency, a global analysis organisation, “continue to see a role for coal for the foreseeable future”.

Despite the controversial policy implications, the US delegation joined more than 180 countries last Saturday in accepting the report’s summary for policymakers, while walking a delicate diplomatic line. A US State Department statement said that “acceptance of this report by the panel does not imply endorsement by the United States of the specific findings or underlying contents of the report”.

The state department delegation faced a conundrum. Refusing to approve the document would place the US at odds with many nations and show it rejecting established academic science on the world stage. However, the delegation also represents a president who has rejected climate science and climate policy.

The report attempts to put a price tag on the effects of climate change. The estimated US$54 trillion in damage from 2.7 degrees of warming would grow to US$69 trillion if the world continues to warm by 3.6 degrees and beyond, the report found, although it does not specify the length of time represented by those costs.

In addition, it said, the United States along with Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam are home to 50 million people who will be exposed to the effects of increased coastal flooding by 2040, if 2.7 degrees of warming occur.

At 3.6 degrees of warming, the report predicts a “disproportionately rapid evacuation” of people from the tropics. “In some parts of the world, national borders will become irrelevant,” said Aromar Revi, director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements and an author of the report. “You can set up a wall to try to contain 10,000 and 20,000 and one million people, but not 10 million.”


Read more @

Melaka, a green city example

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018
Melaka has made great strides in becoming a green city. FILE PIC

IN the last five years, Melaka has made great strides toward building a sustainable, green city.

By 2020, the government-run 7,248ha Melaka World Solar Valley aims to power most of the daily activities of manufacturers, housing developers, farmers, and other stakeholders.

Recently, a public-private partnership installed 100,000 LED street lamps along the Alor Gajah–Central Melaka–Jasin (AMJ) highway, which will improve road safety and reduce carbon di oxide emissions.

The urban landscape has also changed. While glinting glass panels adorn this Malaysian state, a former trading hub with rich multicultural heritage, walkable neighbourhoods with mixed-use development have increased foot traffic and reduced car use in the fast-growing state.

The Melaka River, once a polluted drainage canal, is now a popular gathering place and tourist attraction.

Melaka’s transformation is the result of meticulous planning, a comprehensive approach supported by government policies and projects, private sector engagement and citizen initiatives.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is proud to have worked with Melaka to develop its roadmap, the Green City Action Plan. In addition to a technical assistance grant to underwrite the plan, which was completed in 2014, ADB also helped Melaka implement it, including by structuring bankable projects for solar energy and street lighting, setting up a database to track indicators in environment and economic growth, and conducting training in urban development, environment planning, and knowledge sharing.

The Melaka projects are the first to be implemented under the Green Cities Initiative of the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT), an ADB-supported sub-regional cooperation programme focused on the development of 32 provinces in these three countries. It aims to help states and provinces discover and use their relative comparative advantages to work together in the sub-region. So far, four other cities — Songkhla and Hat Yai in Thailand, Medan and Batam in Indonesia — have developed similar plans.

A “green” city means an area that is resilient and inclusive, manages its natural resources well, promotes low carbon growth to remain competitive, and improve the livelihoods of all citizens.

With each green city plan, countries are moving away from business-as-usual economic growth models to forge a clear, concise vision for a city’s future based on factors such as comprehensive analysis and consensus among key stakeholders.

Each plan lays out “green projects” with clear development impacts, covering urban infrastructure and development, environment and climate resilience. It also identifies investment, financing mechanisms and other strategies to achieve balanced, sustainable growth in a community, often including cultural and heritage preservation.

Just like Melaka’s, those plans present a paradigm shift, where cities pursue integrated urban development and environmental planning as they make a transition to a cleaner, greener, and more prosperous future.

The initiative is very relevant, because cities are the primary drivers of economic growth across countries in Asean, producing about 70 per cent of the region’s gross domestic product.

Almost 300 million people in Asean already live in cities, and another 90 million people are expected to move in by 2030, pushing up the urban share of the population to nearly 45 per cent.

But urbanisation is placing a growing environmental strain on cities, such as air, water and noise pollution, traffic congestion, and inadequate solid waste management.

Poorly managed urbanisation also worsens risks posed by climate change. Cities also face massive infrastructure financing gaps, at US$60 billion (RM248.3 billion) per year based on ADB’s estimates.

Tackling these challenges will require city governments to integrate social and environmental considerations into locally customised economic development plans.

Success won’t happen overnight. It will require innovation, testing and application of new ideas, learning and sharing of lessons, and development of new approaches to emerging challenges.

The Green Cities Conference, to be held today in Melaka, will bring city leaders together to collaborate on green growth strategies. It also seeks to continue to support the Green Cities Network established under the IMT-GT and the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area.

ADB is all for the network of Asean green cities, which serves as a platform for peer-to-peer learning and knowledge sharing. We are also leading initiatives to help build capacities in urban management and promote green transportation.

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of IMT-GT, the conference also provides a window for action following Melaka’s success in transforming into a green city.

By Ramesh Subramaniam.

Read more @

Memorable lessons in turtle conservation

Saturday, September 29th, 2018
The cadet girl guides forming the shape of turtles with the palms of their hands.

The cadet girl guides forming the shape of turtles with the palms of their hands.

FIFTY eight Cadet Girl Guides and 13 Guiders from six Institute of Teacher Education campuses visited the Ma’Daerah Turtle Sanctuary in Kemaman, Terengganu to learn about the protection and conservation of sea turtles.

“As future teachers, we hope that they will share their experiences and hopefully bring awareness to the community around them about sea turtle conservation,” said Girl Guides Association Malaysia Institute of Teacher Education branch chief commissioner Joyce Ong Choon Kim.

The girls learned that they can get involved in caring for the sea turtles by assisting in the hatcheries, maintaining clean beaches and helping with marine conservation so that they can live and breed in a safe environment.

The highlight was releasing baby turtles back into the sea.

Read more @

Plastic waste imports to be levied, permits tightened.

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018
Zuraida on her surprise visit to an illegal plastic waste factory here on Tuesday.

Zuraida on her surprise visit to an illegal plastic waste factory here on Tuesday.

KUALA LANGAT: Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin is proposing that a levy be imposed on plastic waste imports in a bid to better manage the problem of plastic pollution from the recycling industry.

She said while Malaysian factories were currently importing plastic for free, this was set to change soon as the government planned to impose a levy of RM15 per tonne.

“I hear it’s a very lucrative business.

“Now we are going to put a levy on them. Importers would have to immediately comply with this levy once it’s in place,” she told reporters after meeting with various agencies at the Kuala Langat District Council here on Tuesday (Sept 25).

“The names of companies that import plastic and export plastic must be listed down to show how genuine the business is.

“The applicants must also get the approval of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) in order to get the AP,” she said.

Zuraida added that the APs issued by her Ministry would also be made to tally with the Customs Department’s capacity to receive plastic waste at the ports.

“Previously, there was no tally between the permits issued and the Customs Department’s capacity,” she pointed out.

The meeting was held to discuss the issue of local factories importing and recycling plastic waste from countries like New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom after China banned plastic imports.

In July, the Ministry revoked the AP on plastic waste imports, affecting 114 legal plastic waste factories all over Malaysia for three months up till Oct 23.

The move was taken in light of reports of serious pollution in Kuala Langat caused by factories involved in processing plastic waste.

According to Zuraida, there were 114 plastic recycling factories that were active all over Malaysia.

In Kuala Langat alone, there were 24 illegal plastic waste factories, with another 17 already ordered to close down, she said.

By Fatimah Zainal
Read more @

A task force on jumbo deaths; help of Teresa sought

Monday, September 10th, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: The State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry is setting up a special task force to further look into reducing unnecessary pygmy elephant deaths.

Its Minister Christina Liew said the Permanent Secretary Datu Rosmadi Datu Sulai would head the team. “The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) under the Ministry has done everything within its capacity to resolve the human-elephant conflict.

“We have offered rewards of up to RM120,000 to plantation workers who can provide substantive information to the department on the perpetrators behind the elephant deaths. But there are no takers until today.

“I am very sure the workers know who killed the animals. I have instructed the ‘big boys’ (oil-palm plantation owners) to remove all wildlife traps within their plantation areas.

“I have also made it clear that, if necessary, we will invoke the Section of Strict Liability under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997,” she said.

She hoped all plantation owners would cooperate with the State Government in putting a stop to the elephant deaths.

Liew, who is a Deputy Chief Minister, stressed she was not accusing anybody of killing the elephants. “If an elephant dies on someone’s land, the onus is still on the landowner to inform the Sabah Wildlife Department to provide an explanation.”

Quoting Section 39 (1) of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, she said an owner of land shall take such steps as shall be reasonable to protect his land, crops and other property from entry and damage by protected animals.

“Put up fencing to protect your land or plantation. It is your duty to do so. Do not kill the elephants which may be roaming around or destroying the fruit crops. But without undue delay, please inform the nearest Wildlife Officer of their presence in the vicinity of your land as they are likely to endanger life or property.

“Or, please inform the Officer of any death, personal injury or damage to your property caused by the protected animal,” she advised.

Liew was responding to Federal Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok’s statement on the elephant deaths in the Chinese media on Friday.

Thanking her for her concern she said it would be better if Teresa could get the landowners and plantation owners to cooperate with the State Government.

“Perhaps the Minister of Primary Industries could advise the owners to remove all the traps on their land. Do not set up any more such traps,” she said.

Liew said her Ministry would do its best, either internally to restructure or revamp the Sabah Wildlife Department, or in accordance with the need to facilitate ongoing investigations.

“Wildlife conservation is a State matter, and we are taking up the matter ourselves. Rest assured, we are setting up a special task force to, among others, determine the actual cause of the elephant deaths.” She said the department has conducted a post-mortem for each death.

Read more @

Fruit, veg growers urged to adopt good agricultural practices

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018


Idrus (4th from left) together with heads of departments and local fruit and vegetable growers at the seminar yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: Fruit and vegetable growers have been urged to adopt good agriculture practices (GAP) to ensure Sabah’s fresh produce meet export quality, food safety standards which are needed to penetrate high-value markets overseas.

State Minister of Agriculture and Food Industries, Junz Wong highlighted measures to improve Malaysian (MyGAP) certification includes safe use of agrochemicals among growers to increase yields, and improve confidence of domestic and foreign markets on Sabah fruit and vegetables.

“The adoption of good agriculture practices needs to be given priority because the effect of our agriculture exports being halted due to problems over its safety and quality standards, and this will have a detrimental effect on Sabah’s economy,” he said.

The text of his speech was read by Director of State Agriculture Department Datuk Idrus Shafie during the officiating ceremony at the closing of the seminar for Best Agriculture Practices (APB) for food producers, growers and exporters to Brunei Darussalam and Sarawak.

In his address, Junz said Sabah’s fruit and vegetable sector produced 43,593.1 tonnes from total agriculture field of 21,902.2 hectares, according to State Agriculture Department statistics in 2017.

He noted that the industry should heed the lessons learnt from the banning of Sabah’s fruit and vegetable exports by Brunei then followed by Sarawak due to excessive pesticide use above the minimal residual level.

“The banning of our exports during the time had a serious effect on Sabah’s agriculture sector and affects farmers who also lose their source of income and this happened because fresh produce was tainted with chemicals that are harmful to consumers,” explained Junz.

Furthermore, he noted Brunei and Sarawak remains important markets for Sabah agriculture products with exports to Brunei contributing RM603,408 to the state economy from an estimated 436.64 tonnes exported into the Kingdom.

“This shows that fruit and vegetable sector is an important contributor to the economy, and the districts of Keningau, Tenom, Tambunan and Ranau are Sabah’s top producers of fruit and vegetables, and the largest contributors to domestic and overseas markets,” added Junz.

To ensure the food safety of locally produced fruit and vegetables, Junz said the department has implemented its monitoring programme of the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for local fresh produce, with the cooperation of its Pesticide Control Division and the Health Department.

“It is my hope that this seminar can lead to efforts to promote greater awareness among growers on safer use of pesticides and other agro-chemicals to ensure the MRL level of Sabah fruits and vegetables are within the minimum threshold,” he told over 115 growers attending the seminar.

With this, he noted the certification of MyGap and MyOrganic were also introduced to increase compliance to safety and quality standards among growers and exporters needed for export markets.

Meanwhile, Idrus added that Sabah agriculture has set the aim to commercialize three major fruit crops to penetrate domestic and international markets.

“We will be focusing on the highly-prized ‘Musang King’ durian, including pineapple and coconut; these tropical fruit crops will be produced on an industrial scale to increase yields, and will become Sabah’s exports to domestic and overseas markets such as China among others,” he said.


Read more @

Genting boost for wildlife conservation

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: A Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Genting Plantations Berhad and Sabah Wildlife Department will see wildlife, including Borneo pygmy elephants, having more living space.

The agreement would see 44.5 hectares of oil palm plantation land being set aside for wildlife conservation in the east coast.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew said the move would give elephants and other wildlife an undisturbed area to go to, adding that the move would also help reduce human-elephant conflict.

“Today is the MOU launching where we encourage plantation owners to participate in the conservation programme for the elephants with the State Government. So its the the private sector with the government and we launch the programme to encourage more private sector plantation owners to participate as the problem of human-elephant conflicts need to be tackled soon as possible,” she said.

Christina was officiating the Umbrelephant Campaign at Sutera Harbour on Monday which was aimed at creating more awareness on efforts to protect elephants in the State.

Liew hoped the MoA pioneer project would encourage other plantations and estate owners to follow suit.

“I do believe that after today’s programme there will be more big players who will come on.

Whoever wants to do business in Sabah please cooperate with the government in this conservation programme.”

Liew said the campaign was also being introduced in schools, where it is hoped such a move can help to instil a love for animal protection in students.

The campaign is ongoing and we hope at every school we can recruit young people to be in the programme.

So far only five schools in the outskirts but we hope other schools including in the city will also pick it up as it is a good programme where the next generation should be able to pick up this love for conservation for our wild animals in the State.

Liew said that there were only about 2,000 Borneo pygmy elephants left in Sabah.

“It is not a big number. I think at 2,000 we should be setting off the alarms already.

by Neil Chan.

Read more @

Danger in our midst

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018
The fungus phytophthora infestans infested potato crops in Ireland and northern Europe in 1845. It destroyed leaves, stems and tubers. REUTERS

THE process of globalisation began a long time ago with ancient traders and European colonisers transporting goods — including plants — between the continents. For example, banana and sugarcane both originated in the Malay Archipelago but thrived wonderfully when they were planted in the West Indies. Likewise, Amazonian rubber trees and oil palm trees from West Africa both developed spectacularly well on arrival in Southeast Asia.

One reason for these plants’ great success: fewer pests and diseases outside their centres of diversity. Many pests which had co-evolved in the natural ecosystems were serendipitously left behind. And hundreds of years can pass before these natural pests catch up with the crops, with sometimes disastrous results.

The infamous potato blight, for example, still haunts memories to the present. Around 1585, the potato was introduced to Europe and England from South America. A few years later, Sir Walter Raleigh took the potato to Ireland, where it was first planted as a garden crop for people of high social status. By the late 17th century, it had become the staple diet for the population.

Beginning in 1845, a fungus, phytophthora infestans, started to infest potato crops in Ireland and northern Europe.

The “potato blight” destroyed leaves, stems, and tubers. Ideal temperature and moisture conditions for the fungus to grow and spread (relative humidity over 90 per cent, temperature over 10°C) occurred over an extended period. By 1852, about three-quarters of the crops were ruined, leading to the human catastrophe called the Irish Potato Famine, during which about one million people died. Another million Irish fled the country, mostly to North America.

How the fungus arrived in Europe remains uncertain, but scientists think it originated in Mexico, spreading first within North America then to Europe via diseased potatoes carried by cargo ships around 1844.

Another well-known example is the accidental introduction of the grape phylloxera — a North American aphid — into Europe around 1865, which subsequently destroyed much of Europe’s grape-growing regions. Grape phylloxera’s root-feeding stages were the most damaging, which led to the replacement of all grapes with planting materials grafted on resistant rootstocks.

The epidemics also resulted in the concept of international plant protection. The first international plant health treaty — the International Phylloxera Convention — was signed by five countries in Bern in 1881 to control the spread of grape phylloxera.

The next major step was the International Convention for the Protection of Plants, signed in Rome in 1929, followed in 1951 by the adoption of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. IPPC, which came into force in April 1952, superseded all previous international plant protection agreements.

Rubber is an important cash crop in many Asia-Pacific countries, mainly Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia, which produce over 90 per cent of the world’s supply. Most smallholders depend on rubber for their livelihoods.

Rubber was introduced in the region without its South American leaf blight (SALB), which made possible its large scale cultivation. SALB is another fungal disease, which causes severe dieback of trees. There is no cure, except possibly by using resistant clones, which are still at experimental stage. The disease, therefore, still poses a major threat to the region. Thankfully, effective quarantine measures regulate transcontinental movements and the disease has been kept at bay, restricted to South and Central America.

It is, therefore, a matter of concern then when Indonesia recently reported an outbreak of another serious rubber tree problem — fusicoccum canopy disease — which caused early leaf fall and reduced latex yield up to 40 per cent.

The disease, first detected in North Sumatra in 2016, spread to southern Sumatra by the end of last year, impacting particularly the Palembang area, where over 25 per cent of Indonesian rubber is planted.

With over 22,000ha of Indonesian rubber areas infected, the rapid spread of the disease has been alarming, reaching from Java and Kalimantan to Sulawesi. Most of current recommended clones are found to be susceptible.

The disease is blind to geopolitical boundaries, of course, and may rapidly land on our shores in no time. In Malaysia, we have already narrowly escaped one recent encounter with fusicoccuminfection, which was first reported in 1987 in Johor, spread to Perak and Selangor in 2003, but fortunately did not become an epidemic.

To safeguard the rubber industry and smallholders’ livelihoods in Malaysia as well as the region, countries need to work together, and work fast, to put in place appropriate control measures to effectively stop the spread of fusicoccum.


Read more @

Teach the young to appreciate nature

Monday, August 20th, 2018

MALAYSIA is recognised as one of 12 top mega-biodiversity countries in the world. Our country is home to natural resources that provide for the wellbeing and economic development of its people.

However, the pursuit of growth at the expense of the environment poses threats to the resources and the people who depend on them.

There has been an alarming decline in forest cover across Malaysia, and this contributes to flooding and pollution of rivers from fine sediment washed from the land surface.

The loss and fragmentation of natural habitats, made worse by poaching and illegal wildlife trade, have caused a collapse of wildlife populations in our country. This is evidenced by the listing of several Malaysian species as critically endangered in the International Union Conservation Nature’s red list of threatened species.

Off our coastlines, unsustainable fishing to feed demand for seafood has caused 90 per cent of demersal fish stock depletion in Malaysian waters since the late 1990s, while related pollution and bycatch threaten a range of other marine life.

We believe that education is key to protecting our planet and its natural resources.

Education is the foundation — everything a child sees or learns becomes a part of him, and helps shape his perception and attitude towards the world. Therefore, early exposure to environmental issues is a critical step towards conservation — it creates good citizens.

The Pakatan Harapan government’s aspiration to be business friendly and balance economic growth with environmental protection requires a holistic environmental education (EE).

There should be focus on young people, but this education should also be directed at parents, teachers, lecturers and administrators.

We have four recommendations for EE.

Pupils planting a tree in conjunction with International Day of Forests celebration in Melaka. Early exposure to environmental issues is a critical step towards conservation. FILE PIC

FIRST, the formulation and introduction of a policy on Education for Sustainable Development. This will help emphasise that EE plays an integral part in the education system and needs to be addressed in a holistic manner across all discipline areas.

Currently, there is no systematic approach to the integration of EE in the classroom — it is taught ad hoc and left to the personal efforts, priorities or time available to those involved in teaching and education;

SECOND, we advocate the Education Ministry to establish smart partnerships with students, parents, teachers, education advisers, private organisations, research institutions, environmental and social non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and business regulators, as well as local communities.

This will allow all partners to advance their common interests and learn from each other’s expertise in order to provide mutual support and increase commitment to a particular set of decisions they all consider important;

THIRD, the ministry must harness the network of higher learning institutions, research institutes, environmental and social NGOs to capitalise on their technical expertise and capacity for leadership.

Now, most research outcomes related to EE are not integrated within curricula or approaches to teaching and learning.

Harnessing the expertise available to us is crucial in designing curricula for all levels of education, adopting best practices in teaching (enquiry, investigative, case study, etc), and educational approaches (classroom, field trips, etc); and,

FOURTH, we are aware that funding is an essential part of the implementation process; hence, we encourage the ministry to make available resources for the successful delivery of EE, as well as monitoring so that its success can be evaluated.


Read more @