Archive for the ‘Environmental Education’ Category

Call for stringent control over discharges into rivers

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: The State Government has been urged to be more stringent in controlling all activities of discharge into rivers or water bodies.

PY Konsep Perunding Sdn Bhd director Tan Kok Jyh said this was necessary because of the indiscriminate dumping of waste, including chemical waste that cannot be treated using conventional water treatment methods, into rivers and water bodies in the State.

He said that in countries such as Australia, no one is allowed to discharge anything direct into water bodies and rivers unless they have been given a permit to do so.

In Sabah, however, people live by the river and use the river water for their needs while also dumping their sewage wastes directly into the same river, he said.

And the same goes for plantations and agriculture areas in Sabah, he said.

“Fertilisers, pesticides and chemicals are also dumped into rivers.”

He warned that while conventional water treatment plants are able to treat solid wastes, it cannot rid the water of chemicals and fertilisers.

“To treat the water of these, advance water treatment must be employed but warned that the cost of such treatment is very high,” he said.

He also warned on the likelihood of getting diseases due to the consumption of water contaminated by the chemicals.

Tan acknowledged that all parties need to play their part stating that the preservation of the water quality falls on everyone and not a one-man-show.

In the east coast of Sabah, Tan pointed towards oil palm plantations and urged them to conduct their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to ensure the communities living in their midst continued enjoying good quality water.

“They earn good returns for their venture. They should carry out their CSR,” he said.

He also urged the government to ensure there is a proper regulation to use pesticides and fertilisers by the oil palm plantations.

“The problem is they discharge into a pond which is connected directly to the river, and this is a problem,” he said.

The Segama River, where many of the plantations are located for example, is a highly polluted river at Class III or Class IV.

Similarly, he also said that clearing of vast forested area for plantations would result in high sedimentation in rivers and hence, was not a good idea.

He added that Sabah was fortunate that she still has many Class 1 Forest Reserves.

Meanwhile, in his presentation on the challenge of water resource management and development in Sabah, Tan cited that there was a growing demand and pressure on water resources in Sabah due to population increase, which stood at 0.63 million in 1970 and 3.12 million by the year 2010.

The per capita availability of water is decreasing and the practical limit of surface water resources had already been reached, he said.

by Jenne Lajiun.

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More than 60 years on, Japan’s mercury-poison victims fight to be heard

Thursday, September 21st, 2017
View of JNC Corporation, which was established in 2011 and whose proceeds help pay for compensation of certified Minamata disease patients, is seen in Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, September 12, 2017. REUTERS Photo

MINAMATA, Japan: Shinobu Sakamoto was just 15 when she left her home in the southern Japanese fishing village of Minamata to go to Stockholm and tell the world of the horrors of mercury poisoning.

Forty-five years on, she is travelling again, this time to Geneva, to attend from Sunday a gathering of signatories to the first global pact to rein in mercury pollution.

Sakamoto is one of a shrinking group of survivors from a 1950s industrial disaster in which tens of thousands of people were poisoned after waste water from a chemical plant seeped into the Minamata bay. (Graphic link

The waste contained a toxic organic compound, methylmercury, which can cause severe damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to a condition called Minamata disease. It gives its name to the U.N.-backed treaty that took effect last month.

Symptoms worsen with age, leaving some victims grappling with the question of who will care for them after the death of siblings and parents, while others face legal disputes.

“If I don’t say something, no one will know about Minamata disease,” said Sakamoto, who is one of the few born with the disease who is still able to talk.

“There are still so many problems, and I want people to know.”

An engineer from the National Institute for Minamata Disease collects samples of seawater from Minamata Bay to test for mercury content in Eco Park, an area once polluted by mercury-containing wastewater and later turned into a massive landfill, in Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, September 13, 2017. REUTERS Photo


Just 528 people survive from among the 3,000 certified victims of Minamata disease, environment ministry data shows. More than 20,000 people have sought to be designated victims, hoping for legal compensation.

“We need to take seriously the fact that there are still many people raising their hands,” said ministry official Koji Sasaki, referring to victims’ efforts to win recognition.

Born in a family of shipbuilders whose home overlooks the Minamata bay, Jitsuko Tanaka, 64, used to play on the beach with her older sister, picking and eating shellfish, unaware it was contaminated with mercury.

She was almost three, and her sister five, when they lost the ability to move their hands freely and walk properly, becoming the first to be identified as disease sufferers.

Tanaka’s older sister died at age eight. Tanaka survived, but the poisoning left her too weak to walk without support. A few years ago, her family says, even that became impossible.

As she lay motionless in bed, her brother-in-law, a fellow sufferer, said he worried about the patients left behind when family members die.

“After I die, who will take care of her?” asked Yoshio Shimoda, 69.

An engineer from the National Institute for Minamata Disease collects samples of seawater from Minamata Bay to test for mercury content in Eco Park, an area once polluted by mercury-containing wastewater and later turned into a massive landfill, in Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, September 13, 2017. REUTERS Photo

Time No Healer:

Sixty-one years since Minamata disease was identified in 1956, the grim struggles have eased for only a few.

Before the government named methylmercury as its cause in 1968, disease sufferers faced discrimination over fears it was contagious, which deterred many from seeking legal recognition.

People still send in decades-old umbilical cords to be checked for contamination, hoping for evidence to support their claims to be designated as victims, said Hirokatsu Akagi, director of Minamata’s International Mercury Laboratory.

By Reuters.

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Global cooperation needed in climate change finance

Friday, September 15th, 2017
(File pix) Most renewable energy investments needed in developing countries are not profitable enough to attract private investment, especially foreign direct investment.

FUNDING developing countries’ climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts was never going to be easy. But, it has become more uncertain with the United States’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord. As a candidate, the US had pledged US$3 billion (RM12.5 billion) towards the 2020 target of US$100 billion yearly for the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The GCF was formally established in December 2011 “to make a significant and ambitious contribution to the global efforts towards attaining the goals set by the international community to combat climate change”. In the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, developed economies had promised to mobilise US$100 billion yearly for climate finance by 2020.

However, only a small fraction has been pledged, let alone disbursed so far. As of July, only US$10.1 billion has come from 43 governments, including nine developing countries, mostly for start-up costs. The US had contributed US$1 billion. Now that the US has announced its withdrawal from the 2015 climate treaty, the remaining US$2 billion will not be forthcoming.

Moreover, the US$100 billion goal is vague. For example, disputes continue over whether
it refers to public funds, or whether leveraged private finance will also count. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development projected last year that pledges worldwide would add up to US$67 billion yearly by 2020. But, such estimates have been inflated by counting commercial loans to buy green technology from developed countries.

Even if all the pledged finance is raised, it would still be inadequate to finance a rapid transition to renewable energy globally, forest conservation, as well as atmospheric greenhouse gas sequestration. The Hamburg-based World Future Council (WFC) estimates that, globally, annual investment of US$2 trillion is needed to retain a chance of keeping temperature rise below 1.5°C.

Obviously, the task is daunting, especially for developing countries more vulnerable to climate change. Therefore, in adopting the Marrakech Vision at the 2016 22nd Conference of Parties to meet 100 per cent domestic renewable energy production as rapidly as possible, 48 members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum advocated an “international cooperative system” for “attaining a significant increase in climate investment in public and private climate finance from wide ranging sources, including international, regional and domestic mobilisation”.

International cooperation is necessary, considering developing countries’ limited abilities to mobilise enough finance domestically. Much foreign funds are needed to import green technology. Additionally, most renewable energy investments needed in developing countries will not be profitable enough to attract private investment, especially foreign direct investment.

Hence, two options, proposed by the United Nations and WFC, are worth serious consideration. The UN proposal involves using Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) of the International Monetary Fund for a particular kind of development finance, namely climate finance. It involves floating bonds backed by SDRs, not directly spending SDRs. Thus, for example, the GCF would issue US$1 trillion in bonds, backed by US$100 billion in SDR equity.

The WFC has proposed that central banks of developed countries continue “quantitative easing” (QE), but not to buy existing financial assets. Instead, they should invest in “Green Climate Bonds” (GCBs) issued by multilateral development banks, the GCF or other designated climate finance institution to fund renewable energy projects in developing countries.

This should have some other potential benefits.

FIRST, it will not destabilise the financial system of emerging economies, whereas QE has fuelled speculation and asset price bubbles;

SECOND, it is less likely to increase inflation as it will be used for productive investments;

THIRD, for the above reasons, it should not exacerbate inequality;


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Schools to teach about Environment

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017
Progressive move: Dr Wan Junaidi (second from right) speaking during the ‘Asean Dialogue’ session at Pangkor Dialogue 2017. With him are (from left) Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs parliamentary secretary Amrin Amin, Asian Solidarity Economy Council chairman Dr Benjamin R. Quinones Jr, moderator Kamarul Bahrin and former member of the Philippine House of Representatives representing the legislative district of Marinduque Regina Reyes Mandanas.

Progressive move: Dr Wan Junaidi (second from right) speaking during the ‘Asean Dialogue’ session at Pangkor Dialogue 2017. With him are (from left) Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs parliamentary secretary Amrin Amin, Asian Solidarity Economy Council chairman Dr Benjamin R. Quinones Jr, moderator Kamarul Bahrin and former member of the Philippine House of Representatives representing the legislative district of Marinduque Regina Reyes Mandanas.

IPOH: Environmental education is expected to be introduced as a subject in schools and universities by 2019.

The draft would be presented to Cabinet next year, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

Dr Wan Junaidi said he mooted the suggestion earlier this year, not only for the subject to be introduced in the primary and secondary schools but also at kindergartens and universities.

“We are already in discussion with the Education Ministry.

Dr Wan Junaidi said with the syllabus in place, it would greatly help in addressing environmental pollution problems and the importance of sustainable development, among others.

“As a school subject, we can instil in children the importance of protecting the environment at an early age. It will be a great step forward,” he said.

During his talk, Dr Wan Junaidi said it was impossible to carry out development without thinking of sustainability.

He said the management of natural resources was important so that future generations could enjoy it.

“In Malaysia, we have several forests in Sabah, Perak and Langkawi that attract tourists from far and near,” Dr Wan Junaidi said.

“If these are destroyed it will also impact tourism.”

Dr Wan Junaidi said people were visiting countries in Europe and the United States, but there was just as much to see in Asean countries.

“For example, many people are not aware that the Sarawak Chamber at the Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak is the largest in the world.

“It is so big that about 100 Boeing 747 planes can fit inside,” he added.

On a separate matter, Dr Wan Junaidi said more areas in the country would be included under the National Heritage Trust (Amanah Warisan Negara) to protect and maintain green zones.

He said that among these places were Pulau Anak Tikus, Kilim Geoforest Park and the Dropstone area measuring 1,200m in Langkawi.

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More earthquakes expected for Sabah in near future: UMS

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017
More weak earthquakes like the one felt in Ranau can be expected in Sabah in the near future following the two tremblors which rattled nerves here earlier this week. (File pix)

KOTA KINABALU: More weak earthquakes can be expected in Sabah in the near future following the two tremblors which rattled nerves here earlier this week.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) geologist Professor Dr Felix Tongkul said that tectonic stress (forces or conditions within the earth which cause the movement of the crust) in the state is simply being released, causing the minor quakes.

Two tremblors struck different parts of Sabah in less than 24 hours on Thursday evening and Friday morning, but both posed no tsunami threat.

The first occurred at Sapulut, Tawau at 6.13pm, 16 kilometres northeast of Sapulut and was measured at 3.0 on the Richter scale; while the second hit Kota Belud, 16km northwest of Ranau at 11.41am yesterday, and was 3.9 in magnitude.

“The two minor earthquakes struck far from each other, so they were not related.

“But more weak earthquakes are expected in the future.

“It is possible that stronger earthquakes will also occur in areas such as Ranau and Lahad Datu-Kunak.

“However, we have no means of knowing when this will happen,” said Felix when contacted.

The UMS expert had predicted such earthquakes following the deadly Ranau 6.0 magnitude tremblor on June 5, 2015.


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Sabah civil servants’ TN50 aspirations: Sustainable development, environmental conservation.

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017
Sabah civil servants want to see sustainable development and better environmental conservation in the country by 2050. (Pix by IZHARI ARIFFIN)

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah civil servants want to see sustainable development and better environmental conservation in the country by 2050.

These two aspirations were delivered by participants in the National Transformation 2050 (TN50) dialogue at Universiti Malaysia Sabah, here.

Chief Secretary to the Government, Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, who led the dialogue session, was impressed with the concerns voiced out by civil servants in the state.

“Globally, everyone is concerned about sustainability and the environment.

“Malaysia has always put environment first and sustainability has always been our motto.

“Our development plan is a sustainable one. Every part of our system, including the civil service should move toward that direction.

“On environment, Sabah is, for sure, doing very well in terms of forest conservation. The civil servants here are proud of that and that is why they want to protect it (environment),” he told reporters at a press conference.

Ali also noted that security was also one of the main aspiration expressed by many.

Many wished to see Sabah having increased level of security in years to come.

“We are aware of the security concern in the eastern part of Sabah. Safety will remain an utmost important factor so we can develop every part of the state,” he said.


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Being a hub for the right things.

Monday, July 10th, 2017

ANY country with ambition and vision aspires to be a hub of some sort or even to be several different hubs. It is about benefitting from being in the thick of things.

When you are at the centre of an activity or a network, there are gains to be made from the goods, services, people and capital streaming in and out.

Over the years, Malaysia has pursued plans to be hubs for a wide range of areas such as education, aviation, logistics, digital businesses, outsourcing and halal-related manufacturing.

Unfortunately, the unscrupulous have also capitalised on the very factors behind the country’s appeal as a regional or global centre.

A not-so-proud example is the fact that Malaysia is a key location in the global web of illicit trafficking in wildlife.

A May 2016 United Nations publication, World Wildlife Crime Report, has many maps showing places that recorded seizures over the previous several years of items such as big cat skins, rosewood logs, African elephant ivory, reptile skins, agarwood and pangolins.

Many of these seizures were in Malaysia.

But we do not have to read this UN report to get a sense of how often protected species and their parts and products are smuggled in and out of the country.

Every now and then, there are news reports of the authorities intercepting such items and nabbing the culprits.

For instance, following raids in late March, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) said it believed it had crippled a “major syndicate” that traded wildlife in Peninsular Malaysia through social media.

The department seized almost 50 animals, including leaf monkeys, civets, Asiatic leopard cats and Indian star tortoises.

In May, the Customs Department seized 712kg of scales that came from at least 1,400 adult pangolins. The scales were shipped from Africa.

Customs officers last month found another 288kg of pangolin scales, also from Africa, in an air cargo warehouse at the KLIA Free Trade Zone.

It was also last month that Thai wildlife officers arrested a Malaysian man attempting to smuggle two baby orang utan, 51 tortoises and six raccoons into the kingdom across its southern border.

On Thursday, Customs officials in Hong Kong said they had seized 7,200kg of ivory tusks at a cargo warehouse beside the city’s harbour. The tusks were in a 40-foot container from Malaysia that was supposed to contain only frozen fish.

It was reportedly Hong Kong’s largest haul of contraband ivory in more than 30 years.

In response, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said his ministry would review its transhipment procedures so as to curb the illegal wildlife trade.

This tells us that the efforts to stem the flow of illicit wildlife products cannot just come from customs agents and wildlife department officers.

Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network, published in Septem-ber last year an assessment of ivory seizures involving Malay-sia.

“The need for an intelligence-led approach is paramount for any attempt to eliminate the use of Malaysian ports (both sea and air) as a facilitating link in this illicit trade,” it says in the report.

“Only through multinational and multi-agency collaboration will the illicit ivory flow through Malaysia be disrupted.”

The Star Says.
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Minister: Leachate contamination must be addressed

Monday, July 10th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: The serious and recurring issue of leachate contamination needs to be addressed with an improvement in the design specifications and location of landfills in the country.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar (pic) said there is a need to look for a holistic solution to ensure the safety of raw water resources.

A meeting between the ministry and state executive councillors in charge of the environment will be called soon.

“I will make sure that the Department of Environment (DOE) will table the paper,” he told The Star yesterday. “We will discuss what everyone can do. We are not just looking at landfills. We are also looking into oil palm plantations that are near rivers to ensure that our water sources are protected.

“The industry must go on but it must be environmentally friendly.”

Dr Wan Junaidi said landfills are under the jurisdiction of local councils but most do not follow the specifications set by his ministry.

He added that local councils “sometimes do things independently”, and do not consult the ministry.

As the local custodian of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the ministry had done well in aspects such as forestry management and reducing carbon emission, he added.

“But we are not doing well in terms of waste disposal or waste management.”

Dr Wan Junaidi said the ministry is also looking into mechanisms for the management and proper flow of e-waste – discarded electronic and electrical devices.

“We hope all parties, including politicians, will play a role and not politicise the issue,” he added.

On Saturday, Bernama reported that six solid waste landfills were found to have serious and recurring leachate contamination issues.

The six are the former ones at Taman Beringin, Kuala Lumpur; Pajam, Negri Sembilan; Sungai Udang, Melaka; Pulau Burung, Penang; Tanah Merah Estate, Negri Sembilan; and CEP Simpang Renggam Estate, Johor.

Dr Wan Junaidi said monitoring by the DOE revealed that the pollution was due to the design of the landfill and existing leachate treatment system that was less efficient compared to the increasing volume of solid waste received.

“The collapse of retention ponds caused the sediment discharged to flow into nearby rivers and damage the equipment or components at the landfill, which is part of the pollution control system,” he said.

He said the lack of competent operators, in terms of environmental control, at the affected solid waste landfills was also another factor.

The DOE had taken enforcement action in 74 instances against those responsible for managing the six landfills, including issuing directives, compounds and taking court action, he said.

Cases of non-compliance were investigated under the Environ­mental Quality Act 1974, involving a fine not exceeding RM500,000 or a jail term of not more than five years or both, and an additional fine of RM1,000 for each day the offence was continued, in accordance with the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (Environ­mental Impact Assessment) Order 2015.


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Greater effort to protect threatened animals in Sabah

Monday, June 12th, 2017


Camera-trap photo of a Sunda clouded leopard in the Kinabatangan (copyright: DGFC)

KOTA KINABALU: The recent death of one of the last three Sumatran rhinoceroses in Sabah should prompt harder work on the conservation of endangered species in Sabah such as the Sunda clouded leopard, former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam said.

“Let us learn from this and work even harder to save as many of our endangered species as humanly possible,” said the chairman of the Yayasan Sime Darby which is the main benefactor of an extensive research towards conserving the Sumatran rhino, proboscis monkey, Bornean banteng (wild buffalo) and the Sunda clouded leopard.

Puntung the Sumatran rhinoceros died of cancer recently and its much publicised death was a reminder of threats to iconic wildlife species caused by habitat loss and forest fragmentation.

The Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) are organising a 3-day workshop of experts and hope to come out with a Sunda Clouded Leopard Action Plan.

DGFC Director Dr Benoit Goossens revealed that in 10 years of extensive surveys all over Sabah, it is estimated that there are about 700 Sunda clouded leopards, an animal Tun Musa described as ‘my favourite … Due to its sheer beauty’.

DGFC has been funded by Sime Darby Foundation (SDF) since 2011. It is in the midst of drafting an action plan on the conservation of proboscis monkey.

The effort is also participated by the Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Montana and Leibniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research.

The areas covered by field teams and researchers included the Crocker Range, Tawau Hills, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Kinabatangan, Malua, Ulu Segama and Maliau Basin.

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Study: Rapid development causing heat effect

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Temperature differences between parts of Kuala Lumpur and its neighbouring rural areas have been found to be as high as 10°C and the gap is widening, research has shown.

This is causing heavier rainfall, resulting in more severe flash floods and hotter temperatures in the city and suburbs than surrounding areas. Ironically, the rainfall is heavier in the cities than in rural areas such as Hulu Langat, where the dams are located.

Climate expert Prof Datuk Dr Azizan Abu Samah from Universiti Malaya said this was due to the “urban heat island” effect, where cities get increasingly warmer compared to surrounding rural areas due to rapid development.

“Due to the increased development of Greater Kuala Lumpur, the urban heat island or hot areas are growing,” he said.

The differences in temperatures between urban and rural areas are also widening by 0.4°C per decade.

Apart from getting hotter, the country’s urban areas are also likely to get heavier rainfall as more rain can occur when a bubble of heated air forms over a very warm area.

Citing a 2014 study on the urban heat island effect in the Klang Valley by fellow academic Dr Illyani Ibrahim, Dr Azizan said Petaling Jaya received increasingly more rain between 1983 and 2007 compared to Hulu Langat, located just 22km away.

The increased rainfall in urban areas, Dr Azizan warned, could add to the risk of flash floods in cities.

“This is because much of the rainwater cannot be absorbed into the ground in built-up areas, causing it to remain on the surface, especially where drainage is poor,” he said.

Dr Azizan was commenting on the findings of a World Bank report which found temperature anomalies in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Penang, Johor Baru, Kuantan and Kota Kinabalu growing faster than the global average (see graphic).

The report, titled “Achieving a System of Competitive Cities in Malaysia”, said climate change is expected to worsen the urban heat island effect and cause more heatwaves and heavy rain in urban areas.

Heavy and more frequent precipitation events are expected and will increase the risk and severity of urban flooding and landslides, according to the study, which was released in December 2015 and carried out with the cooperation of the Economic Planning Unit and Khazanah Nasional Bhd.

Parts of the Klang Valley, including Kuala Lumpur, have become notorious for being inundated during heavy downpour in recent months.

In one of the most recent episodes, four roads in Kuala Lumpur – Jalan Bangsar, Jalan Semantan, Jalan Pantai Baharu and Jalan Pudu – were flooded following heavy rain, causing cars to be submerged in water up to their windows.

Other cities, including in Penang, have also been hit by a rising number of flash floods.

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