Archive for the ‘Environmental Education’ Category

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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Transforming agriculture to prevent haze

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017
The World Agroforestry Centre reports that oil palm industry wages are two to seven times greater than average agricultural wages in Indonesia. FILE PIC

THE majority of forest fires in Southeast Asia occur in states which grow palm oil, according to Global Forest Watch. Forests are cleared to make way for oil palm plantations. To save on clearing costs, farmers resort to burning.

While frameworks to stop haze are being established at the regional level as well as in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, the challenge remains to get on board the actors who currently benefit from drained peatlands — the farmers, companies and investors profiting from oil palm.

Could a long-term solution for forest fire prevention in the region lie in promoting alternative commodities that can grow in wet peatlands?

The sine qua non, or the condition without which fires can start and spread, is the presence of dry peatlands.

Peatlands are naturally wet swamps of decomposed matter. They are nutrient-rich, but extremely flammable when dry. Yet, farmers resort to draining these swamps because oil palm can only grow in dry soil.

The initiative of restoring peatlands to their naturally wet state has been emphasised by Indonesia. However, unless the practice of draining peatlands is addressed, haze will continue to be a challenge.

At the root is the choice of oil palm as the dominant crop for growing. This happens for two key reasons. First, oil palm is highly profitable and offers higher wages than other crops.

The World Agroforestry Centre reports that oil palm in Indonesia yields profits of up to 44 million to 295 million rupiah (US$3,300 to US$22,000) per hectare per annum, and oil palm wages are two to seven times greater than average agricultural wages in the country.

The other reason is the short lead time in growing oil palm, taking three to four years before bearing fruit (with some gestation period before harvesting). This short lead time reduces the risks to investors who wish to invest in oil palm, in comparison with plants such as sago, which can take 10 to 15 years before harvest.

To prevent farmers and private companies from draining peatlands, it must be economically sustainable to keep them wet. Alternative commodities that can be grown in peatlands need to be leveraged while meeting three key conditions.

First, they must grow in natural wet peat conditions. Second, they must compete with oil palm in profitability, to translate into equivalent or higher wages to farmers, and returns to investors. And, third, they must be able to reduce investor risk by having shorter lead time periods before harvest.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has already identified commodities that can grow in naturally wet peat conditions. These include sago, papyrus, wild rice, wetland taro, water celery, water spinach, and Chinese water chestnut.

Apart from these, there are plants that can grow in moderately drained peatlands, such as rice, bananas, beans, carrots, celery, corn, lettuce, mint, onions, potatoes, parsley, radish, pasture-sod, sugar cane chili, soya bean, tobacco and a few horticultural crops.

The challenge, however, is that there is limited information on which of these commodities meet the second and third conditions, of comparable profitability and time taken before investors start getting net positive returns on their investments.

Among the limited studies available, one shows that if sago was chosen as alternative crop to explore, it takes sago 10 to 15 years before it can start bearing fruit, and that the internal rate of return is up to 8.06 per cent, still low compared with 20 per cent if oil palm was planted.

Alternatively, some crops can be grown in less than a year, like radish or celery, but it is not known if there will be sufficient demand. Additional preparations may be needed, such as reducing the acidity of the soil, preventing pests and diseases, or increasing the value-add of producers through additional processing.

There is a need for more research and institutional support in improving the desirability of producing alternative commodities, in both the demand and supply side. These need to be considered in developing and implementing long-term rehabilitation plans.

Demand-side interventions include research on identifying which among the identified alternative commodities are in demand, who the buyers are, what qualities and traits they desire, and what prices they are sold at. Buyers may include domestic buyers within Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as importers from higher income countries abroad. In Japan, for instance, youth are leaving the agricultural sector, creating opportunities for countries like Indonesia to provide select crops.


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Going green through environmental education

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017


THE GROWTH … the pupils planting flower cutting on polybags

KOTA KINABALU: The Palace Hotel Kota Kinabalu is supporting SK Puun Tunoh’s green efforts.

Yesterday, the hotel presented 50 kilos of Eco Pure Organic Fertiliser to the school as part of the hotel’s Corporate Social responsibility (CSR).

The team from the hotel led by its Food and Beverage director John Malcom handed over the fertilisers to the school represented by its Headmistress Siti Mahani Mohd Aini.

Siti Mahani in her welcoming speech thanked hotel for presenting them with the organic fertiliser, saying that it would go towards their school landscape and potted plants.

According to her, the school’s landscape is extensive with various plants and trees planted around the school building. Potted plants are also used to beautify the school surroundings.

“In this respect, we are grateful that The Palace Hotel has chosen to present us with the organic fertiliser. We hope that they will keep on supporting us not only with organic fertiliser but on related knowledge as well.”

“We hope to carry out more activities with the hotel,” she said.

John in his turn gave a talk on the hotel policy as a green hotel and environmental protection as well as conservation through waste management.

“Environmental education will ensure that pupils can identify, understand and become engaged in resolving related environmental issues in future,” he said.

Some 250 pupils and teachers of the school attended the talk and presentation.

Meanwhile, the Hotel General Manager Ms Phang Joo See said as a Green Hotel and strong advocate of the 4R policy: Respect, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, imparting environmental knowledge on students are one of the hotel’s CSR.

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Rescued – only to die of poor care.

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

EXCLUSIVE: PETALING JAYA: Thousands of protected animals seized by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) have died in the hands of the authority in the past year due to mishandling.

These animals, many of which are endangered species and exotic, were being smuggled or kept illegally by local pet owners when they were seized.

A source said the lack of expertise and knowledge to handle these animals in captivity led to their death.

Among the animals that died in Perhilitan custody were 1,000 Indian Star tortoises and 10 juvenile and baby langurs.

These two species were seized from illegal dealers in mid-2016 and March 27 respectively.

Other animals that have died in the Perhilitan rescue centres include Asian Leopard Cats, small primates including endangered gibbons, and exotic white-rumped Shamas (murai batu).

The source said these animals were among many other seized species kept at the department’s National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Sungkai, Perak, and at Sungai Tengi, Selangor.

These two husbandries are Perhilitan’s main holding centres for seized animals.

The department has 11 other conservation centres nationwide which serve as holding centres for seized wildlife.

The source said many of the handlers have little or no knowledge in keeping, handling and caring for the animals.

“They are not well trained to handle these species and have little knowledge or technical expertise to take care of the animals, which are kept at the centres waiting to be repatriated to their country of origin.

“As such, these animals were neglected. They were not properly fed, given the right diet, or housed in proper facilities.

“These factors,” said the source, “caused the animals to be stressed from captivity, thus making them prone to disease and death.”

A former Perhilitan veterinarian said there was a need for rangers to be trained to handle these animals.

“Many do not know what are the best practices for the animals they are dealing with.

“They don’t have the basic knowledge such as the characteristics or even diet of these species to care for them.

“As such, the animals get sick, are stressed and die,” he said.

He said Perhilitan had its own veterinarians to deal with the seized animals but all these officers were seconded from the Veterinary Department.

“Many of us are trained in handling domestic animals and learn to deal with exotic animals and wildlife after joining Perhilitan,” he added.

Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network, says Malaysia is one of many South-East Asian countries that does not have expertise to handle seized smuggled animals in captivity.


Wan Junaidi: No haze but expect floods this year.

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

SUBANG: Malaysia will be haze-free this year due to the La Nina phenomenon, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said that recent Meteorological Department reports showed that the El Nino phenomenon – which brought extremely hot weather – would not occur this year, and Malaysia is expected to be free of cross border haze in 2017 because of this.

Wan Junaidi added that people living in low-lying areas need to be prepared following unpredictable heavy rain which may bring about floods this year due to the La Nina phenomenon.

He said that the Department’s reports on rain distribution showed an unpredictable pattern with an unusually heavy downpour.

“It is raining every day, the situation is worrying, and it is feared the heavy rain could cause floods. As we are aware the El Nino effect is not strong this year, and the La Nina is taking place instead,” he said.

Wan Junaidi said this to  reporters after launching the second stage of the Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFCs) Phase-Out Management Plan (HPMP) here.

It said there would not be abnormally hot weather as experienced in 2014 and 2015 which brought about the haze.

Meanwhile, Malaysia is targeting to reduce the usage of HCFCs by 35 per cent by 2020 in a effort to restore the ozone layer compared to 10 per cent in 2015.

Wan Junaidi said the second stage of HPMP would focus on technological change by using non HCFCs alternatives in the foam manufacturing sector and banned the consumption of HCFCs in fire extinguisher manufacturing.

The ban on HCFCs would give industries in Malaysia the opportunity to improve energy efficiency and expand the development of the green economy.

The plan is implemented by the Environment Department under the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry with the cooperation of the United Nations Development Programme.

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Clean air — A human right

Friday, May 5th, 2017
There are local factors that contribute to poor air quality, such as traffic congestion, which can be addressed by appropriate urban development policies. FILE PIC

EVERY year, the Global Initiative for Asthma decides on a theme for World Asthma Day. The organisation, which has increasing awareness on asthma as one of its main objectives, chose “Better Air, Better Breathing” as the theme for this year.

This theme is an acknowledgement of the fact that although asthma is often viewed as a condition affecting the individual, there are multiple external factors that need to be addressed to improve patient outcomes — in this case, the subject of air quality.

At its most basic level, asthma is a disease in which patients have hyper-reactive air passages. As individuals, you can control the condition with medicine and by avoiding triggers. Some triggers may be easy to avoid, such as the neighbour’s cat, but others are more difficult. In Malaysia, common triggers include cockroaches, dust mites, air conditioners, tobacco smoke and air pollution.

The latter two are arguably best addressed at a higher policy level. Tobacco smoke, which is essentially a form of air pollution, is best addressed by a holistic tobacco control policy that reduces the demand for tobacco as well as that of production, distribution, availability and supply. Tobacco is unique in that when used as intended, the consumer dies. Add the hundreds of millions of smokers worldwide and you get mass exhalation of thousands of chemicals that not only irritate the airways, but can cause coronary heart disease and emphysema.

There are local factors that contribute to poor air quality, such as traffic congestion, which can also be addressed by appropriate urban and developmental policies. Moving beyond, one can begin to appreciate the necessity for appropriate government policies when dealing with energy matters at a national level and the need for intergovernmental cooperation when addressing pollution at a global level.

One such issue that the world is struggling with is that of energy policy. Europe is committed to moving away from coal as a source of energy. Although the cheapest, coal is also the highest emitter of carbon dioxide. This contrasts with Japan, which is increasing its coal use following the recent safety concerns about their nuclear-derived energy sources.

The Energy Commission of Malaysia maintains a policy that prioritises affordability for the people. Almost 50 per cent of the total fuel mix in Peninsular Malaysia is from coal, with the commission aiming to increase this to two-thirds by 2025. On paper, this makes sense as coal is both cheap and abundant, but this comes with added environmental and health costs.

Government policies will not change if both the people and policymakers focus only on immediate financial costs. We tend to forget direct health-related financial costs of poor air quality, such as increased hospital admissions and use of medicine, as well as the indirect costs to the economy from loss of work productivity and days off from school, which affect working parents.

Poor air quality also affects children’s growth, robbing them of their full potential. And, we have not even touched on the cost to our environment and effect on climate change.

This illustrates the need to think beyond traditional silos when dealing with our health and the future. However, we have to start at a more basic level. Policies usually reflect society’s current thinking and, as such, education and awareness among the people need to be increased to induce a paradigm shift in our approach.


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