Archive for the ‘Environmental Education’ Category

Wild animals have equal right to life

Sunday, June 17th, 2018
An elephant crossing a road in Kinabatangan, Sabah, this week. (PIC COURTESY OF READER)

I REFER to a recent incident where an elephant was killed in an early-morning crash with a trailer at Batu 13 in Jalan Mersing-Kota Tinggi, Johor.

Investigations found that the incident happened when the driver of another car switched on his high beam when he saw elephants crossing the road.

His action startled a female elephant, which charged at an on-coming trailer travelling from Terengganu to Singapore, resulting in the elephant’s death.

On Aug 25 last year, two tapirs were killed when they were hit by a car while attempting to cross the Gebeng bypass road near Kuantan.

On Aug 23, a 10-year-old elephant bull died after it was struck by a bus in the Gerik-Jeli Highway. The incident occurred about two months after an elephant calf was killed when a car collided with it in the same area near the Royal Belum State Park.

The Wildlife and National Parks Department said from 2012 to last year, 2,444 wild animals were killed by vehicles. These incidents happened despite signs warning motorists about wildlife crossings.

Wildlife and vehicles just do not mix and the construction of more roads in wildlife habitats means that more animals may be killed.

The authorities must tackle wildlife roadkill.

Human behavioural change will reduce roadkill.

There must be public education and awareness efforts to encourage the public to appreciate wildlife.

Road users should never provoke wild animals by honking or turning on their high beam to avoid startling them.

Sites must be identified to enable more animal crossings to be built across highways and roads that pass through animal habitats or migration routes

Speed bumps and speed cameras should be installed as well as light-coloured roads in wildlife-rich areas to reduce roadkill.

Authorities should follow the solutions introduced in advanced countries to reduce roadkill, including installing detectors that will trigger flashing signs when animals are detected near roads.

In South America, reflective stickers are placed on GPS collars on tapirs so that the animals are easily spotted in the dark.

Tapirs and elephants are at risk as they cross roads to look for food.

With the help of IT experts, the authorities could develop an app that worked with other apps, such as Waze and Google Maps, to warn drivers about wildlife.

Human behavioural change is crucial to avoid crashes with animals as not all wildlife will use viaducts or crossings.

Like humans, wildlife have a right to co-existence.

I support the Sabah hovernment’s decision to review logging concessions in critical areas where dead pygmy elephants have been discovered recently.


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The joys and benefits of observing nature

Thursday, June 7th, 2018
Although wasps are formidable predators, they too can fall prey. Here, a wasp has been overcome by a cordyceps fungus (family Cordycipitaceae and Ophiocordycipitaceae) that has invaded and killed the host, sending out spore-bearing stalks from the host’s body. Pic by Tan Kai Ren

IMAGINE yourself as a child with low-speed Internet connection at home. You can’t play online games or watch videos. What do you do to keep yourself entertained?

For Universiti of Malaya (UM) undergraduate Tan Kai Ren, the answer was to join his neighbourhood friends explore their backyard every evening after school.

“I have always had an interest in nature and the environment since I was in primary school. My backyard truly opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of biodiversity as it is connected to the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve, a 1,182.07ha forest under the management of Universiti Putra Malaysia.

“After taking my Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia exams, I became involved in several environmental non-governmental organisations, such as Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT), WWF-Malaysia and EcoKnights, which gave me a better understanding of environmental conservation and further fuelled my motivation to pursue this field,” said the third-year ecology and biodiversity student at UM.

Tan’s latest foray in biodiversity-related activities not only satisfied his love for nature but gave him global recognition in the world of urban biodiversity conservation.

At Malaysia’s maiden showing at City Nature Challenge 2018 — an international effort for people to find and document plants and wildlife in cities across the globe — Tan came out as top observer.

Besides Tan, three other Malaysians made the world Top 5 observers at City Nature Challenge 2018. Second place went to Thary Gazi, a PhD candidate and entomologist at UM, fourth place went to Affan Nasaruddin, founder and project officer of Water Warriors, a UM Living Lab; while Benjamin Ong of UM’s Rimba Project took fifth place.

“Observations basically means the number of observations that have been made throughout the four days of the challenge. I made 4,872 observations throughout the period,” he said.

The City Nature Challenge 2018 was carried out from April 27 to 30 in almost 70 cities around the world, all mobilising their residents and visitors to go out and document nature.

The Klang Valley was the first Malaysian and Southeast Asian urban metro area to participate in the challenge. Coorganised by the Rimba Project and UM’s Water Warriors, the Klang Valley City Nature Challenge (KVCNC) aimed to reconnect urban communities with nature and advocate for urban wildlife and biodiversity conservation.

A total of 685 Malaysians participated. At least 300 of these were school students. The event spanned the entire Klang Valley, defined as the sum of 10 municipalities: Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam, Subang Jaya, Klang, Sepang, Putrajaya, Ampang, Selayang and Kajang.

To enter the challenge, participants had to download an app, snap a photo of flora or fauna and post it on a specified website.

There were three types of participants: observers, species finders and identifiers. Observers are those who have contributed images or records of flora or fauna. Species-finders are those who are able to find different types of species, while identifiers could identify or name observations made by not only themselves, but also others.

Several Klang Valley City Nature Challenge committee members at the end of the last night of field observations. (From left) Siti Syuhada Sapno, Tan Kai Ren, Benjamin Ong, Nurul Fitrah Marican and Thary Gazi.

“When Rimba Project founder Benjamin Ong approached me to be part of the team to organise the Klang Valley City Nature Challenge 2018 in Malaysia, he said the goal of the event was to give us baseline data of urban biodiversity in the Klang Valley.

“The data we have collected can now serve as a complimentary checklist of species composition as it is collected by many amateur scientists, which might be useful for actual research work,” he said.

Recalling the effort he put in during the four-day challenge, Tan said despite juggling his final year project with the preparation, it was well worth it.

“During preparation, KVCNC team members were already aware of the goals we needed to achieve for this year, even though this will be our first year participating. Therefore, months before the event, I started to practice using the iNaturalist app to observe and record the flora and fauna around me. The practice gave me a certain advantage compared with other users as I am more familiar with the user interface.

“Nonetheless, the reason for my success is when our team realised that we can upload observations in bulk onto iNaturalist on the second day of the challenge. This allowed us to make more observations in the field by reducing the time needed to upload individual observations.

“Besides that, by minimising my travel on the last day of the event, I managed to do intensive observations around University of Malaya, and recorded almost 3,000 observations on that day alone. This is essentially aligned with the core idea behind the City Nature Challenge, which encourages citizens to map the flora and fauna surrounding them instead of entering the wilderness,” he said.

On whether the challenge had a significant impact in terms of biodiversity and conservation in Malaysia, Tan said it would be an overestimation to say so

Tan Kai Ren documenting one of his observations.

“However, with the help of the Association of Science, Technology and Innovation (ASTI), we managed to organise an interschool competition as a pilot project to encourage students’ involvement in biological science, with an endorsement from the Education Ministry. We envision that the partnership between ASTI and the Rimba Project will have larger influence towards more schools from cities all over the country in the upcoming year.

“Only then can we evaluate the impact of citizen science towards the conservation of biodiversity and determine its pros and cons,” he said.

On future plans, Tan said he would like to be involved in sustainable living and educating people on possible sustainable lifestyles.

“I believe that when people are better informed about the harm we can do towards the environment in our daily lives, we can indirectly save many vulnerable habitats that are prone to pollution and destruction.


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Invisible threat of plastic pollution

Thursday, June 7th, 2018
e Thai Marine Biologist officials rescue an ailing and immobile short-finned pilot whale at a canal in Songkhla province, southern Thailand, on May 30. The short-finned pilot whale died after swallowing 80 plastic bags weighing 8kg that were found in its stomach after an autopsy. EPA-EFE

People who gather throughout the world to commemorate World Environment Day today will find not very much to celebrate.

In fact, they will have more reasons to mourn, and less to rejoice. The reason is simple: Our only habitable planet is dying a slow death by degradation. And at the hand of a 20th century invention, at that. Plastic. Some may think there is planet Mars to go to should Earth become inhabitable. Let’s not forget, man’s bad habits will soon follow.

According one study humans have produced 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic since the 1950s, the period when the catalyst for polyethylene was invented. If you want to imagine how devastating it is to our oceans, picture this thought experiment of Roland Geyer, from the University of California and Santa Barbara as he told it the Guardian: “If you take the 8.3bn tonnes of plastic and spread it out as ankle deep waste – about 10 inches high – I calculated I could cover an area the size of Argentina with it. That is the world’s eighth largest country.” Geyer expects the figure to quadruple to 34bn by 2050, meaning we will end up with plastic waste the size of four Argentinas.

Plastic isn’t just a problem for our continents; our oceans are being suffocated with it, too. Islands of plastic debris are said to be floating around our oceans. One report even estimates it to be as big as France. That is what happens when we dump 8 million tonnes of plastic waste into the ocean every year. Over time the plastic waste is sure to be ingested by marine life and make their way onto our dinner plate. Take a grouper from your favourite supermarket to the lab and you will surely find some traces of microplastics in it

Malaysia may not be the worst of polluters, but it is ranked eighth among the top ten polluters in the world, according to one report. How do we stop this menacing behaviour of ours? Like in all bad behaviours, the solution lies at the individual and national level. As individuals we must say no to plastics. If we stopped relying on disposable plastic packaging we will be able to stop the manufacturers from producing them. At the national level, we need to focus on a spill-free plastic waste management system to ensure that plastic does not destroy neither the terrestrial environment nor the oceans. According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, by 2050 our oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight. This will spell trouble for Malaysians as 60 per cent of protein intake among Malaysian is sourced from marine resources. If we want fish on our plate, we better zero rate our love for plastic. The reason is simple: Neither we nor the planet can digest plastic. Yes, you can’t have your plastic and eat fish at the same time. Just remember this: the plastic you dump today will return to your dinner plate tomorrow. May there be more reasons to celebrate World Environment Day than mourn it.


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‘Drift nets on seabed’ shock

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: Drift nets placed on coral reefs is the latest tactic used by unscrupulous fishermen to lay their hands on the exotic and prized reef fish, the nets causing extensive damage to the reefs in the process.

What is even more shocking is that this is taking place in the protected Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park (TTAR) islands due to the crackdown on fish bombing which was also destroying the reefs.

Concerned divers have taken the initiative to tackle this problem together with Sabah Parks by removing these nets.

Dive spokesperson Jude Junius said they were startled to find some reefs covered with these nets with dead fish in the nettings.

“It all started somewhere in mid-March when a friend whom I introduced to diving discovered the first net that was around 200 to 300 metres in length. Not only were the nets new because of the absence of algae, there were dead fishes caught in the net.

“The following day we decided to carry out a net-removal activity which took us two days because it was long and we had to make sure that we were not destroying the algae. It was a delicate work,” he told Daily Express.

Other dive shops who also became aware of the problem then decided to join the effort.

Jude and his team approached other dive shops to give information and advice but even with their incessant efforts, they realized that carrying out the activity is not going to overcome the situation immediately.

“We started to ask for sponsorships from other dive shops for us to remove.

But found out there were too many nets for us to remove on our own.

“We know these nets underwater are not only a nuisance to the fish but also to tourists whom carrying out subaquatic activity for they (the tourists) come here to see the natural beauty in the sea.

“Sooner or later this would scare the tourists away if we did not take the initiative to overcome this situation and that is why we collaborated with TTAR rangers to form a team to search and remove the nets stuck on the coral reefs,” he added.

“Tourists come to experience the aquatic beauty and we knew the number will decrease.

They come here to see the coral reefs and schools of fish but what is there to see if there barely are fishes?” he asked.

Following appropriate monitoring and surveying, the team carried out underwater cleaning up process which was no walk in the park.

“We went out on the first day (May 3) at one of the dive sites located in the middle of Gayana and Sapi Island, the mission was a small success because we were able to remove four out of twelve nets which were about 100 to 200 metres long,” he said, adding that the first day mission was carried out using one boat with 10 divers.

During their first mission, fish traps were also discovered underwater believed dropped by fishermen and these caused damage to the reefs.

“If we do not take action, there will be no more schools of fish in the diving zones of the park.

It will affect the eco-system badly. The fishes need the coral reefs and same goes for the coral reefs.

But this will cause colossal imbalance if the fishing activities in the area are not dealt with,” he added.

Meanwhile, TTAR Park Manager Anthony Tinggi said although the joint effort was quite a success, initial work saw obstacles due to miscommunication between the diving community and the park.

“At first we had miscommunication when complaints were made about the nets and our party searched the area mentioned but failed to find pinpoint the location.

“But thorough discussion with Jude led to the establishment of TTAR marine unit team with volunteers including divers shops to carry out the net removing works,” he said via Whatsapp.

He also commended the efforts and initiatives of the diving community but as well as resorts such as Gayana Island Resort who helped provide necessary equipment, including boat.

by Jeremy S Zabala.

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Deadly cost of plastic

Monday, June 4th, 2018
(File pic) Plastic waste is pictured on Juhu beach in Mumbai on June 2, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / PUNIT PARANJPE)

ON June 5, World Environment Day will be hosted in India under the banner of “Beat Plastic Pollution”, aiming to raise awareness and civic engagement alongside creating a global movement to reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.

World Environment Day addresses four main campaigns.

FIRST , it seeks to decrease the amount of single-use plastic items;

SECOND , it will try to improve plastic waste management, since plastic takes hundreds of years to degrade, poisoning the soil and even getting into the food we eat;

THIRD , it aims to phase out microplastics because recent studies show that 90 per cent of bottled water and 83 per cent of tap water contain plastic particles which affect blood, stomach and lungs; and,

FOURTH , this global platform intends to coordinate further research to create alternatives to plastic.

As synthetic polymers can be transformed into cheap, lightweight and durable products, demand for plastic is growing worldwide, rising from five million tonnes in the 1950s to over 300 million tonnes in 2017. The United Nations has estimated that more than five trillion plastic bags are consumed annually, while 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce plastic.

At the same time, 50 per cent of this plastic is for single-time use, making the share of plastic in human-generated waste 10 per cent. The problem is intensified by the fact that every year, 13 million tonnes of plastic get into the ocean killing 100,000 marine animals.

In his report, “Future of the Sea: Plastic Pollution”, Professor Richard C. Thompson describes human plastic consumption through the “Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) framework”.

According to Thompson, the driver which leads to the highest amount of litter is the demand for plastic production. Intensive fisheries and shipping, alongside increased tourism and consumerism overload waste management, lead to the ineffective waste treatment that contributes to plastic pollution.

Thompson suggests reduction of plastic usage, effective clean- up and waste management, recycling, education of society and good governance.

Plastic pollution affects oceans the most. Thompson says that around 70 per cent of litter in the ocean is plastic. The major part of this litter in the oceans originates from land pollution as plastic gets into the rivers and finds its way to the oceans.

This problem has negative consequences for marine organisms, leading to their death and even extinction. Ocean pollution also decreases the value of coastlines, necessitating costly ongoing clean-up operations.

A team of United States and Australian researchers led by Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer at the University of Georgia, listed countries which pollute oceans with plastic waste the most. According to their results, China and Indonesia are the leading countries responsible for plastic pollution of global sea lanes.

As a 2010 report from The Wall Street Journal estimates, together, both China and Indonesia are the source of more than a third of plastic litter in global waters. A majority of mismanaged plastic waste in the oceans is tracked back to Asian countries, many of them developing states with poor recycling and waste management systems.

Even though the exact quantity of plastic waste in the environment is unknown, it is certain that without any action, the quantity of plastic waste alongside its horrific impacts will continue to grow. It has been estimated that in the next eight years, the quantity of plastic items produced will equal the amount of plastic produced in the whole of 20th century.

Fortunately, an increasing number of individuals avoid consuming single-use plastic items and volunteer to clean the environment. However, individual action alone is not enough to solve this global problem.

By Sopho Kharazi.

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First GPS collaring brings hope for Borneo’s migratory “jungle hipster”

Monday, June 4th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: It looks like a hipster and runs like an antelope. Borneo’s bearded pigs, shy yet charming all-star migrants, are increasingly under siege, but researchers are using innovative GPStechnology to protect them and their vast, ancient migratory routes before it’s too late.

Researchers from Danau Girang Field Centre, UC Berkeley, and Cardiff University have just fitted a bearded pig in Sabah with a GPS collar for the first time, opening a new window into the fleet-footed, shaggy-bearded pigs’ astonishing, 200+ kilometer migratory routes across the world’s third-largest island.

A 65-kilogram female pig in the Kinabatangan has become a ray of hope for her species after successfully transmitting her first GPSlocations to conservation biologists and government wildlife officials. The pig, named Indah (Malay for “beautiful”), was captured in a narrow corridor of forest in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah. She will be closely tracked to see where she moves and how she interacts with the fragmented habitat that has become common across Borneo due to deforestation and agricultural expansion. Her behavior will provide important clues about the fate of her species’ storied migration, Borneo’s answer to the Serengeti’s wildebeest.

For eons, huge herds of bearded pigs have ranged over vast distances through Borneo’s forests, rivers, and mountains to find food. Along the way, they have traditionally been hunted by many indigenous people on the island, and the pig continues to be the most important wild meat source in non-Muslim rural areas of Borneo.

Despite the pig’s staggering movements and cultural significance, almost nothing is known about their migrations.

“In my opinion, where these pigs are moving and what they are doing along the way is one of the great unsolved mysteries of Southeast Asian ecology,” said David Kurz, PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, and leader of the collaring project.

Kurz is working with Danau Girang Field Centre, Sabah Wildlife Department and Cardiff University to capture and collar 10 bearded pigs in the Kinabatangan region. Together, the team is trying to understand the nature of the pig’s adaptation to human encroachment and what can be done to conserve its migrations.

“We are racing time, as the pig is already considered a ‘Vulnerable’ species and its migrations are thought to be disappearing before they have even been properly documented,” noted Dr. Benoit Goossens, Director of Danau Girang Field Centre and supervisor of the project.

For the last 1.5 months, Indah has stayed in one river bend except for periodic foraging raids into a neighboring oil palm plantation. Each day she moves around quite a bit within this small, less than 2 square km home range, foraging along the river banks as well as in the forest interior.

So far, the researchers have seen Indah make eight short raids into oil palm, meaning she is probably obtaining extra food there 1-2 times per week on average. Since she is usually staying very close to her core home range, Indah is behaving like a resident female. This is interesting because Kurz, Goossens, and their team are investigating the hypothesis that bearded pigs are no longer migratory when they have easy access to abundant food, like oil palm or other crops.

However, it will take several years to be confident about whether Indah is migrating or not, because bearded pig migrations are thought to be triggered by certain environmental and climatic conditions that only happen every few years, e.g. drought followed by large-scale fruiting of certain forest trees.

A team of sponsors has helped Kurz and Goossens acquire and deploy the cutting-edge GPS tracking technology they need to turn the tide for the pigs. Thanks to support from the National Geographic Society, Waitt Foundation, Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong, Mustard Seed Foundation, Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, American Philosophical Society, UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources, and US National Science Foundation, the team is fitting the pigs with high-powered GPS collars. The collars are specially designed with advanced tracking features that send the data directly to the team, allowing them to monitor Indah no matter how far she wanders. Indah’s brand new collar is currently recording almost 70 GPS points in a day. By analyzing the data, the team can see which habitats are most important to protect in order to save the pig’s unique migrations.

“Threats to the migrations include forest loss, over-hunting, and changing diets due to land-use change,” said Mr Peter Malim from Sabah Wildlife Department and Kurz’s local counterpart.

“Traditionally, the pigs’ migrations have revolved around mast fruiting events, or irregular bonanzas of fruit and nuts that hungry pigs would feverishly seek out to grow and breed more quickly. But now, the old-growth forests that sustain mast fruiting events are being gradually lost and replaced by vast stretches of oil palm, a reality that can be seen throughout the Lower Kinabatangan region,” added Malim.

“Migratory animals have adapted to a specific natural diet needed to sustain their movements; when we alter their ecosystem and food sources, we may be changing their migratory behavior as well,” pointed out Danau Girang wildlife veterinarian Dr. Navaneetha Roopan, who supervised Indah’s collaring.

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They’re not legally protected

Sunday, May 27th, 2018

The 40,000ha Matang mangrove forest in Taiping, Perak, is one of the world’s best-managed sustainable mangrove ecosystems and home to numerous mammals and bird and fish species, and river dolphins.

MANGROVES and seagrasses possess distinctive characteristics with remarkable adaptation features, allowing them to naturally occupy Malaysia’s fragile tropical coastlines. Their presence is significant in terms of providing multiple benefits and ecosystem services to the nation, particularly for coastal protection against oceanic and climatic catastrophes, and securing the livelihoods of coastal communities.

Mangroves are a natural habitat for a diverse type of plant and are home to myriads of animals and marine fauna. They are the breeding and spawning grounds for marine and coral fishes, a sanctuary for over a thousand known species of molluscs, bivalves, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds and mammals. This includes dolphins, otters, crocodiles and mudskippers.

Malaysia’s mangroves store 90 per cent of all known and described Indo-West Pacific’s mangrove plant species, making it the third largest mangrove-holding nation in the world. Adjacent to the mangroves, particularly on the eastern and southern coasts of Peninsular Malaysia, as well as on the coasts of Sabah and Sarawak, lie numerous beds and meadows of seagrasses.

All 14 species of seagrasses found in Malaysia are well-adapted to highly saline conditions and they are the specific grazing grounds for dugongs and other marine mammals and creatures. Seagrasses provide the ecological link and habitat connectivity, particularly on nutrient exchange and dynamics with the neighbouring mangroves and coral reefs.

One important thing in common for both mangroves and seagrasses is that they are identified as an efficient carbon sequester. Hence, together with saltmarshes (commonly found in subtropical coastlines), mangroves and seagrasses are known as the blue carbon ecosystems. Particularly for mangroves, they are found to be four-times a better carbon storage compared to their terrestrial counterparts. Through photosynthesis (a process in which plant uses light, water and carbon dioxide to generate food and energy for growth, releasing oxygen as a waste product), mangroves and seagrasses fix a significant amount of atmospheric carbon by storing it in their above-ground bodies, and in their roots and soil underneath.

This process of carbon sequestration is vital to assist in our combat against climate change.

Considering all of the benefits and services provided by these ecosystems, it is unfortunate to note that mangroves and seagrasses are not legally protected. They fall in the loopholes of natural resource governance, partly due to their habitat locations, and partly due to our ignorance in recognising their ecological importance.

The National Forestry Act provides protection for mangroves within the gazetted forest reserves. However, approximately 1,000 sq km of mangroves are not (yet) gazetted and are put solely under the jurisdiction of the state governments.

Similarly, the National Fisheries Act does not include mangroves in the protection and enforcement, although it is a known fact that fish and seafood resources are highly dependent on mangroves for their survival.

Seagrasses, on the other hand, are totally not covered by the two important legal tools, except for the ones located within the boundaries of the marine parks, in which coral reefs are the main emphasis. This is a worrying scenario.

In the nation’s plight to protect our coasts from being eroded due to obvious climatic factors, human development continues to encroach on these habitats without careful consideration.

Land reclamation, urban expansion and coastal development are identified as the primary anthropogenic factors contributing to the loss and the degradation of our mangroves and seagrasses. Coupled with the extreme climatic conditions, the future of Malaysia’s mangroves and sea-grasses seems vague.

It is hoped that the ongoing formulation of the National Wetlands Policy would address and solve these issues. The conservation of mangroves and seagrasses has already been mentioned in the National Policy on Biological Diversity, but, again, without a strong supporting enforcement tool like an act or a regulation, mangroves and seagrasses may still not be efficiently protected.

The Environmental Quality Act does have a provision to regulate this through the implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment by the Department of Environment. However, many destructive coastal development went on without solid mitigation measures and monitoring. Strict enforcement of rules and regulations should control anthropogenic disturbances on these habitats.

The Forestry Department, The Department of Marine Park and The Department of Environment are already placed under the same roof, that is the Natural Resources and the Environment Ministry

Therefore, it is hoped that the ministry is able to strengthen smart partnerships and collaborations, and to allow for flexible enforcement mechanisms in between departments in order to protect these important intertidal habitats — our mangroves and seagrasses and all their ecological significance.


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Shafie halts log exports, industry players rejoice

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: Timber players support the State government’s decision to ban log export immediately.

Datuk James Hwong You Chuaang the President of Sabah Timber Industries Association (STIA) welcomes the announcement made by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.

He said the ban is a good move and a long awaited ‘life saving measure’ to revive the timber downstream industry.

“The Association is very grateful and thankful for the initiative undertaken as over the years many mills have closed down due to shortage of raw materials (logs). The downstream timber industry in Sabah has been suffering for a long time due to insufficient supply of raw materials,” STIA said in a statement.

James further elaborated that importation is not an option for every manufacturer in Sabah as most of the factories are set up to cater for processing timber species from Sabah’s own forest.

“Furthermore, the cost of importation is very high due to logistic and unfavourable infrastructure connectivity.

Uncertainty in supply of raw material is in fact one of the stumbling blocks for mills to venture into further downstream as interest to further invest in this industry is facing many challenges.

“STIA members’ production and export markets are based on local timber species for the last 40 years and therefore the continuous supply of raw material is a critical assurance to the players,” James said.

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Providing safe water to consumers

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018
A health officer testing the water quality at the Hulu Langat water processing plant. FILE PIC

IT is ironic that Malaysia, blessed with 2,500mm of rainfall annually, should experience water shortages. For many households — especially in Selangor, Kedah, Penang, Pahang, Johor and Kelantan — water supply is unreliable.

Water cuts are frequent. Consumers are stressed and worried. Will there be water tomorrow? Or will they be getting a WhatsApp message saying there will be water disruptions because of a burst pipe or contamination at the water processing plant?

Consumers are even more stressed when a festive season approaches or when they organise family events, such as a wedding.

Water disruptions have become too common, causing stress and pain for consumers and households.

Three causes of these water disruptions are broken pipes, water pollution and rapid urbanisation. Broken pipes are the cause of huge water losses. They also cause unscheduled water disruptions.

Water pollution is perhaps the biggest cause of contaminated water and water disruptions.

Water pollution is caused by industrial waste, sewage and wastewater, chemical fertilisers and pesticides, dumping of garbage and leakage from landfills. Deforestation and excessive logging also contribute to water wastage and water contamination.

Thirdly, the expanding urban population and the excessive use of water by consumers lead to water wastage and water shortages.

What can we do? Clearly, the responsibility of reliable, safe and affordable water rests on federal and state governments and agencies.

Water is a basic human need. Safe water is necessary for human consumption and to sustain life.

Planning for a reliable water supply, thus, needs a holistic approach.

Thus, Forum Air Malaysia proposes that federal and state agencies focus on the need to provide reliable, safe and affordable water to consumers.

There should be greater inter-agency cooperation and collaboration to ensure water pollution threats are minimised, if not eliminated.

There should be greater cooperation and collaboration between state water operators and the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) to ensure that consumers have access to safe and reliable water.

SPAN should focus on regulating and enforcing the water industry to comply with established standards and practices to ensure reliability, safety and affordability of water supply to households.

Finally, on the demand side, more awareness and education programmes need to be undertaken to promote better water consumption and conservation by consumers.


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We’ll be destroyed if we do not make peace with Earth

Thursday, May 17th, 2018
(File pix) Environmental auditing should be an integral part of corporate management. Pix by Fahd Rahmat

DESPITE our hectic schedules, it is necessary to spare a little time to ask what we need to do to deal with environmental threats.

It is necessary to reflect on the fact that humans have destroyed nature, which is needed for the stability of Earth.

We have experienced flash floods and landslides and, yet, the lessons of these disasters have not been learnt.

As trustee of our planet’s resources and biological diversity, we must use our natural resources to ensure conservation.

Sustainable environmental conservation and preservation must not be viewed as a discretionary commitment that we weigh against other competing economic interests.

Instead, we must re-examine our beliefs and actions. We must view this as a fundamental part of our spiritual development, as well as our physical survival.

We have a responsibility to protect the diversity on this planet.

However, if all we do is place an economic value on biodiversity, then we will always be undervaluing it.

We need all the skills and knowledge we can muster to keep our planet safe and beautiful for future generations.

Numerous environmental tragedies have proven to us that if we are not going to make peace with our environment, the destruction will be all the more greater in the future.

At a time when environmental concerns in the business sector are being given greater focus across the globe, environmental auditing should be an integral part of corporate management.

With the advent of the green corporate culture, there is a need for businesses to be more conscious of environmental issues.

Companies must realise there is more to gain by preserving the environment.

Problems relating to illegal land clearing, deforestation and dumping of hazardous industrial waste have been highlighted in the media.

Unless those concerned are prepared to address these issues, they will not only have to bear the full brunt of the law, but lose out as trade barriers fall in the global market.

As has been observed, there is an emerging trend among corporations, particularly at the international level, to disclose information on environment policies, goals and programmes to the public.

The fact that Malaysian companies need to improve their environmental accounting system is based on the realisation that this trend may become an established corporate practice worldwide, which governs investment decisions.

Hopefully, the need for environmental accounting by companies will lead to a change in the mindset of management of
companies on environmental issues.

Companies should not secure profits at the expense of the environment as they have a social responsibility to inform stakeholders of the impact their businesses has on the environment.

Companies and foreign investors must practise self-monitoring, self-enforcement and also focus on sustainable projects and green technology.

Those responsible for environmental degradation should be held accountable.

We share the same home. Our lives are connected with others.

If are mindful of our civic responsibility and be vigilant against polluting our environment, and to inspire others to do the same, then, the impact on the world shall be great.

History has an important lesson for humanity and that is, civilisation can be destroyed if it does not make peace with the environment.

No one can deny the importance of the environment with regards to civilisation.


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