Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Phee Boon Poh - My Environmental Hero

Phee Boon Poh is my hero for environment change. He dares to be different. Without fear of any blacklash from the voters. I have attended his meeting and found that he has been consistent in his policy on good environmental ethics. At last we have one politician who can speak the language of green living without fear or favour. Environmentalists should crusade with this rare gem from PENANG.
Thank you YB Phee Boon Poh.

Sept 30, 2009
Phee: Penang may fine hawkers using polystyrene

GEORGE TOWN: A proposed “polluters must pay” policy in Penang suggests imposing higher licensing fees on hawkers using polystyrene materials.

The policy was considered as polystyrene bowls, plates, cups and containers were found to be major sources of mosquito-breeding grounds, said State Health, Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh.

Those caught polystyrene littering will also be slapped with heavier fines under this policy.

“We found 2,807 mosquito-breeding grounds in 130,000 places from Jan 1 to June 6.

“The biggest culprits were plastic bags and the polystyrene items, much of which were found on road sides, near dustbins and fields,” he said when contacted yesterday.

Phee said there were 814 confirmed dengue cases from Jan 1 to Sept 26 this year – a 72.46% increase compared to the 472 cases recorded during the same period last year.

He said hawkers and the public should opt for other alternatives such as reusable containers or bringing their own tiffin carriers for take-aways. “This may sound harsh but we care for the people.

“The alternative may be more expensive but the consumer has to decide which is cheaper: tiffin carriers and reusable containers, or going to the doctor?

“If one gets dengue, there’s always the possibility of death,” Phee warned.

He expected the “polluters must pay” policy to be discussed at the Seberang Prai Municipal Council full council meeting today.

He had also suggested to councillors from the Penang Municipal Council to bring up the matter at their next full council meeting.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kinta Nature Park to be gazetted as wildlife sanctuary

Sept 25, 2009

IPOH: The Perak government will gazette the Kinta Nature Park as a wildlife sanctuary to prevent it from being destroyed by encroachment and illegal activities.

State Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Hamidah Osman said gazetting the park would not take much time as the groundwork for it had been prepared when Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali was Perak mentri besar, and there was a file on the proposal in the state Land and Mines office.

“We will have to decide on which agency would manage the park and look into upgrading its facilities before promoting the park for tourism,” she told reporters during an inspection of the park in Batu Gajah after receiving complaints from the Perak branch of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS).

Accompanying her were MNS Perak branch vice-chairman Lee Ping Kong, council member Tan Chin Tong and ornithologist Lim Kim Chye, who is the MNS Perak Branch Bird Group Coordinator.

“It will be a waste if such a potential tourist attraction like the park is neglected. It is said to be the best place for bird-watching in Malaysia. It is the home to more than 130 species of birds and has the largest heronry in the country on one of its islands,” she said.

It was reported in The Star on Tuesday that the park would will lose the heronry if illegal activities continued there.

Almost 60% of the birds in the park are listed as totally protected or protected under the Protection of Wild Life Act 1976.

A recent check by the MNS revealed that someone had fenced up the whole lake where the heronry, with five breeding species of 2,000 waterbirds, is located, with the intention of starting commercial fish farming.

The MNS had complained that pristine mining pools at the southern end of the park have been taken over by duck farms and that incursions by sand extraction activities have increased.

The lack of a management body had resulted in damage and disrepair to the infrastructure.

The only watchman in the park said he was only there to guard the amenities and was powerless to prevent any form of encroachment.

Hamidah said the park was managed by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan). She expressed disappointment at the amenities in the park having been vandalised and the grass not having been cut for months.

“We will like to park to be managed by the Kampar district office with Perhilitan playing a monitoring role,” she said.

Hamidah also agreed to look into a suggestion by the MNS to let the park be placed under the jurisdiction of the Perak State Parks Corporation.

She said the duck farms operating without permit would have to stop.

Hamidah added that she would talk with the Kampar District Office to stop renewing the permits for sand mining in the park.

On whether the park should be named the Royal Perak Wetlands, as proposed after the it was set up in 2001, Hamidah said the name would need consent from the Perak royal family.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dams a curse from hell, say Orang Ulu

Joseph Tawie
15 September 2009

KUCHING - The Orang Ulu communities of Kayan, Penan and Kenyah have stressed their opposition to the Sarawak Government’s plan to proceed with the construction of the Baram and Murum dams, explaining that they will virtually drown almost all their properties, lands, fruit trees, graveyards and cultural heritage.

In Baram, some 20,000 people from 30 or more longhouses and villages along the Baram River valley, locally known as Telang Usan, will be affected and displaced by the dam, said Philip Jau of Long Laput when he and four other Orang Ulu representatives met the press at a hotel in Kuching today.

About 38,900 hectares (389 sq km) of forest and land, the bulk of it is native customary land consisting of temuda, cultivated lands, gardens, villages, churches, graveyards, community forests and sites of historical significance will be submerged.

Not moving an inch

“Our YBs (elected representatives) say that the dam is a blessing from God, but we say it is a curse from Hell,” he said, and insisted that they would not move an inch from their present villages and longhouses.

“We have seen how the people of Sg Asap suffer after they have been moved out of their villages and longhouses in Belaga because of the Bakun dam. Their lives are worse than they were before,” he said.

Jau declared: “We will fight to the end, and there are so many ways to fight them (government); one is through the elections and another is through the court and yet another is through the United Nations.”

“Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak talks about 1Malaysia with the people given preference and yet we the Orang Ulu have been sidelined, our plight and our problems ignored.

“What the state government is doing to the Orang Ulu is contrary to the wishes of the prime minister,” he added.

A 55-year-old tua kampong, Panai Irang of Long Sepatai Akar, Baram, said that he and his Penan people could not live in water and if the dam was to be built, they would perish together with the water.

Signature campaigns

Speaking in Penan, he said: “Our greatest worry is that the dam is going to flood our villages, our properties and our land on which we have planted fruit trees and we have learnt to cultivate on land to survive. That is why we don’t want the dam to be built.

“Not only the Penans are worried, but also other communities like the Kayans, Kenyahs and others,” he said, pointing out that this was the message his people wanted to convey to the authorities.

Expressing similar sentiments was Johannes Luhat of Kpg Long San, who said that they had initiated a signature campaign among the Orang Ulu communities against the dam project.

“So far we have collected more than 200 signatures. More are coming as we have sent our men to the ground,” he said, adding that after the signatures had been collected, they would submit a petition bearing those signatures to both the State and Federal governments.

Luhat made it very clear that they were not anti-development. “Sure we want development such as roads, hospitals, schools, rural electrification projects, but not a project such as the Baram dam which will destroy our lives and livelihood.”

Like their counterparts from Baram, two representatives from Belaga, Bujang Jalong and Suie Along also expressed their opposition against the construction of the Murum dam in their area.

Lives have turned for the worst

Suie said: “Both of us are representing some 1,000 Penans of Long Wat, Long Luar, Long Tangau, Long Menapa, Long Singu, Long Malim and Long Ubain villages along the Sungai Peleiran-Murum.

“We come to Kuching not to ‘makan angin’ (leisure) but with a heavy heart, full of worry and sadness and to tell the world of our plight after the construction of Murum dam has started,” he said.

Suie said that all their villages, longhouses, lands, gardens, properties and graveyards as well as their hunting grounds would be destroyed and flooded by the dam.

“We are then forced to move out from our villages to an unknown area,” he said, adding that they were aware that the government had failed to provide better living to those who had been affected by the Bakun and Batang Ai dams.

The people of Sg Asap faced serious social, economic and a host of other problems, he said.

The Penan Talun, Long Belangan have been suffering and their lives are worst now than they were in their previous villages.

“We know the impact will be on our livelihood, our community and on our generation,” he said, expressing the hope that the government should cease immediately the construction of the dam.

Friday, September 04, 2009

MNS Says: Who's Protecting our Wildlife?

Malaysia may not be the world's largest wildlife smuggling centre but if nothing is done now, it probably won't be long before it can lay claim to that title. This seems to be the grim reality on the status of wildlife, protected or otherwise, in our country, which is one of the 12th mega diverse countries in the world.

RM2.1mil is the value of the seizures from illegal wildlife trade in Malaysia from at least 12 major enforcement actions conducted between July and December 2008. This surely is just the tip of the iceberg. This figure is astounding if you compare this with the budget for enforcement units at our national parks. Clearly, business is good – but who benefits? Certainly not our wildlife.

Denying these problems exist does nothing to solve the problem, which is about wildlife being increasingly threatened. While we hear news reports of seizures, does that mean we are getting better in wildlife enforcement, or is wildlife trade simply becoming more rampant? While issues of illegal wildlife trade, smuggling and government transparency are currently being debated, one would be more inclined to believe the latter.

In 1993, MNS led the first Belum Scientific and Heritage Expedition to study and promote its astonishing natural wealth, to conserve it as a national or state park in direct conflict with short-term logging plans. Fourteen years later in 2007, the Royal Belum State Park was unveiled to the world. With the exception of Temengor, which is still being pursued by MNS for protection, this park on the northern tip of peninsular Malaysia was a major environmental victory for all Malaysians. So it was thought.

A "protected" area, no matter what the label says at its entrance or tourism brochures, does not mean that its precious occupants are safe from harm. Temengor remains unprotected. What's more, Royal Belum, situated at the border of Thailand and Malaysia, is known as one of the entry points for illegal hunters and poachers. Most offenders at our borders to Thailand are non-Malaysian offenders. What are we doing to address this problem?

While illegal trade thrives, the question is, where do these traders acquire wildlife supplies? Where else do these poachers and dealers get their products but at the very place that you and I have toiled and gazetted as safe and stored away for our next generations – our forest reserves, state and national parks.

Who takes responsibility for all of this? The Department of Wildlife and National Parks for its less than enthused response to media reports? The seemingly lacklustre regime of monitoring and patrolling at our protected areas? The authorities issuing guns and hunting licences? The Forestry Department for being silent on the issues of wildlife trade? Or wildlife traders, especially those who are only punished by international laws abroad? Hunters? Zoos that get wildlife through illegal means? Feel-good Disney movies that promote the capture and exhibit of wild stocks of marine fish and other marine resources? The demand generated by people wanting to feast or own an exotic pet for status in the community? The list is nowhere exhaustive but the implications and motivation is a difficult pill to swallow.

As Malaysians, we need to wake up and take ownership – now!

Illegal wildlife trade is about a carefully constructed network of illegal operators, and how we choose to deal with this is crucial. MNS offers our network of members and branches to assist in this regard. Dismissing it as unimportant, or worse, untrue, does a great injustice to wildlife.

We are gratified that the Minister of Natural Resources & Environment has committed to make full investigation into this serious matter and we look forward to perpetrators being brought to justice swiftly.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Penan : the nomads of Borneo

Dear Friend


The last of their kind: the nomads of Borneo

LONG NEN, Malaysia, Aug 30, 2009 (AFP) – In the language of the nomadic Penan there is no word for forest, it is simply their universe, and its destruction is snuffing out the ancient lifestyle of this tribe who are among the world's last hunter-gatherers.

Wielding spears and dressed in loincloths, one small band who emerged from the Borneo jungles to tell their tale said that encroachment by timber and plantation firms has made their already hard life impossible.

They said they are ready to stop roaming and settle in villages, giving weight to fears that the 300-400 Penan thought to still be nomadic may all be heading this way, or even that their way of life is already extinct.

"Our problem is that there is just not enough to eat, there are no wild boar to catch any more," said Sagong, the headman of the group.

"The companies logged all the teak already, and now they are going to clear the land for palm oil plantations," said the young chief, who brought 15 of his people to a blockade against the timber and plantation companies.

"If that happens, we lose everything, we cannot survive this," he said."Yes it is sad to leave this life of roaming. But what can we do? We have to strive for the best for ourselves. It is our fate to face this challenge.

"A lean and muscular man aged in his 30s, Sagong said their last hope was to join the anti-logging campaign which has escalated recently in Sarawak state, on Malaysia's half of Borneo, an island shared with Indonesia.

"I came here to man the blockade and safeguard the land," he said at one of the barriers built of logs and bamboo, among seven constructed in the region in recent months to force the timber trucks to a halt.

The Penan of Sarawak, who are estimated to number around 10,000, had mostly abandoned their nomadic ways and settled in villages by the 1970s under the influence of Christian missionaries.

Even the settled Penan still retain a deep connection to the jungle, foraging for rattan, medicinal plants, fruits, and sago palm -- a starchy staple. Wild game are hunted with finely crafted blowpipes and poison darts.

The Penan have been opposing logging for decades, but the spectre of bulldozers coming in to clear-fell what is left of the jungles has proved too much to bear.Jayl Langub, an anthropologist from the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, said the nomadic Penan are being thrust into the modern world through contact with loggers, satellite TV, and the boarding schools where some send their children.

"It would be better if they made their own decision and settled at their own pace, but these changes are coming very rapidly and I think it just overwhelms them," he said.

"However much they want to remain nomadic, the changes to the landscape mean it probably would not be possible for them to continue anyway... unless they live next to a national park, or unless areas are converted into reserves.

"Ian Mackenzie, a linguist who has studied the Penan since 1991, said he believes that few of the fabled group of 300-400 are truly nomadic as most have taken up some farming and established base camps with sturdier timber huts.

"There are various reasons for it but I would say the primary reason is that it's economically untenable to live as hunter-gatherers when their jungle has been logged three times," he said.

"The end of this ancient lifestyle is a very tragic cultural loss," he said. "That's how humans were supposed to live, how we all lived a long time ago, and this is the last flicker of it gone.

"Mackenzie, one of a handful of foreigners to speak Penan fluently, said that any groups who wanted to settle should have as many generations as they needed to make the momentous transition.

"To force them to make it brutally in a few years, it's almost beyond the capacity of human beings to make that leap. It's as if you or I were dropped down in the middle of the primary jungle and forced to survive.

"On a sliver of hilltop not far from the blockade, Sagong's tribe from the district of Ba Marong has constructed three sturdy open-sided huts, raised from the ground and built of saplings and bamboo lashed together with vines.

In a tropical downpour that drenched the canopy and turned the ground to mud, they sat serenely with their children -- including a five-month-old baby -- who, despite these most basic conditions were clean, dry and healthy.

As she played with a baby monkey that the family kept as a pet, Sagong's daughter Nili smiled and shook her head when she was asked whether she liked this life in the rainforest."I would like to go to school," she said shyly.

These days few Penan still sport the traditional bowl-shaped haircut, woven bamboo hats, brightly beaded necklaces and stretched earlobes that sometimes dangle near the shoulders.

In his baseball cap paired with a purple loincloth, and bare chest marked with tattoos including Christian images, snakes and a skull and crossbones, Sagong laughed when asked about his appearance.

"I'm a new generation, I don't dress like that," he said as he stood next to his father-in-law, who wore a monkey tooth around his neck, bunches of woven bangles, and played a bamboo nose flute.

"For us the jungle was our bank, we survived without money. Our life depended on the sago palm and wild animals and for generations we have lived like this," said the older man, Ngau Anyi.

Sagong said his own band of 27 people wanted help to establish a proper house with access to schools and medical care, while still having the chance to hunt and gather in the forest.

"Our wish is to have our own village, to do farming," he said. "We see other settlements and that's what we want. We have to spend a lot of time building huts and moving around. It's a hard life.

"The plight of the Penan was made famous in the 1980s by environmental activist Bruno Manser, who waged a crusade to protect their way of life and fend off the loggers. He vanished in 2000 -- many suspect foul play.

Manser lived with a group of nomadic Penan from 1984 to 1990 and learnt to speak Penan as well as how to survive in the jungle, while gathering a huge amount of botanical and cultural information.

"We have been accused of being against development, of wanting to keep the Penan in a museum," said Lukas Straumann, director of the Bruno Manser Fund, which continues to campaign for the people of the rainforests.

"Maybe there was a little bit of truth to that. But what we hear from the Penan is that they want development, to participate in modern life, but it has to be development at their own pace."

Hellan Empaing

BRIMAS program coordinator