Friday, January 29, 2010

Three men held by Perhilitan for peddling animals

January 29, 2010

SHAH ALAM: The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) arrested three men for peddling wildlife on the Internet.

Selangor Perhilitan director Rahmat Topani said the three were a 23-year-old software technician, 30-year-old construction supervisor and a 28-year-old employee with an IT firm.

“Our enforcement officers went undercover, pretending to be agents or buyers interested in buying the animals,” he said at a press conference yesterday.

On Jan 23, department officials arrested the technician who had an oriental white-eye bird (zosterops palpebrosa) in a car at Taman Maluri in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

On the same day, they arrested the supervisor at his home in Bandar Baru Bangi and seized two white-rumped shama birds (copsychus malabaricus). Both were fined RM400 each.

On Jan 26, Perhilitan enforcement officers arrested the 28-year-old at AEON Bukit Tinggi car park in Klang and found two iguanas in the car he was driving.

They checked the man’s house and found a rare monitor lizard, cobra, python, a red-tailed boa constrictor and a Burmese python.

The man has been released on a RM2,000 police bail and is expected to be charged on Feb 25 under Section 68 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, which carries a fine of not more than RM3,000 or a three-year jail term.

Initial investigations revealed that the oriental white-eye was to be sold for RM160 while the common shama for RM400 each.

The rare clouded monitor lizard that originated from Papua New Guinea could fetch between RM7,000 and RM8,000.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ozone Hole Healing Could Cause Further Climate Warming

ScienceDaily (Jan. 26, 2010) — The hole in the ozone layer is now steadily closing, but its repair could actually increase warming in the southern hemisphere, according to scientists at the University of Leeds.

The Antarctic ozone hole was once regarded as one of the biggest environmental threats, but the discovery of a previously undiscovered feedback shows that it has instead helped to shield this region from carbon-induced warming over the past two decades.

High-speed winds in the area beneath the hole have led to the formation of brighter summertime clouds, which reflect more of the sun's powerful rays.

"These clouds have acted like a mirror to the sun's rays, reflecting the sun's heat away from the surface to the extent that warming from rising carbon emissions has effectively been cancelled out in this region during the summertime," said Professor Ken Carslaw of the University of Leeds who co-authored the research.

"If, as seems likely, these winds die down, rising CO2 emissions could then cause the warming of the southern hemisphere to accelerate, which would have an impact on future climate predictions," he added.

The key to this newly-discovered feedback is aerosol -- tiny reflective particles suspended within the air that are known by experts to have a huge impact on climate.

Greenhouses gases absorb infrared radiation from the Earth and release it back into the atmosphere as heat, causing the planet to warm up over time. Aerosol works against this by reflecting heat from the sun back into space, cooling the planet as it does so.

Beneath the Antarctic ozone hole, high-speed winds whip up large amounts of sea spray, which contains millions of tiny salt particles. This spray then forms droplets and eventually clouds, and the increased spray over the last two decades has made these clouds brighter and more reflective.

As the ozone layer recovers it is believed that this feedback mechanism could decline in effectiveness, or even be reversed, leading to accelerated warming in the southern hemisphere.

"Our research highlights the value of today's state-of- the-art models and long-term datasets that enable such unexpected and complex climate feedbacks to be detected and accounted for in our future predictions," added Professor Carslaw.

The Leeds team made their prediction using a state-of-the-art global model of aerosols and two decades of meteorological data. The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council's Surface Ocean-Lower Atmosphere Study (UK SOLAS) and the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence Programme.



25 January 2010


Following the film ‘Avatar’’s win at the Golden Globes, tribal people have claimed that the film tells the real story of their lives today.

A Penan man from Sarawak, in the Malaysian part of Borneo, told Survival International, ‘The Penan people cannot live without the rainforest. The forest looks after us, and we look after it. We understand the plants and the animals because we have lived here for many, many years, since the time of our ancestors.

‘The Na'vi people in 'Avatar' cry because their forest is destroyed. It's the same with the Penan. Logging companies are chopping down our big trees and polluting our rivers, and the animals we hunt are dying.’

Kalahari Bushman Jumanda Gakelebone said, ‘We the Bushmen are the first inhabitants in southern Africa. We are being denied rights to our land and appeal to the world to help us. ‘Avatar’ makes me happy as it shows the world about what it is to be a Bushman, and what our land is to us. Land and Bushmen are the same.’

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, known as the Dalai Lama of the Rainforest, said, ‘My Yanomami people have always lived in peace with the forest. Our ancestors taught us to understand our land and animals. We have used this knowledge carefully, for our existence depends on it. My Yanomami land was invaded by miners. A fifth of our people died from diseases we had never known.’

Director James Cameron received his Golden Globes awards for ‘Avatar’ last week, and revealed one of the central ideas of the film.

‘Avatar asks us to see that everything is connected,’ he said in his acceptance speech, ‘All human beings to each other, and us to the earth.

Cameron was inspired by the Maori language of New Zealand when devising the language spoken by the Na’vi.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry says, ‘Just as the Na’vi describe the forest of Pandora as ‘their everything’, for most tribal peoples, life and land have always been deeply connected.

‘The fundamental story of Avatar - if you take away the multi-coloured lemurs, the long-trunked horses and warring androids - is being played out time and time again, on our planet.

‘Like the Na’vi of ‘Avatar’, the world’s last-remaining tribal peoples – from the Amazon to Siberia – are also at risk of extinction, as their lands are appropriated by powerful forces for profit-making reasons such as colonization, logging and mining.’

‘One of the best ways of protecting the our world’s natural heritage is surprisingly simple; it is to secure the land rights of tribal peoples.’

* * *
A feature article about ‘Avatar’ and tribal peoples is available for publication from Survival International. Contact Miriam Ross (details below).

To read this story online:

For more information and images, or to use the attached image, please contact Miriam Ross:

T (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or (+44) (0)7504543367

Survival International
6 Charterhouse Buildings
London EC1M 7ET
United Kingdom

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

NGOs welcome transparency to curb illegal wildlife trade

Tuesday January 26, 2010

PETALING JAYA: Environmental groups welcome the Government’s intention to make wildlife special permits approval a more transparent process, to curb the illegal trade in wildlife contributing to species extinction.

World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma suggested that a formal committee be set up with relevant non-governmental organisations (NGOs) sitting in by invitation.

“This committee also needs a specific Terms of Reference (ToR) so its role and responsibilities are known, and the membership can be reviewed yearly,” he said, adding that wildlife offenders should not be granted special permits.

On Sunday, The Star reported Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas as saying that he had taken over the chairmanship of the Special Permit Committee from the director-general of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).

He also said the ministry would solicit NGOs’ views to improve the Special Permit system which has been blamed for facilitating animal smuggling.

Traffic Southeast Asia, the wildlife trade monitoring network, praised the minister for taking a personal interest in the matter by addressing issues within the existing system.

“We welcome such transparency and accountability. We hope the ministry will make public the other members of this committee, and how NGOs can work with the ministry and Perhilitan to make the process more credible,” said its senior communication officer Elizabeth John.

Both WWF and Traffic called for guidelines for special permits application, a mechanism for monitoring permit holders and a review process.

Under the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972, totally protected species or species on Schedules One and Three include highly endangered mammals, reptiles and marine creatures like the orang utan, tiger, rhinoceros, dolphin, crocodile and certain snakes and lizards as well as 454 species of birds.

Animal rights groups, however, called on Uggah to make public the results of the investigation into alleged mismanagement and corruption within Perhilitan.

Uggah had said that a special audit unit had been set up to review the rules and procedures of all enforcement agencies under the ministry, which includes Perhilitan.

It is learnt that the unit was formed following a Starprobe report last August featuring notorious wildlife trader Anson Wong, who denied that he was protected but spoke approvingly of a high-ranking Perhi­litan official.

President of Malaysia Animal Rights Society (ROAR) N. Surendran said the ministry must view seriously the report lodged against the official with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

“It is highly improper for someone in a position like the official to be supporting a convicted trafficker by renewing his special permit while he served a sentence for wildlife trafficking in the United States,” he said.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Publicity Stunts

All photos taken on 14 Jan 2010 from a moving coach.

When there are elephants, there are tigers too. They coexist. If you want to save the tigers, you have to save the elephants too. And without jungle how can elephants survive? Look at the rampant logging along the Butterworth-Grik highway. What have these Groups (roaring up support to save Malaysian big cat from extinction) do?? Another publicity stunt? Read my earlier article in 2008 here (map included). I did reported to one of them....but no action seen.

I am worry that a great disaster is waiting to happen after the dry season ends. Mud flow will be affecting villages downstream. Muda river will be polluted. Paddy fields in Kedah could be affected (although these logging are from Perak). I may sound pessimistic. But mark my words. Until then, when the disaster happened, it will be another "Acts of God".


Thursday January 21, 2010
Groups roaring up support to save Malaysian big cat from extinction

KUALA LUMPUR: The Year of the Tiger is upon us – but for wildlife conservationists, it has to be the year of saving the tiger from extinction.

The Malayan tiger is down to a mere 500 in the wild in Peninsular Malaysia and it will need a concerted effort from all to double the number under the Tiger Action Plan, WWF Malaysia chief executive Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma.

However, saving Malaysia’s declining tiger population is no longer a job only for conservationists but needs wider support from the public and private sectors, said

“You can be the person who helped save the tigers, or you can be the one who helped wipe them out,” Dr Dionysius said yesterday.

The Tiger Action Plan, which was launched 2008, aims to have 1,000 wild tigers in Malaysia by 2020.

“This is the best chance we have to seriously attempt to save tigers from extinction, mainly because of the national Tiger Action Plan and policies in place and the unprecedented cooperation between the Government and NGO community.

“With the eyes of the world upon the tiger this year, it is our chance to showcase Malaysia’s commitment towards the target of 1,000 wild tigers,” said Dr Dionysius.

MYCAT (Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers) would also be launching a Year of the Tiger programme, a series of public awareness campaigns targeting schools and both the rural and urban public.

“We will be kicking things off at Dong Zen Temple (in Jenjarom, Selangor), where 1,000 faces will be painted to symbolise the 1,000 tigers we hope to have by the year 2020,” said Dr Dionysius.

The plan mainly identifies five factors threatening tigers – habitat loss and fragmentation; commercial poaching; human-tiger conflict; declining prey base; and science deficiency in the monitoring of tigers and their prey.

TRAFFIC senior communications officer Elizabeth John said commercial poaching was the “most urgent threat” to the tigers.

“Poaching has the capacity to do the most damage in the shortest period of time,” she said.

The tiger population has been decimated due to illegal hunting for their skins, bones and other body parts.

Those with information about illegal poaching or trading can make a report via the Tiger Crime Hotline at 019-3564194 019-3564194.

The Tiger Action Plan was formulated by the Government through the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, together with the Malaysian Nature Society, TRAFFIC South-East Asia, the Wildlife Conservation Society-Malaysia Programme and WWF-Malaysia, using the collaborative platform of MYCAT.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pulau Jerejak - Then & Now

Comparing Pulau Jerejak of 2005 and Pulau Jerejak of 2010.
The picture speaks a thousand words.
Approved by BN. Implemented by Pakatan.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Coal is green - Truely Malaysia Boleh

January 16, 2010
Minister: Coal is green?

KOTA KINABALU: Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui was surprised to hear of the Sarawak government’s decision to classify the exploitation of coal as a renewable energy project.

“It is news to me,” Chin told reporters when asked about criticism against the state government’s move to classify the mining of 1.156bil tonnes of coal reserves as renewable energy .

“I want to investigate further. I read about it but I do not know where such a classification came from,” added Chin, who had earlier witnessed the signing of a power purchase agreement between Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) and SPR Energy Sdn Bhd.

Chin said the federal government did not consider coal a renewable energy and “believed that everyone knows that”.

On the proposed coal-fired power plant in Tungku in Sabah’s east coast Lahad Datu district, Chin said a detailed Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report would be available in March.

He said Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman had informed him that the state was waiting for the EIA report before deciding whether to allow the 300MW plant, which has drawn strong protests from environmentalists.

However, Chin said there was a need for the 300MW plant in the east coast of Sabah, which was currently relying on old diesel generator sets providing about 200MW power.

“We don’t have reliable supply. We need to have the 300MW plant ready to meet the electricity demands in the east coast,” he added.

Chin said his ministry was also cooperating with the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry to harness empty fruit bunches at oil palm estates and develop green energy.

He said they were encouraging large oil palm plantations to generate renewable energy and sell it to SESB to overcome the power shortage.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gold Mining Site in Bukit Koman, Raub

Visit of the Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister to the Gold Mining Site in Bukit Koman, Raub on 12th Jan 2010

I have raised the problems of gold mining in Bukit Koman, Raub that has been the cause of pollution and threats of ill-health to the locals, with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry during the Third Meeting of the Second Session sitting in the Dewan Rakyat. Deputy Minister Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Kurup had accepted my invitation to visit the site to understand the real situation and identify the problems faced by the local people.

An earlier visit was fixed at 10am on Jan 11, 2010. However, due to certain reasons, the Deputy Minister changed the date to Jan 12 last week. After receiving the official letter from his Ministry, I officially invited Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Ng Yen Yen who is the MP for Raub and who is aware of the problem to come with us in order to clear the doubts of the local people over the gold mining issue.

Raub Australia Gold Mining Sdn had utilised the Carbon In Leach (CIL) method to process gold in Feb 2009 without taking the locals’ health into consideration. In the CIL process, apart from `activated carbon’ an agent which is said to be safe, there are two types of agent that are hazardous - `sodium cyanide’ and hydrochloric acid’ which is toxic. Both agents were used without an explanation and announcement of its dangers to the public.

Seputeh MP, Sdr Teresa Kok Suh Sim and Kepong MP Sdr Tan Seng Giaw had posed questions on the dangerous method of CIL in the Dewan Rakyat sitting between June and November, 2007. The response from the MNRE was that `sodium cyanide’ would transform into a less toxic chemical when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This was stated without acknowledging the environmental threats resulting from the use & exposure of`sodium cyanide’. The water that is used to process gold is from an underground spring which goes through seven connected wells. This could lead to serious underground water contamination as a result of the operation. One of the wells is only a kilometre from the Raub Hospital. The Inter-State Raw Water Transfer project (between Pahang and Selangor) document states that the source of water is from Kelau Dam. This dam is less than 20km from the gold mining site. In the event a leakage of `sodium cyanide’ and `hydrochloric acid’ occurs underground, the toxics will seep into the water source and spread to Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. Imagine the catastrophe that will befall the lives of millions of people if we allow this mine to continue operating with the government looking out for short-term profits. What is the government’s stand in ensuring the safety of people in the long run?

Apart from that, `hydrocyanic acid’ (HCN), which tastes bitter, occurs when `sodium cyanide’ collides with steam. The colourless and odourless HCN is lethal to living things. Malaysia is a tropical country with a hot and humid climate throughout the year. If a `sodium cyanide’ leakage occurs, 2,000 lives in Bukit Koman and that of more than 40,000 residents in Raub will be affected. Till today, the government has not put into place any safety measure and fixed a monitoring device to ensure the safety of the locals. There was only one occasion when an air quality monitoring device was placed for eight days to demonstrate that the government is carrying out its duty.

The owner of Raub Australia Gold Mining is Dato’ Seri Andrew Kam Tai Yeow, son of the former MCA secretary general, Kam Woon Wah. The company’s annual audit report stated that the gold mine has been in operation for four years and profits are expected at RM100 million per annum. However, this crony company is not executing its corporate social responsibility in putting in place a stringent safety measure to curb the occurrence of a chemical leakage. When the mine shuts down one day, the toxic materials such as the tailings will remain in the mine. Plants and animals in the surroundings will die of poisoning. Is this crony company willing to sacrifice the lives of locals whose predecessors have lived here for more than 100 years just so they (the company) can pocket a quick profit?

The Bukit Koman Anti-Cyanide Committee has filed an application for judicial review in court to challenge the Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIA). However, on June 1, 2009, High Court Judge Datuk Lau Bee Lan of the Appeals and Special Powers Division of the High Court dismissed the application on grounds that the PEIA report was gazetted in 1997 and therefore the period to appeal had expired. As a result, the case cannot be heard again. Recently, Datuk Lau Bee Lan in a High Court proceeding decided that the usage of the word `Allah’ is not unique to Muslims. The Home Ministry succeeded in getting a court order in three days to stay the court’s decision. This only shows that the federal government rather pay attention to the usage of the word `Allah’ than the lives of Malaysian people that are constantly threatened by harmful pollution. The lives of Bukit Koman residents in particular and the surrounding Raub dwellers in general are not significant anymore.

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً قَالُواْ أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاء وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ

ABDLH.YUSUF ALI: Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” He said: “I know what ye know not.”
MUHD M.W.PICKTHALL: And when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth, they said: Wilt thou place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Thy praise and sanctify Thee? He said: Surely I know that which ye know not.
M.H.SHAKIR: And when your Lord said to the angels, I am going to place in the earth a khalif, they said: What! wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood, and we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness? He said: Surely I know what you do not know. (2 Baqarah:30).

وَفِي الْأَرْضِ آيَاتٌ لِّلْمُوقِنِينَوَفِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَفَلَا تُبْصِرُونَ

YUSUFALI: On the earth are signs for those of assured Faith,
PICKTHAL: And in the earth are portents for those whose faith is sure.
SHAKIR: And in the earth there are signs for those who are sure,

YUSUFALI: As also in your own selves: Will ye not then see?
PICKTHAL: And (also) in yourselves. Can ye then not see?
SHAKIR: And in your own souls (too); will you not then see? (51.Az-Zariyat: 20-21)

In the teachings of Islam, God blessed the earth for human beings and mandated them as caliphs to manage this planet in accordance with the law of Allah s.w.t. However, in reality the usage of toxics in the industry of gold mining in Bukit Koman shows that humans have ignored God’s message by destroying this holy earth. Are the government, people’s representatives and local leaders, as well as entrepreneurs still adhering to the electoral mandate and God’s message?

Finally, while appreciating the basic teachings of every religion, I urge the BN government to realise PM Dato’ Seri Mohd Najib’s concept, “1Malaysia, Rakyat Didahulukan, Pencapaian Diutamakan”. The local residents always welcome any response and compassionate solutions from the BN government.

Er Teck Hwa
MP for Bakri

Source Here

Friday, January 08, 2010

Dams for the future, damn the past

MNS has lost her fangs!!!! Is this what becoming of our MNS now? I hope the president speaks for himself, and not me (as MNS member).

"It must have been galling for SAM when another NGO, Malaysian Nature Society's president, waded in to condemn the credibility of certain green groups, similar to SAM".


Monday, 04 January 2010
Mariam Mokhtar

WHEN I first flew over Sarawak, about two decades ago, the tree-tops, from above, looked like a carpet of tempting green broccoli.

Today, the landscape resembles a scarred battleground. Deep troughs, gouged out of the land, expose red-orange soil. Logging activities scatter trees like ten-pins. Green land masses stretching to the horizon, display spiral patterns from the regimented planting of only one type of tree. Oil palm has displaced the native species.

Back then, the bus journey from Miri to Batu Niah, was an exciting bumpy ride with occasional hair-raising bends, steep gradients or deep ravines on either side of the road. Our travelling companions were the people and their livestock, living along the route.

Today, the pan-Borneo highway is a major artery and channels development into the countryside. Nevertheless, there are reports that this major road is a dirt track in places. Bad lighting, terrible communication systems and highway robberies are common. So much for development!

My first visit to a longhouse then, was a two-hour trek along a belian walkway. We gathered ferns and fresh-water snails, en-route for dinner. Food, from nature’s bounty, was plentiful.

Our arrival was greeted with much gaiety. When my host presented me with a chicken to slaughter, I didn’t know which was more petrified – the squawking chicken or me, with the knife that was placed in my hands. I was touched by the Ibans’ kind gestures and concern over my religious dietary obligations.

Today, the reality is depressing

The following morning, we washed in the clear, fast flowing river. The water was teeming with life, and later, we feasted on fish and fruits, harvested from the river-bank. We hurried quietly but respectfully past sacred burial grounds before checking the ripening golden crop in the nearby padi fields.

Today, the reality is depressing.

Various indigenous people report that some river waters are murky - the colour of milo. Children break out in a rash after playing in the water. It is also alleged that logging companies tear down their prized fruit trees. Others have claimed that padi-growing areas are ear-marked for buildings, large-scale agriculture or industry. Hunting has become increasingly difficult. With their habitat fragmented and little to feed on, deer, wild boar, bear and squirrels migrate to other distant territories or perish altogether.

But the latest revelation by James Masing, the Rural Development Minister, is as welcome as the tolling of a death-knell.

Bakun hasn’t even got off the ground, yet a further twelve mega-dams have been proposed.

And, as if acting in concert, the director of the Registrar of Societies (ROS) has threatened Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) with deregistration.

This must be pure fantasy. No formal complaint has been made against SAM. Nor has it failed to submit its annual report, which we are told is a common cause for deregistration.

It must have been galling for SAM when another NGO, Malaysian Nature Society's president, waded in to condemn the credibility of certain green groups, similar to SAM.

He is correct to state that NGOs like Greenpeace and Oxfam have been criticised in the west. Nevertheless, he must appreciate that NGOs play a vital role here, by creating awareness, engaging public support and collecting voluntary contributions. They also sometimes assist the government in delivering goods and services to needy areas.

The methods used by different NGOs vary. Some act as lobbyists or conduct programs and activities. Others provide skills and equipment. Or they investigate and document human rights violations and provide legal assistance to victims of human rights abuses. A few offer specialised technical products and services to support existing projects.

Respect those who help others

It is well documented that sections of our community lack the means and methods to request and obtain aid. Some have difficulty highlighting issues about religion, health, environmental or humanitarian needs.

Thus SAM, like the other NGOs in Malaysia, is only acting on behalf of beleaguered communities. They provide the mouthpiece and they are the link between the aggrieved party, the government, the companies involved and the wider world.

Consequently, involvement in activities against commercial logging, plantation development and dam construction, is unavoidable.

Maybe it is this unwelcome assistance to people who would otherwise be helpless, that irks the Sarawak government and its ‘pseudo-agent’, ROS.

Ironically, the arm-twisting actions of ROS may backfire.

Subtle threats against SAM will only give greater coverage, wider worldwide publicity and increasing respect for the people who are exercising their rights.

ROS may have shown an unwelcome stroke of spiteful cunning, with a director who has demeaned his office with his remarks. This intimidation might even galvanise the indigenous people and unite the various NGOs.

So, how else can the indigenous people of Sarawak highlight their issues? Via politicians who magically reappear only before election time? Or politicians who will jeopardise their own self-interests when they address the problem? Or politicians who pussyfoot around the issues?

The people experience enough difficulty raising funds to reach the nearest hospital for medical aid, never mind the extra expense organising petitions to parliament or Putrajaya.

So, SAM has alerted us to the forced relocation, the pitiful compensation if any, and the ghastly goings-on that were once shielded from us, the blissfully ignorant Malaysian public.

SAM deals with people at the ground level. In doing so, it may have inadvertently exposed, the true extent of exploitation.

It is this revelation and the potential of further embarrassments that annoy the state and federal governments, ROS and the companies that are implicit in this terrible injustice.

Malaysians may be shocked by the sheer greed and dishonesty of the individuals and companies involved. But what is unpalatable is when ROS acts as a bully for the state.

Need to reconnect with ‘real’ people

Thus, it is disturbing when James Masing claims that these dams are the ‘masterplan’ to change the people for the better.
Politicians like him need to reconnect with ‘real’ people, who have ‘real’ concerns about their future. He cannot treat the indigenous people like the metal counters and title deeds of the Monopoly board game - to be moved around at the toss of a dice.

The people are demoralised and are sick of promises for change. Modernity has robbed them of their culture, traditions, history and heritage.

They want stability. They feel threatened by progress which leaves their elderly, vulnerable; their youth, disillusioned. They see benefits going to the fat-cats in government and industry. They watch in horror when their homes, ancestral lands, burial sites and livelihood are wrecked.

We shouldn’t expect James Masing and the other senior politicians to admit their damning role in the plight of the displaced people. Nor should we expect the companies to forego their commercial gains either.

How will we stop people living in fear (of their future), and restore their faith in governance?

Ironically, James Masing tried to placate the people with “we are not there to destroy them”. Sadly, his comments reeked of hypocrisy.

MARIAM MOKHTAR has a passion for people, places and plain speaking. Don't suffer fools gladly.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Popular butterfly habitat destroyed

This is a very sad story. The salt lick of the Rajah Brooke has been known for years. I had the opportunities to see them in many of my visits. The pipeline itself was also an interesting life support for many fauna beside the heritage values. The pipeline had small leaks with spraying water. And these spraying water actually sustain interesting insect and amphibian populations. On our night walks along the pipeline, we saw countless exotic insects and frogs, not easily seen anywhere else. Such were the charm of Gopeng, beside the Rafflesia and Rajah Brooke. Now, minus the pipeline, gone are the exotic insects and Rajah Brooke included. The lifelihood of the orang asli will be affected. Such continuing greed can only destroy our natural & cultural heritage forever. Who cares! Barisan Najis hoi!

Wednesday January 6, 2010
The Star

IPOH: Workers who removed the historical Gopeng pipeline for scrap metal have destroyed the largest site for Rajah Brooke butterflies in Ulu Geroh, a major tourist attraction.

All that remains of the salt lick, where the butterflies used to congregate in the thousands to sip water rich in minerals, is now just muddy ground.

Friends of Ecotourism and Na-ture Conservation (Semai) chairman Ahha Bah Udal claimed that workers removing the pipeline on Dec 24 “literally bulldozed” their way through the salt lick next to the Ulu Geroh access road.

“The ground is flattened and there is mud everywhere.

“Until now, the workers have not bothered to take away the pipes, which they left by the side of the road,” said Ahha.

Semai, a collective effort by the orang asli village to promote ecotourism and their lifestyle, has 19 villagers acting as guides to take about 1,500 to 2,000 tourists annually into the jungles to view the Rajah Brooke butterflies and Rafflesia flower as well as to trek up Cameron Highlands.

Ahha said due to the destruction of the site, which had been gazetted by the state Wildlife and National Parks Department as a protected area, it was no longer possible to see the butterflies.

“The butterflies have flown away. They can’t be seen on the ground anymore,” he said.

Ahha said the villagers were now considering legal action against the contractor responsible.

“Although the contractor has permission to remove the pipeline, they should have informed that they were going to carry out the removal works and we could have advised them on which areas to avoid.

“Now, everything is destroyed and it is impossible to create another site. You cannot recreate nature,” Ahha said.

The century-old Gopeng pipeline, which was once used to transport water from the hills to tin mines below, is being removed and sold as scrap metal.

It was left behind after mining operations in Gopeng ceased in 1985.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Local catfish fighting with African breed for survival

January 3, 2010
The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: The local freshwater walking catfish or keli kayu, a favourite among Malaysians, may soon be a thing of the past if nothing is done to conserve the fish.

Malaysian Zoological Society ecologist Herman Bernard Ganapathy said the catfish (Clarias batrachus), used to be commonly found but now could only be located in remote villages.

“If we don’t do anything about it now, it may head towards being endangered in the next 10 to 15 years,” said Herman yesterday.

The local catfish is usually found in swampy areas, lowland rivers, padi fields and mining pools, but since the introduction of the African catfish, its population has dwindled.

“This is a concern when foreign species are introduced into our local ecosystem and they compete for food and space, and cross breed and reduced the diversity level,” Herman said.

He had to go to a remote village in Negri Sembilan to look for the species for Zoo Negara’s aquarium, which was launched on Friday.

He said the Fisheries Department gave farmers the African catfish and tilapia fish to breed, both highly ferocious eaters, instead of local fish.

He said the African catfish was favoured by farmers because it was hardier and bigger than the local breed and was more viable commercially.

“The local catfish could grow up to 30cm but the African catfish could grow to more than double the size,” he added.

It was also a concern that fish traders and hobbyists sometimes dumped foreign fish species that they did not want into the river and this could affect the local species, he said.

Herman said the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and the Fisheries Department should seriously look into this.

An avid angler, L.C. Ti, said the keli kayu was small and grew slower than the African breed but tasted sweeter and its texture was smoother.

“We rarely see the keli kayu these days,” he added.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

No Plastic Day - Penang to penalise outlets

January 2, 2010
Penang to penalise outlets that ignore 'No Plastic Day’ campaign
The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Penang will become the first in South-East Asia to take action against outlets that do not observe the “No Plastic Day” campaign this year.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the action included the imposing of a fine or the rejection of licence renewal applications by the local authorities.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said that for the first three months, the state would create, awareness and education on the matter, and at the end of March make a decision whether to extend the campaign or to start enforcement strictly.

He, however, said the enforcement such as fines, issuance and renewal of business licenses and penalties would start this year with a date to be announced later.

Lim said that even though the state hoped to become a green state quickly, they would not impose unbearable burdens on businesses and would proceed progressively.

He hoped that businesses could familiarise themselves and support this important green initiative for the benefit of the future generation.

Lim said Penang had decided to take the bold step to promote a state-wide campaign to reduce plastic bags consumption last year.

“I know that this decision will not please everyone especially the plastic bag manufacturers, but we are ready to expect criticism.

“The state government also expects to lose popularity, however, for the sake of our children and unborn grandchildren we are willing to face such risks.

“We are willing to lose our popularity but not our next generation,” he told a press conference after launching the extension days of the “No Plastic Day’ on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the state from Jan 1 at Komtar Walk here Saturday.

It was reported on Nov 28 last year that the state government had decided to extend its ‘No Plastic Monday’ campaign against the use of plastic bags to three days in a week.

Lim said all stores (not including hawkers) must observe at least one day a week without plastic bags, while hypermarkets and supermarkets must abide by the ruling three days a week.

He said those who wanted plastic bags would be charged 20sen per plastic bag, which would then be channelled to the state government’s ‘Partners Against Poverty’ (PAP) fund to wipe out hardcore poverty.

“To date we have collected RM27,000 for the PAP fund from the proceeds,” he added.

Lim said it was the responsibility of everyone to ensure that the environment was protected.

He said the consumption of plastic bags was so enormous a heap of plastic bags as big as Borneo were floating in the Pacific Ocean.

“Therefore, Penang has start the ball rolling to make changes to our lifestyle,” he added.

Solar showdown in US over tortoises' desert home

January 2, 2010

LOS ANGELES: On a strip of California's Mojave Desert, two dozen rare tortoises could stand in the way of a sprawling solar-energy complex in a case that highlights mounting tensions in the US between wilderness conservation and the quest for cleaner power.

Oakland, California-based BrightSource Energy has been pushing for more than two years for permission to erect 400,000 mirrors on the site to gather the sun's energy. It could become the first project of its kind on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property, leaving a footprint for others to follow on vast stretches of public land across the West.

The construction would come with a cost: Government scientists have concluded that more than 6 square miles (15 square kilometers) of habitat for the federally threatened desert tortoise would be permanently lost.

The Sierra Club and other environmentalists want the complex relocated to preserve what they call a near-pristine home for rare plants and wildlife, including the protected tortoise, the Western burrowing owl and bighorn sheep.

"It's actually a good project. It's just located in the wrong place," said Ileene Anderson of the Center for Biological Diversity, a Tucson, Arizona-based environmental group.

The dispute is likely to echo for years as more companies seek to develop solar, wind and geothermal plants on land treasured by environmentalists who also support the growth of alternative energy. In an area of stark beauty, the question will be what is worth preserving and at what cost as California pushes to generate one-third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

The Bureau of Land Management has received more than 150 applications for large-scale solar projects on 1.8 million acres (730,000 hectares) of federal land in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. In California alone, such projects could claim an area the size of Rhode Island, transforming the state into the world's largest solar farm.

BrightSource Energy wants permission to construct three solar power plants on the site that together would generate enough power each year for 142,000 homes, potentially generating billions of dollars of revenue over time.

The sun's power is used to heat water and make steam, which in turn drives turbines to create electricity.

Built in phases, the project would include seven, 459-foot (140-meter) metal towers, a natural gas pipeline, water tanks, steam turbine generators, boilers and buildings for administration and maintenance. Each plant would be surrounded by 8-foot (2 1/2-meter) high steel fencing.

The site has virtually unbroken sunshine most of the year, and is near transmission lines that can carry the power to consumers.

In November, federal and state biologists reviewing the plan proposed that the company catch and move the tortoises and preserve 12,000 acres (4,800 hectares) elsewhere, a proposal that could cost BrightSource an estimated $25 million.

John Kessler, a project manager for the California Energy Commission, said there is disagreement with BrightSource over what the company would pay for long-term maintenance for the land that would be purchased, and the company also believes the cost of buying it should be less.

The company declined to comment directly on those issues.

It will likely be months before state and federal regulators considering the plan make a decision on the tortoises' fate.

BrightSource President John Woolard warned in government filings released this month that heavy-handed regulation could kill the proposal.

He did not mention the tortoises directly but referred to "unbounded and extreme" requirements being placed on the company.

At a time when the White House is pushing for the rapid development of green power, Woolard predicted the outcome in the California desert would reverberate widely.

The large-scale solar industry "is in its infancy, with great promise to compete with conventional energy," Woolard wrote. "Overburdening this fledgling industry will cause it to be stillborn, ending that promise before it has truly begun."

The Sierra Club wants regulators to move the site closer to Interstate 15, the busy freeway connecting Los Angeles and Las Vegas, to avoid what it says will be a virtual death sentence for the tortoises.

Estimates of the population have varied, but government scientists say at least 25 would need to be captured and moved.

The group argues that the reptiles are the "most genetically distinct" of all of California's desert tortoises and point to a 2007 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report that found the tortoise population is dropping in parts of a four-state region that includes California.

"The project must not contribute to additional loss of habitat," the Sierra Club said in government filings.

Roy Averill-Murray, the Fish and Wildlife Service's desert tortoise recovery coordinator, said there are insufficient data to make judgments about the population on the BrightSource site.

Tortoise "populations across the board have declined, but we don't have the same kind of information for this particular patch of ground," Averill-Murray said.

In a statement, BrightSource spokesman Keely Wachs did not address proposals to move all or part of the complex, pledging that the company "will continue to work with the environmental community to ensure that we establish a good example for projects that follow."

In government filings, the company depicts the site near the Nevada line as far from untouched: It has been used for livestock grazing, has been crisscrossed by off-roaders and the boundary of a golf club is a half-mile away.

Except for the tortoise, no other federal or state threatened or endangered animal or plant is on the site, the company said.

In 1994 the federal government designated 6.4 million acres (2.6 million hectares) as "critical habitat" for the tortoise in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, but the BrightSource site was not included "and is by no means in an area critical to the survival of this species," the company concluded.

The complicated review is being watched closely.

"At this point, there are zero solar-energy projects on public land," said Monique Hanis of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group. "We are looking for ways to expand the market and reduce barriers ... and get more of these projects moving." - AP