Friday, October 28, 2011

Act now to lessen impact of climate change, Govt urged

Oct 28, 2011

PETALING JAYA: An environmentalist wants the Government to take steps to lessen the impact of unusual rainfall due to climate change.

Centre for Environment, Tech­nology and Development Malaysia (Cetdem) chairman Gurmit Singh said it should prohibit development in flood-prone areas.

He said some developers build their infrastructure in low-lying deltas and coastal areas where floods occur.

“They must realise that a change in climate is already taking place and policies must be implemented so Malaysia will not end up like Thailand.”

Thailand is facing its worst floods and people and businesses are forced to build water barriers around their homes and workplaces.

Drainage and Irrigation Depart­ment (DID) national hydrology and water resources division director Datuk Lim Chow Hock said Malaysia was receiving higher-than-average rainfall even when it wasn’t the monsoon season.

“In terms of national average, we received some 2,400mm per year in the peninsula alone,” he said.

“We estimate that the figures will be much higher this year.

“Given the current outlook, the level will spiral to at least 2,700mm while Sabah and Sarawak can go up to 3,000mm of rain this year,” he told The Star.

He said this year’s rainfall was exceptionally higher.

“Prolonged light rain in a few days followed by at least twice heavy rain in a month from November until March could lead to flooding.”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Belum-Temenggor can become a world-class attraction?

This is the same MB that said that logging will continue (read 2nd article below). So which is correct? Politicians seem to have forked tongues. Probably has another motive to follow Kenyir Lake's duty free island!

October 21, 2011
Zambry: Belum-Temenggor can become a world-class attraction

IPOH: The Belum-Temenggor tropical rainforest has the potential to become a world-class attraction, said Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir.

He said this when revealing that an integrated master plan (IMP) for the 300,000ha land is expected to be ready within the next few months.

“The master plan should be ready by the end of the year or at the latest in early 2012,” he told reporters after chairing the weekly state exco meeting here yesterday.

The rainforest, which is over 130 million years old, covers the Royal Belum State Park (117,500ha), Gerik Forest Reserve (34,995ha) and Temenggor Forest Reserve (147,505ha).

“With the vast tropical rainforest in the area and a few other places at the Tasik Banding site, it has the potential to become a world attraction,” said Dr Zambry.

The proposed master plan comprises aspects that include conservation efforts, tourism development and recommended action against poaching and logging activities and problems affecting the timber industry.

The mentri besar said to date the state government and the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority (NCIA) had completed about 60% of the proposed IMP.

“The state is being briefed on the progress of the proposed IMP by consultants from the NCIA from time to time,” he said, adding that input was also received from related non-governmental organisations.

“In other words, the proposal has been analysed from various aspects and perspectives, be it in terms of conservation or the income to be derived by the state in the future,” he said.

Dr Zambry said several other nature-centric development projects had been identified in the area.

September 20, 2011
Be reasonable with demands to gazette forests, says MB

IPOH: Environmental and wildlife groups should be more objective when demanding that forested areas in the state be gazetted as non-logging areas, said Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir.

He said despite the state government having gazetted an area about five times the size of Singapore in Royal Belum as a state park, such groups were demanding more.

“Are they asking for the whole of Perak to be gazetted? After the Royal Belum, they now want us to gazette the whole of Temengor Forest Reserve.

“Later, they may also request forested areas in Pangkor to be gazetted.

“Let us be objective. Logging cannot be stopped completely because timber is one of the major industries which generate revenue for the state,” he told reporters after receiving a courtesy call from Japanese ambassador to Malaysia Shigeru Nakamura at his office here yesterday.

Dr Zambry was commenting on calls by such groups for forests along the Gerik-Jeli highway to be gazetted as part of the Royal Belum or a forest reserve to ensure the long-term survival of wildlife.

He said economic progress would be hindered if the state government were to fulfil all their demands.

Dr Zambry said Perak was among the few states that had a sustainable forest management concept.

“While allowing logging activities, we are also serious about protecting the state’s rainforests,” he stressed.

On the forest clearing activities in the Belum-Temengor wildlife corridor, Dr Zambry said he would wait for an in-depth probe to be completed first.

”We also want to know the actual situation and if the report is accurate,” he said.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Insane for another bird park in Malacca

Wednesday, 19 October 2011
By SM Mohd Idris,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is unequivocally opposed to the plan for the largest bird park in Southeast Asia sited at the Botanical Gardens in Ayer Keroh Malacca. It would be insanity on the part of the Malacca Chief Minister if he harbours such an ill-conceived plan when zoos and animal establishments in Malaysia are widely known and reported to be in appalling states.

State Governments, Councils and individuals may be rich in ambition to have the largest, biggest or grandest zoos and aviaries but do they know or care about the basic care and welfare of animal and their requirements? Judging from the past, the lack of ability to run zoos or bird parks may cause many of the birds to be reduced to a spectacle of abuse or neglect and many may die eventually.

The question everyone or every animal welfare group should ask is from where and how the birds are sourced. Sourcing for 6000 birds from 300 species to fill the largest aviary will fuel the trade in live birds that not only enriches the pockets of traders and poachers, it may cause more than half of those caught to die as a result of the birds being packed into crates and transported over long distances. There will be little concern for wastage of bird life as these profiteers in the bird trade can literally get away with murder.

The other question we ask is why undertake to house such a huge collection of birds knowing that space would be shockingly inadequate. If the Malacca State Government is serious about best practices for the aviary then the project would not have started with demand for 6000 birds due to the inadequacy of space. The Malacca Government fails to recognize that animals and birds have a basic need for the appropriate amount of space. No amount of behavioural enrichment can compensate for the spatial needs of the birds.

SAM fails to see the need for an aviary in the middle of a botanic garden. The botanic garden itself is good enough to be a major tourist attraction with its wide varieties of plant species considering the immense beauty and variety that the plant kingdom offers. The garden is also a place which attracts native birds. It could be an idyllic oasis for the free-roaming birds in the centre of the city.

Constructing an aviary within the gardens is a cruel attempt to bring nature to people where we can see birds in flight and chirping away when in reality the birds are living under captive conditions only to be displayed for man’s amusement. Life in captivity can never be adequate for the fulfillment of any species or individual, since the best habitat for animals is in their natural environment. All species are born free, and detention or isolation, whether of birds or humans, is an expression of cruelty and inhumanity.

This brings to mind the question of staffing and a host of other issues: 1) Whether staff are experienced and qualified to care for the different exotic birds that have special needs?

2) Any ability or expertise to manage and train inexperienced staff?

3) The level of veterinary care and hygiene standards?

4) Resources available to upgrade exhibits?

5) The ability to keep up with a variety of environmental enrichment? and

6) The expertise for managing such a large and diverse aviary?

From the above-stated reasons SAM calls on the Malacca Government to abandon its plan for the establishment of the largest bird park in Southeast Asia.

In view of the many zoos that were closed by the authorities due to the appalling conditions of confinement of the animals and the atrocious abuse and neglect of these animals, SAM once again reiterate its stand for closure of bad zoos and limit the number of zoos to a few good ones.

SAM would also urge the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Department of Wildlife to completely stop the issuing of new licences for upcoming zoos and to continue monitoring all existing zoos in order to reform the wild animal industry.

S M Mohd Idris
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Would you allow your pregnant wife to work in the premises with those drums of radioactive waste?

Lynas and the Malaysian Green movement — Kua Kia Soong
October 10, 2011

OCT 10 — The Green Assembly (Himpunan Hijau 109) at dawn at the Kuantan beach yesterday was the harbinger of the Malaysian Green movement that has been a long time coming. Kudos to the organisers of this inspirational event that managed to draw together other green campaigns as well as environmentally conscious Malaysians throughout the country. It was especially heart-warming to see the Orang Asli from nearby Chini taking an active part in the event. There, we pledged our commitment to the Earth Charter and sustainable development and our opposition to projects that are socially disruptive and health-threatening.

Green consciousness in Malaysia has been growing with every toxic project in the country, most noxious has been the processing and storage of radioactive waste. The BN government has always tried to justify their production by saying that “impartial experts” have testified to their safety. In the latest case of the Lynas rare earth plant at Gebeng, near Kuantan, they have invited the IAEA as an afterthought and they say that subject to certain recommendations, the plant should be safe. But the people are not convinced and will continue to oppose this toxic project.

The myth of impartial experts

In 1984, during the controversy over the nuclear dumps of Asian Rare Earth (ARE) at Papan in Perak, I wrote an article in The Star (September 2, 1984) entitled “The Myth of the Impartial Scientist”. The government was trying to convince the public that the dumps for the radioactive waste were constructed to the required specifications and scientific experts were carted out to back up their case. But the people of Papan were not impressed and they continued to organise a protracted resistance to the dumps until they won.

The ARE factory had started operating in Bukit Merah New Village in 1982. In February 1985, the Bukit Merah residents filed an application in the Ipoh High Court to stop ARE from operating in the vicinity of their village. The residents turned out in force at the court and their organisation and commitment to the cause of environmental safety was an inspiration for the rest of the country. On April 12, 1987, some 10,000 people marched through Bukit Merah to protest the resumption of operations by ARE after the company had disregarded an injunction to stop operations. They finally won through their sustained campaign and ARE had to pack up and pay them compensation. The people of Papan and Bukit Merah were more concerned about their health and the health of their future generations than they were about the short-term gain of employment that ARE provided.

Today, the people in Kuantan who are opposing the Lynas rare earth plant are displaying the same admirable organisation, commitment to protecting their environment and concern for their health and the health of their future generations and we salute their efforts.

Far from being impartial, the IAEA is deeply involved in promoting nuclear energy. It failed to correctly assess the dangers caused by nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and recently at Fukushima. For all its “impartiality”, it also failed to prevent the Iraq war, when Bush and Blair had insisted that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It turned out to be an elaborate lie to justify western invasion of Iraq.

Since the key question to allay the fears of the people is that of safety and the effects of the plant on the people’s health, one would have expected the government to bring in independent members outside the IAEA with expertise in nuclear safety, public health, environmental protection and other social concerns. Besides the danger of radiation, the Lynas plant also produces large quantities of industrial acids and chemicals which will adversely affect the environment.

The lesson of Bukit Merah should be instructive for the Lynas controversy. The ARE expert there had insisted that their facilities were safe. I remember visiting their premises and the Japanese manager had assured me of the same. When I asked the manager if he would allow his pregnant wife to work in the premises with those drums of radioactive waste around her, he was completely stumped and couldn’t answer me. During the Bukit Merah court case, other international experts testified that the adverse health effects on the residents — cancer, congenital deformities, cardiovascular disease, etc — were the direct result of the radioactivity from the waste produced by ARE.

Whatever IAEA may recommend for the Lynas plant, they have no power to regulate or enforce compliance on Lynas. We also know that the Malaysian government’s record on monitoring and implementing such environmental safety standards and its maintenance culture are legendary! If not, how did the DOE and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board fail the residents of Bukit Merah?

Neutrality of science is a myth

The lesson from all these controversies is that there is no such thing as a “neutral expert”. Science and technology have never been neutral — the neutrality of science is a myth. You can as soon find an expert who will say the project is safe and another who will warn you of its dangers.

Through the ages, science has been carried out in a manner reflecting the norms and ideology of the social order. Thus, whether it is environmental pollution, genetic engineering, climate change, psychological control technologies, computer invasion of privacy, biological and chemical warfare, scientific research is not independent and unrelated to scientists’ activity.

The history of science reveals that scientific discoveries emerged as a consequence of a specific technological requirement of a particular social order. For example, Newtonian mechanics developed during the development of industrial capitalism. The atomic devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki exploded the myth of the autonomy of science once and for all.

The Vietnam War in the mid-Sixties saw the greatest proportion of university science in the US done on federal contract, especially for the Department of Defence. Today, scientists permeate every branch of government, advising and devising the most effective types of weapons of war.

Fortunately, there has been resistance to this development among socially conscious scientists on the side of the people. Thus, during the Vietnam War, the Bertrand Russell Tribunal sent scientists and doctors to collect evidence of the experimental nature of the war and the use of new technologies of destruction. Moral and political issues were brought out to the fore and it was no longer adequate to pose the problem in terms of the “uses/abuses of science”. The response produced such movements as the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Society for Social Responsibility in Science and Science for People.

Poisoning Pahang

While we are in the midst of a controversy regarding the Emergency, it is worth pointing out that when the 30-year secrecy rule was lifted in Britain, it was discovered that the authorities had used Agent Orange to spray at least 20 sites in Pahang. Pahang happened to be the state in which the Tenth Regiment of the Communist Party of Malaya was particularly active and it was the regiment that was made up of Malays.

I raised this in an article in The Star entitled “Emergency Secrets” on March 30, 1984. Malaysian government officials were quoted in The Star (January 29, 1984) as saying it was not their responsibility to conduct studies since the spraying happened before independence. Well, if according to our professors, Malaya was never colonised, then shouldn’t the Malaysian government do something about finding out how much of our country was sprayed with Agent Orange during the Emergency? How good are our medical records to show if congenital deformities in recent years have been caused by the spraying of defoliants during the Emergency?

At a medical conference in France in 1970, attention was drawn to the possible cancer-producing effects of dioxin, the deadly component of these poisonous herbicides. Questions were also raised of aberrations in the chromosomes of those affected which may affect their reproductive ability. These findings on the long-term effects of Agent Orange — which was used by the Americans to spray rebel areas during the Vietnam War — were presented at an international symposium of 140 scientists in January 1983. Their conclusion was that there is good reason to suppose that the defoliants used not only have noxious effects on the present generation but also for future generations!

Socially useful production please!

In Malaysia, the proliferation of the domestic military-industrial complex has been in the vicinity of Kuantan, namely in Pekan, the prime minister’s constituency. The prime minister almost lost the seat in 2004 but he has now ensured that the military automotive industry is there to provide contractors, sub-contractors, servicemen and other workers with a vested interest. Defence companies enjoy “feather bedding” in which contracts are awarded without competition. But is arms production in the interest of the people even if they may chalk up our GDP figures?

Not in my backyard mate!

The reason given by Lynas for why this rare earth processing plant has to be in Malaysia rather than in West Australia where it is mined surely takes the biscuit! Their spokesperson has said that Malaysia has the infrastructure lacking in Australia! It seems clear to most that the Aussies do not want this radioactive industry in their backyard.

It reminds me of that other energy-guzzling highly toxic aluminium smelting industry from Australia that the Sarawak/federal government has been trying to attract into Sarawak in order to use the abundant electricity from the Bakun dam. Once again, one wonders why Alcoa does not smelt aluminium in their own backyard.

Either Malaysians are the most gullible people on this earth or the Malaysian government merely wants to attract the big projects regardless of their sustainability or toxicity. Big projects mean big commissions seem to be the motivating factor in Malaysian development logic!

People before profits

Thus the experts we call upon to evaluate Lynas’ rare earth processing project will give us different conclusions depending on whether their prime concern is people or profits. As in all capitalist enterprises, there will be cost cutting. Whether they use welded steel drums or plastic bags to store the processed rare earth will affect the cost drastically. So will other measures to ensure there is no environmental damage or emissions to affect the residents.

The people of Kuantan are rightly angry that their lives are being reckoned on a weighted scale and they do not want this toxic industry in their backyard. All Malaysians who care for people before profits fully support them and we must do all we can to ensure that Lynas processes the rare earth in their own backyard and not in ours.

The people of Kuantan have asserted their rights as a community. It underpins the inseparable connection between the environmental movement and the people’s movement for democracy, justice and human rights. They have initiated an assembly which, hopefully, will be the start of a green movement whose time has come.

It is time to establish a national coalition of support and solidarity for all communities under threat from such irresponsible and dubious projects and strive for an alternative path of development in which the interests of the people come before profits. The success of campaigns such as Papan and Bukit Merah demonstrates the truism that the people united will never be defeated!

* Dr Kua Kia Soong is a director of human rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

An environmental performance index next year

October 14, 2011
Green light for EPI to gauge states

GEORGE TOWN: Malaysia’s own Environmental Performance Index (EPI) which is designed to gauge the performance of each state in managing environmental issues is scheduled to be implemented by next year.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Unggah Embas said the Cabinet had given the green light for the EPI to be carried out comprehensively.

The project is a joint effort between the ministry and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

“We need a yardstick to gauge the performance of each state,” said Douglas.

“At the moment, everything is based on verbal commitments. For example, we cannot compare Selangor with Penang (on which state has done better in managing environmental issues). We need something concrete for this purpose,” he said after visiting the Penang Land and Mines Office in Komtar yesterday.

Douglas said the EPI would be developed in line with the Global Environmental Perfor-mance Index.

He said some of the parameters for the measurement include socio-economic sustainability, resources efficiency, environmental governance and awareness as well as behaviour of the people.

“We are trying to make it as simple as possible so that it can be understood by everyone,” he said.

Douglas also said that Penang’s “e-Tanah” system, an integrated online system for land management and administration, has seen 250,000 transactions being processed between Jan 1 and Sept 30 of this year.

He said the number of transactions had doubled compared to the corresponding period last year.

When visiting Sungai Petani, Douglas said the Sungai Muda flood mitigation project was 5% ahead of schedule and it is likely to be completed on time.

The RM420mil project started in 2007 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

Douglas said that more than 850 families living along Sungai Muda would benefit when it is completed.

The project will alleviate flooding in the area where the river banks will be raised to avert the overflow of water from the river, especially during heavy rain.

“Look at Thailand, which is affected by the worst floods in its history. We do not want a similar situation here. The Federal Government is planning ahead for the people, he said.


Sunday October 9, 2011

KUCHING: The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is to develop an environmental performance index as a yardstick to gauge the environmental management performance of every state next year.

Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said the Malaysia Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2012 would be developed in collaboration with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) under the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015).

He said the cabinet has agreed to the ministry's proposal, which also had the support of the various federal agencies.

"At the moment, we do not have an indicator on the public response to environmental issues, like climate change, being discussed by a lot of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at dialogues and conferences, or the performances of local bodies like the Kuching City South Hall in managing solid and sewage waste disposal and number of acreages on trees planted," he said.

Speaking to reporters after officiating at the Kuching Division Journalists Association (KDJA) Car Boot Sale and Sports Day at the Kuching Integrated Sports Complex here, he said it would also help the ministry in terms of resource allocation and manpower needs.

Generally, Malaysia's standing is at 54th position among 163 countries worldwide under the Global EPI 2010 based on quantitative data obtained from the World Health Oganisation, United Nations Global Environmental Monitoring System, government agencies, NGOs and academia, he said.

The Malaysia EPI 2012 will also address issues pertaining to socio-economic sustainability as one of the data to include three categories of policy on resources efficiency, environmental governance as well as environmental awareness and behaviour. - Bernama

Thursday, October 06, 2011

State sanctioned animal mistreatment in Zambry's Perak

06 October 2011
Written by Mariam Mokhtar,
Malaysia Chronicle

It is outrageous that animals are being neglected by the MBI (Ipoh City Council or Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh).

Despite the public condemnation which it received last year, MBI continues the callous, indiscriminate shooting of dogs including pets, and has still not learned its lesson.

In October 2010, the MBI made headline news for shooting a therapy dog and long term companion of a 75 year old lady. This lady was about to exercise her dog, when she popped into her house to retrieve something she had forgotten.

When she returned after being away for a few minutes, her dog Spunk, was nowhere to be found; after much searching, she found his body. Spunk had been shot by dog shooters who did not even bother to check if the animal had a license on its collar.

The aftermath of this killing was that an immediate ban was placed on the shooting of dogs.

This was rescinded in March 2011 when the Ipoh Mayor, Roshidi Hashim admitted that his enforcement team had shot at dogs in Ipoh, because nurses coming off-duty at one of the private hospitals had complained about dogs barking.

Roshidi approved the shooting because the MBI had an ‘option to shoot’ dogs, in its local by-laws.

Filthy and neglected

However, during my visit to the Gunung Lang recreational park just off the Kuala Kangsar Road in Ipoh, on 24 September 2011, I discovered that dogs are not the only animals to suffer cruelty at the hands of the MBI.

The park at Gunung Lang is only accessible by boat. The place looks idyllic but on closer inspection, it has an air of disarray and neglect. At one time, this Gunung Lang park must have been a gem and a welcome green lung for Ipoh.

The park keeps animals in cages or fenced off enclosures. Many of these animals looked diseased and unhealthy. Their fur had no shine and the animals were filthy, and looked neglected.

One rabbit in the cage close to the jetty, looked as though its nose was about to drop off. Bits of its skin were bare of fur and the cage was littered with rabbit pellets and looked like it was rarely cleaned.

In the far-side of the park, several caged enclosures looked like they needed repair and there was no information about any of the animals or birds which they housed. Many of the cages were empty or had broken fencing. Equipment which needed repair and metal containers with sharp projections, were dumped in these cages.

The ostriches at Gunung Lang, did not look at all happy, nor healthy. Their feathers were sparse and unhealthy, their eyes dull. They were severely dehydrated and there was no water supply. One trough, which should have had water in it, had been removed from its frame, whilst another had only a small amount of brackish water.

Some deer were housed with the ostriches. They also looked unhealthy. They were lethargic and didn’t come to investigate us, as normal healthy animals would. They appeared to be dehydrated and were lying or standing on waterlogged ground. It looked like some of the deer were eating their faeces. Isn’t this a sign of boredom, stress, a lack of minerals in their diet or perhaps, malnutrition?

Other cages housed guinea fowl and turkeys. These birds also looked unhealthy.

Why has the mayor allowed such terrible practices to continue? Is he not ashamed that with Visit Perak Year (VPY) 2012 just around the corner, Malaysia’s reputation as a nation which ill-treats its animals will be highlighted by the foreigner?

As a local, many of us find that our complaints fall on deaf ears and that action is only taken by the authorities, when a foreign tourist makes a big issue of it.

If the MBI cannot properly manage these bird and animals, and if MBI cannot pay for the regular services of a vet, then these animals and birds should be put down to end their suffering.

Jokers in charge

Those in charge of tourism in Perak are excited about VPY 2012. However, these people have their priorities confused. They must realise that tourism is not just about an increase in the number of hotel rooms, or of places to eat.

Tourism is also about health, hygiene and human considerations towards animal welfare.

What good is an eatery if we have no clue about keeping out streets, toilets, kitchens and drains clean? Several people complain of irregular rubbish collections, drains which remain clogged and restaurants where the rodents are as large as domestic cats.

What is the point of a recreational park, which is covered in litter and broken amenities? Why should we have caged animals if we won’t care for them? Tourists will not be impressed by a park in which animals are suffering a slow and lingering death.

The MBI, the Ipoh mayor, the tourism department of Perak and the state executive councilor for Perak tourism, Hamidah Othman, must realise that VPY 2012 should be more than just restaurants, hotel rooms and a fancy launch for the VPY 2012 logo. A successful VPY must also include animal welfare.

Both Roshidi and Hamidah should investigate why animals kept in cages and enclosures in the Gunung Lang recreational park are kept in terrible conditions and they must do something about it. It should not be up to members of the public to continually catch the MBI with its pants down.

Malaysia Chronicle