Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Using Google to save Earth

January 31, 2012

PETALING JAYA: Google Earth, the virtual globe, map and geographical information program, is proving to be a favoured tool by environmental groups and the authorities to check on illegal forest clearing and land occupation.

Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said had said last week that the state government was using it to detect illegal occupation of government-owned land in the state, adding that stern action would be taken from this year against the culprits, which included civil servants.

Commenting on this, Malaysian Nature Society Selangor branch vice-chairman Lim Teck Wyn said Google Earth was effective in getting a general overview of any area.

“There’s a useful function which allows us to do a time lapse observation by comparing older satellite images with recent ones,” he told The Star yesterday.

Lim, a forestry consultant, said this helped to detect recent logging activities as the change in forest mass would be obvious.

However, he stressed that there was no substitute for ground checks as Google Earth images are not al­­ways recent or detailed.

WWF-Malaysia chief executive officer and executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said Google Earth was helpful in calculating an overview of forest loss or land changes.

“It helps us to see whether the Go­­vernment is keeping its pledge to maintain 50% of the country’s land mass under forest cover,” he said.

Dr Sharma added, however, that the organisation mostly derived its information regarding illegal logging or animal smuggling from its on-site staff.

He said WWF-Malaysia employs some 185 people, spread around the country on its projects of interest.

“That is the fastest way we pick up information. The problem with using satellite tools is that by the time we detect changes, it’s probably a foregone conclusion,” he said.

Originally called EarthViewer 3D, Google Earth was created by Keyhole Inc, a company funded by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency and acquired by Google in 2004.

It maps the Earth from satellite image­­ry, aerial photography and geo­graphic information systems (GIS) 3D globe.

It is available as a free version with limited functions and a paid ver­­­­­sion, with additional features, for commercial use.

As at October last year, Google Earth had been downloaded more than a billion times.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Botanic Gardens draft up for viewing

Remember this ugly arch?

Remember the ugly arch in Botanic Gardens? How they built and then destroyed? Remember how they wasted taxpayers’ money? Its because we were silent then. So, not to repeat the same mistake again, I hope you Penang lang “Speak Now Or Forever Lose Your Peace”. You can goto Komtar 3rd floor or the Botanic Gardens to see the exhibited draft plan. Yes, less than a month to do so. Let me run you through the draft plan open for comments and objections until 16 February 2012.

Key Proposals (My comments in bracket)

1. Visitors Centre – located at the entrance of the PBG (OK for me).

2. Conservation and Propagation Centre – located beside bambusetum, opposite Moon Gate (OK for me).

3. Herbarium – the old admin office (OK for me).

4. Kampung Garden – the squatter with the PAS flags (OK for me).

5. Secret Gardens – now the Japanese Garden (OK for me).

6. Malaysian Boulevard and Garden – the shooting club that will be demolished for this new building (NO. If you are going to chase the shooting club out, then why the waste to demolish. The building can use for the proposed “fine-dining” as in Key Proposal No 9 - Natural Amphitheatre).

7. Floral Garden – the quarry garden (Already a garden. Just put more floral. I don’t see anything worth mentioning).
8. Tree Top Walk – between Mt Olivia and a high point west (NO. Wrong site for this Tree Top Walk – Reasons - 1. Steep slope to reach Mt Olivia which will demand new path to the top. A new path to reach the top which will damage the fragile flora & fauna. Erosion, safety problem, ecosystem damages are some of the problem i can visualized now. 2. If revenue is what you have stated in your objective, then this is the wrong site as it is too far and deep inside the garden. This type of activity will only attract adventurous tourists if it is too difficult to access. A white elephant in the making? 3. You should compare the Treewalk with the one in Sidim. The one is Sidim is OKU friendly. Why is this one unOKU friendly? 4. Suggest to place it near Moon Gate to get the maximum benefit).

9. Natural Amphitheatre – behind Quarry Park, a new building to accomodate fine-dining restaurants and facilities (NO. Why waste money building a large facility which the garden don’t have enough man power to cope. The aim of Botanic Gardens is to promote natural heritage and not fine dining. Beside there will not be enough parking space if there is too a big crowd. Is the carrying capacity adequate?)

10. Nature Trails – four main trails be developed (Trails already there, what is there to develop if people are not going to use it. The curtis trail was developed once but eventually neglected. Why waste money on something which adventurous people don’t mind trekking in overgrowth trail?)

11. Access and Circulation – shall be turned into a “traffic-free” garden (Traffic-free? Then the big open space car park should be planted with trees. Unless there is no access road to Penang Hill, then i think this “traffic-free” will be difficult to implement).

There is no online objection at the moment. It is a disgrace to Penang. At the opening ceremony, I approached CM and asked about this online submission. His usher quickly said there is an online submission and that I should ask the reception at the desk. But I told this usher I have already asked. Then he tried to give stupid reason. Finally, CM said by right there should be an online submission. And CM thanked me for telling him. He shook my hand (first time he put up his hand to shake hand hehehe). I suspect the usher is trying to push to implement t
he project without caring about people objections. So guys, make sure you make some objections.

This draft plan is to be submitted to Tourism Ministry. That means it will be a federal project. And as you know, somebody up there will be making alot of commission while we Penangites will be taken for another ride. I think our state government is too greedy for the free funding until they forget about our natural heritage. State govt already spent RM688k for this stupid draft. They are going to turn Botanic Gardens into a theme park and whatnot. All Penangites should go and make some objections to the gardens or FOREVER HOLD YOUR TONGUE!

If you are not around before 16 Feb 2012, then try to goto this website HERE to view the draft. Then email your objections or comments to all of them:- chandra@penang.gov.my, fakhrurazi@penang.gov.my and nazrina@penang.gov.my

January 20, 2012

A TREE-TOP walk and a new visitors centre are among the proposals in the Penang Botanic Gardens Special Area Plan (SAP) draft which is now available for public viewing.

The public can view the draft at Komtar’s Level Three and also at the Penang Botanic Gardens Department at the gardens from 9am to 4.30pm daily until Feb 15.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng urged stakeholders and the public to provide feedback on the draft which, among others, also proposed a conservation and propagation centre and the expansion of the existing herbarium.

Among the other key proposals are a Kampung Garden with a typical Malay village theme, a secret garden, a Malaysiana boulevard and garden, a floral garden, a natural amphitheatre and nature trails.

“This draft was prepared by experienced, local experts in six months and studies were completed at the end of last year,” Lim said in his speech during the launch of the publicity and public participation of the draft on Wednesday.

He said the state government had allocated RM688,878 last year for the preparation of the SAPs for the gardens and Penang Hill.

“The state wants to ensure that a comprehensive proposal is presented to important quarters, including non-governmental bodies, to obtain the best blueprint for the proposed development of the gardens before any construction work,” he said.

It has also been proposed under the SAP draft that the Penang Rifle Club be relocated for the development of an eco-friendly garden convention and activity building.

Lim said there had been plans for the club’s relocation but consultation would be carried out with the club authorities and its patron, Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas.

“Other projects that were identified include a bambusetum and the upgrading of the existing buildings,” he added.

In his speech, Penang Town and Country Planning director Zainuddin Ahamad said that following the public viewing of the draft, there would be inquiries to take into consideration the views from the public. For more information, call 04-2260713.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I just tak faham why MPPP cut those trees

The BOTAK Ficus benjamina along Jalan Masjid Negeri, Penang (15 Jan 2012)

Healthy ficus trees (Ficus benjamina) along Jalan Masjid Negeri were not spare too. I just don't understand why the authority has to hack until BOTAK! Couldn't they just prune those branches that obstruct? These ficus trees will not pose any hazard during stormy weather as they are very sturdy and durable trees....beside they are hardly huge enough to endanger anyone. So what is the reason for the wide spread hacking of trees in Penang? I can only think of one answer. There are many road tarring and now the hacking of trees. It can only means that election is near and cronies must be given works to fill their pockets. Isn't it time to have a Green political party to voice our dissatisfaction? So much for the Pakatan's slogan, "Cleaner Greener Penang". Bullshit!

January 10, 2012
‘Tree killers’ at work in Penang

GEORGE TOWN: The local authorities have come under fire over the pruning of the island's trees.

A reader called up The Star on Sunday to complain about how badly the trees along Jalan Tanjong Bungah, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Jalan Udini and Sungai Ara had been pruned.

“The trees have all been hacked and pruned until they are bald.

“Even the shrubs along Jalan Mesjid Negri and Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah have not been spared,” B.S. Yeng said.

He added that the roots of the trees lining Jalan Gottlieb were exposed due to a road widening project.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president S.M. Mohamed Idris said SAM highlighted the problem in the media in 2003.

“In the last few years, they've been more careful but lately the tree murderers' are back in action.

“What they are doing now is simply hacking away until there's nothing left,” he said.

Mohamed Idris called on the relevant authorities to engage experts to advise them on tree care and maintenance.

Tree maintenance on the island is under the purview of the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) and Public Works Department (JKR).

State Public Works, Utilities, Transport Committee chairman Lim Hock Seng said the roads highlighted by Yeng were mostly federal roads monitored by the JKR.

“I immediately looked into the complaint and was told that the tree maintenance work was done by a private contractor.

“JKR will be monitoring the contractor more closely” he said.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

‘Green courts’ to protect the environment

Saturday January 14, 2012 MYT 5:34:00 PM

PUTRAJAYA: A man who stole 11 cans of Tiger beer and Guinness stout was jailed for five years. And another man who had illegal possession of a dead tiger got away with a RM7,000 fine.

“Clearly our values are misplaced. Surely, our tigers are worth more than the 11 cans of Tiger beer,” Chief Justice Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria said when opening the 2012 Legal Year and Conference of Judges here Saturday.

To end this problem, specialised “environmental courts” may soon be introduced in the country to handle cases involving environmental crime.

Arifin said there should be an end to the lack of sensitivity to such crimes.

He said the judiciary would provide more training to its judges and officers on environmental law.

He also issued a stern reminder to members of the judiciary not to abuse their position and to avoid exposure to corrupt practices.

Judges and officers, he said, should continue to maintain the dignity and integrity of their office.

“We should at all times conduct ourselves in a manner befitting our position in society.

“Always bear in mind that your conduct, be it in private or in your official capacity, is subject to public scrutiny.

“In conducting a trial, do it with decorum,” he said.

Arifin also urged lawyers to stop making wild and baseless accusations against judges.

“This is because your words are taken seriously by the public. Such allegations may undermine the integrity of the judiciary,” he said.

He also announced that from this month, all criminal and civil appeals in the Federal Court would be heard by a five-man quorum, aimed at improving the quality of judgments and decisions.

At the same function, Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail said the Peaceful Assembly Act was meant to encourage freedom of expression.

He said there had been consultation with the various stakeholders including the Bar Council before the Act was passed.

“However, in consulting with the stakeholders, we are still governed by the Official Secrets Act. The bottom line is that there can never be a perfect' legislation.

“It can only ever hope to be a right' legislation to meet the exigencies of the relevant time.”