Ecology

NGOs form green pact

Posted on April 19, 2011. Filed under: Ecology |

-Free Malaysia Today-

Activists will mark Earth Day with demands for action, not pledges, to save the environment.

KUALA LUMPUR: Green activists will march to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment this Friday to demand a halt in deforestation and other activities that threaten the environment.

The march, to mark International Mother Earth Day, will be organised by the Save the Earth Committee, a coalition of more than 20 non-governmental organisations coordinated by Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM).

Malaysia lost nearly two million hectares of forest between 1990 and 2010. That represents a depletion rate that is faster than in most Asian countries, according to a memorandum the coalition will submit to the ministry after Friday’s march.

“And yet there is no action to curb the problem,” said S. Kalei Jothi, who heads PSM’s Environment Desk.

The memorandum will also ask the government to abandon the nuclear power option, halt the rare earth project near Kuantan, stop the use of incinerators and establish an efficient public transportation system.

Jothi noted that the government had, over the years, made several pledges to protect the environment but had not acted on them.

“For example, the Prime Minister pledged at the Copenhagen talks (in 2009) that Malaysia would reduce carbon emission, but that pledge has not been translated into policy.”

As of today, 22 civil societies have signed the Save the Earth memorandum, but PSM is confident that the number will increase by Friday.

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Gov’t pursuit of nuclear power irresponsible

Posted on April 4, 2011. Filed under: Ecology, Energy |

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) finds the government’s insistence on continuing its pursuit of nuclear energy as an alternative to coal-burning is irresponsible and criminal in the face of the nuclear disaster unfolding in Fukushima.

Recent statements that Malaysia will put safety first while pursuing nuclear energy and how a feasibility study by private companies can help provide answers are incredulous to say the least especially when there are various safe alternative sustainable energies available out there that do not pose risks to our families and burn the taxpayers’ pockets while generating more employment.

In view of the fact that setting up nuclear power plants will never promise total safety, Germany, being a developed nation, is on its way to wean itself away from nuclear technology! It is now shutting seven of its 17 power reactors, while, Malaysia on the other hand is insisting on going ahead with its proposal to build two nuclear power plants by 2021!

The risks of nuclear power plants have been laid bare and history is repeating itself tragically in the nuclear meltdown following the earthquake-tsunami disaster in Japan, a country of advanced technology, yet, which seems to be fighting a losing war as it struggles to control the life-threatening radioactive leaks after recent explosions at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano has since warned that efforts to control the explosions of nuclear reactors in Fukushima could be a race against time.

The current situation in Japan is so critical that it is compared to the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the US in 1979. The French Nuclear Watchdog has rated this situation at level six, while the Chernobyl disaster was rated at seven, reported to be at the highest point of the scale.

As the world watches in total helplessness at this horrific disaster unfolding in a developed nation, as we read of the hundreds of thousands exposed to the leaking radiation and ponder the implications on the health of the survivors and the environment, it is disturbing that the government is seriously considering building nuclear plants in Malaysia.

Getting private companies to do a feasibility study is just a ploy to buy time while waiting for people to forget what is happening in Japan.

The very fact of getting private companies, naturally profit-oriented, to do a feasibility study already creates doubts over its findings. Until now there are no clear solutions to deal with radioactive waste which can take 100,000 years to be isolated, meaning we have to secure thousands of generations ahead of us to help work on the waste, which naturally, must be very expensive to maintain, even an impossible task.

PSM urges the government to invest in green technologies that do not pose negative repercussions such as solar, tidal and windmill technologies, among others. Since Malaysia has a healthy energy reserve of about 40 percent, it is truly timely to use this opportunity to explore sustainable green alternatives. Stanford University has in its study pointed out that with political will, 100 percent renewable energy that is safe can be achieved by 2030.

The question is, why pursue something with so many risks while sustainable solutions are available? There are risks in life that we cannot avoid but it is criminal to allow risks that we can clearly avoid.

PSM urges the government to cancel its nuclear power plans, as an alternative source of energy. It is time to seriously look into sustainable development with green technology in mind. There are many independent and reputable organisations waiting to provide the necessary information and support.

No to nuclear energy! Yes to green alternatives!

Kalai Joethi Sahadevan is PSM’s environment desk coordinator.

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Swiss NGO Links Los Angeles Killing to Timber Corruption in Malaysia

Posted on March 9, 2011. Filed under: Ecology |

-Environment News Service-

(ENS) – Protests over timber corruption that has made a billionaire of the chief minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak and enriched his family at the expense of the state’s indigenous and other citizens have spilled over to the streets of San Francisco, Seattle, Ottawa and London.

A Swiss nonprofit organization is asking the law enforcement authorities in the United States to investigate what they allege is a murder on U.S. soil and illegally acquired assets stashed in the United States as well as other countries.

A logpond on Sarawak’s Limbang River (Photo courtesy Bruno Manser Fund)

Sarawak stretches for over 750 kilometers (465 miles) along the northeast coast of the island of Borneo. Once blanketed with highland and lowland tropical rainforests, over the past 30 years the rainforests have disappeared, driven by the demands of the logging industry.

Malaysia’s deforestation rate is increasing faster than anywhere else in the world, but until now, facts about the people and companies responsible for deforesting Sarawak have been shrouded in secrecy.

A new report released today by the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund exposes the Sarawak timber industry’s complex structure and its links to Abdul Taib Mahmud, who has been Sarawak’s Chief Minister since March 26, 1981. Elections will soon be held in Sarawak, likely within the next six weeks.

Abdul Taib Mahmud (Photo courtesy Bruno Manser Fund)

In February, the nonprofit Bruno Manser Fund launched an international campaign against what the group calls “the blatant corruption and abuse of public funds” by Taib and his family and political associates.

The organization, based in Basel, is named in honor of Swiss citizen Bruno Manser who disappeared in Sarawak while defending the rights of the indigenous nomadic Penan people. Manser was last seen in May 2000 in the isolated village of Bario, Sarawak; he was declared legally dead in 2005.

The new report, “Development of global timber tycoons in Sarawak, East Malaysia – History and company profiles,” is authored by Daniel Faeh of the University of Bern’s Economic Geography Group.

Faeh identifies “the specific politico-economic situation in Sarawak” as the main driver behind the state’s rapid deforestation, particularly the fact that Chief Minister Taib, who is also minister of planning and resource management, “has absolute control over the allocation of timber licences and logging concessions to himself, his allies, friends and family.”

“As a result,” writes Faeh, “it is not surprising that the land claims of local indigenous groups have been systematically neglected.”

For 30 years, indigenous people across Sarawak have been beaten, arrested, jailed and killed defending their traditional forest lands against forced development.

Today in San Francisco, anti-Taib demonstrators went to the Citibank branch at 260 California Street in the city center. The building is the seat of Taib’s Sakti International Corporation, which used to be headed by the late Ross Boyert.

Ross Boyert (Photo courtesy BMF)

After having been dismissed by the Taibs, Boyert filed legal action against Sakti in a San Francisco court in early 2007.

Boyert, who administered the Taib family’s U.S. properties for 12 years, was found dead last September in a Los Angeles hotel room with a plastic bag tied around his head.

In an interview with the London-based Sarawak Report given weeks before his death, Boyert said he and his family had been harassed and terrorized by Taib agents ever since he had filed the case.

The Bruno Manser Fund, together with an international NGO coalition against Taib timber corruption, is asking the U.S. authorities to freeze all Taib assets in the United States and to investigate Boyert’s allegations against the Taibs and the circumstances of his death.

Anti-Taib demonstrators in front of the FBI’s Northwest Regional Headquarters in Seattle, located in a building owned by Taib family members. (Photo courtesy BMF)

The Bruno Manser Fund says the Taib family “has profited immensely from the destructive logging of Sarawak’s tropical rainforests and today has a stranglehold over the state’s economy.” Among the companies controlled by the Taibs are Achi Jaya, which has a monopoly on log exports.

The Swiss NGO and its supporters have published a list of Taib’s “secret” foreign assets and are urging the governments of Australia, the British Virgin Islands, Canada, Hong Kong, Jersey, and the United Kingdom as well as Malaysia, to investigate the financial transactions of these 49 companies under their respective anti-corruption and anti-money-laundering legislations and to freeze all Taib family assets for later restitution to the people of Sarawak.

On March 3, anti-Taib protesters appeared in front of the Taib-owned Abraham Lincoln building in downtown Seattle, where the Northwestern Regional Headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, are located.

The Seattle property is held through Wallysons Inc. The Bruno Manser Fund says Wallysons’ chairman is Taib’s son, Sulaiman (Rahman) Taib, while Taib’s Canadian son-in-law, Sean Murray, is its president.

The Bruno Manser Fund and its allies are asking the FBI to investigate the financial transactions of Wallysons and other Taib-controlled properties in the United States. When demonstrators attempted to enter the building to speak with FBI investigators, they were denied entry.

Anti-Taib demonstrators in Ottawa, Canada (Photo courtesy BMF)

On February 28, anti-Taib demonstrators appeared on the streets of Ottawa and London in an attempt to publicize what they called timber corruption and victimization of indigenous people in Sarawak.

The Bruno Manser Fund lodged a detailed complaint in June 2010 with Jeanne Flemming, director of Canada’s Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre, FINTRAC, over the Canadian government’s business ties with Taib family companies.

The complaint centers on the fact that 11 Ontario Government ministries are occupying offices at Sakto’s Preston Square Tower III in Ottawa.

The Sakto Corporation, an Ottawa property developer, was founded in 1983 by Onn Mahmud, Taib’s brother.

The Bruno Manser Fund alleges that the company’s rapid development has been funded with illegal timber trade kickbacks channelled through two Hong Kong businesses.

FINTRAC has left the complaint unanswered.

In the report published Tuesday, Faeh writes that Sarawak’s timber industry is more than a Malaysian issue – it is a cause for global concern.

In the late 1980s, Sarawak experienced one of the most rapid log clearances in Southeast Asia.

With these profits, timber groups from Sarawak such as Samling, Rimbunan Hijau, WTK, KTS, Shin Yang and Ta Ann accumulated capital which allowed them to expand their business operations all over the globe. They are now operating not only in Southeast Asia but also in Australia, Africa, Central and South America, Russia and the Pacific, the report states.

Faeh writes, “Their track records of diversification and internationalization, however, go hand in hand with the violation of human rights, political patronage and the destruction of the environment in their home country and many other parts of the world.”

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Project Designs To Be Reviewed To Reduce Environmental Impact

Posted on January 22, 2011. Filed under: Ecology |

(Bernama) — In a bid to reduce the environmental impact caused by projects in agricultural areas, project designs would be modified according to the needs of the environment.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Wira Mohd Johari Baharom said the modification would protect public interest and well-being.

He said the transport ministry, Muda Agricultural Development Authority (MADA), Public Works Department (PWD), relevant agencies and project implementation companies, including the Malaysian Highway Authority (LLM) would carry out a scheduled meeting to discuss the effects of projects implemented.

“Through these meetings, we will review project designs and re-design them, according to environmental specifications,” he told reporters after a ceremony where aid was presented to six schools affected by floods, and food boxes to participants of the Kubang Pasu e-Kasih programme on Saturday.

On plans to tackle flooding, he said a study conducted by MADA indicated it would cost an estimated RM2 billion to build embankments and restore flood-prone areas in Kedah.

“The proposal draft for the first project in Kedah Utara, which costs RM500 million, has been handed over to the Economic Planning Unit under the Prime Minister’s Department and is expected to be implemented in the Tenth Malaysia Plan after Cabinet approval,” said the deputy minister.

Mohd Johari, who is also Kedah Federal Action Council chairman, said Kedah Utara was the worst affected by floods last November, resulting in the destruction of over 30,000 hectares of padi field in the MADA region.

“Should the government fail to take quick action to resolve the matter, farmers could incur losses of about RM250 million during floods,” he noted.

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Floods ease in Bau and Kuching

Posted on January 13, 2011. Filed under: Ecology |

-The Star-

KUCHING: The flood situation in Kuching and Bau is improving with rainfall easing.

Only six families are left at two evacuation centres.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said five centres which had been opened on Tuesday were closed yesterday.

As at noon, two centres were still open at Kampung Melayu Pangkalan Baru and Kampung Buso with three families in each centre.

Inundated: Six villages in the Matu and Daro districts in Sarawak have been submerged due to the floods yesterday. – Bernama

He said flooding had earlier caused 223 families involving 1,143 people to be evacuated, while 77 families involving 385 people moved to higher ground or to relatives’ homes.

“There are still rain clouds at the coastal areas. The clouds did not move inland, that’s why we did not have as much rain as predicted on Tuesday night. Hopefully the situation will still be the same and we will not have heavy rain.

“But it’s best to be on the safe side and expect rain and get ready for it, especially the low-lying areas of Siniawan and Bau,” he said at a press conference at his office here.

Dr Chan, who is also state disaster relief committee chairman, added that flood mitigation works had been carried out in Bau town to prevent flooding.

He also said nine schools were closed on Tuesday, comprising four which were flooded and five whose access roads were inundated.

Yesterday three schools were still closed – SMK Bau, SJK Chung Hua Buso and SK Buso – affecting some 2,153 students.

In addition, he said Kampung Berjaya in Matu Daro, Mukah was flooded yesterday but there were no evacuees as the floodwaters were less than a metre deep and the houses were built on stilts.

“But we have alerted the evacuation centres just in case.”

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Eye-opener for ‘green’ envoys

Posted on December 5, 2010. Filed under: Ecology |

-The Borneo Post-

GREATER ‘green’ awareness promoted through various mediums is creating a cohort of environmentally savvy young Malaysians.

CHEMISTRY IS FUN: Lee (right) takes part in a chemistry experiment as chemist Dr Ingrid Fischler looks on.

Take for instance Haneesa Zahidah Mohamed Shah Redza, 20, from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and Jerry Lee Lin Jian, 24, from National University of Malaysia (UKM).

Concerned about the pressing need to ‘repair’ the deteriorating environment, they have been actively involved in many environmental initiatives through their universities and were also picked for the Bayer Young Environmental Envoy (BYEE) programme this year.

The Global Environment Education Programme for Youth is organised by Bayer and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) annually to raise environmental awareness among young people and support them in their ecological pursuits.

Applicants from participating countries are required to write about their personal contributions and project ideas on the environment, beginning with an environmental problem in their community and practical solutions that currently address the problem.

From hundreds of applicants, Haneesa, Lee and eight other finalists from Malaysia were selected to become envoys to present their environmental projects to a panel of distinguished judges. Both were picked as the top two envoys with the best projects.

Their prize was a week-long field trip to Cologne, Germany, where 50 envoys from 18 countries around Asia, Latin America and Africa converged at the Bayer headquarters to learn more about environmental protection and sustainable development.

Launched in Asia in 1998, the BYEE programme has received about 11,200 applications from youths allover the world. Around 500 have been invited to visit Germany.

“The programme creates a unique opportunity for sharing ideas and encourages the global exchange of experiences while underlining Bayer’s commitment to a sustainable environment,” said Bayer Material Science chairman of the board of management Patrick Thomas when welcoming the envoys.

“We are delighted to see so many young people generating so much creativity to find practical solutions to many of the environmental challenges we face today,” he added.

UNEP director of the Division of Communications and Public Information Satinder Bindra noted that many young people worldwide are committed to environmental protection in their communities.

“They are, in a sense, our guardians for building a sustainable future. Tomorrow’s leaders can inspire today’s world leaders in building a resource efficient, low carbon and profitable green economy,” he said.

Haneesa’s winning proposal was introducing an alternative waste management system to her university. It targetted the food and beverage sector at the campus. Cafeteria staff were required to bring their organic waste    (kitchen waste made up of vegetable scraps or fruit peels only) to the ‘compost farm’ at the backyard of the Kuliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design (KAED) Faculty, where it would be composted by the Green Team, IIUM’s environment club, co-founded by Haneesa in 2008.

“A special aspect of our composting project is using the Takakura method, devised by Koji Takakura, an environmental engineer and deputy director of the Wakamatsu Environment Research Institute in Kitakyushu, Japan,” she explained.

The second-year English Language & Literature student pointed out that this method, introduced by the Sibu Municipal Council in several residencies and companies, differs from conventional compost method due to its time efficiency, costs saving and less by-products such as foul smell or excess liquid.

“Once the waste has been composted, the soil produced will be used as a landscaping tool for the KAED Faculty’s backyard surroundings, which also happen to be where the garbage disposal site is.

“This means the cafe workers need only go a bit out of their way to send the cafe waste to our ‘farm’ instead of the usual disposal site,” she said, adding that there are plans to market the soil and use it as a source of income for the club.

Reuse of end-products

Lee’s project, on the other hand, highlighted the reuse of sewage end-products.

“My aim was to bridge the gap in public information disclosure on the issue of sewage treatment process, its end-products (sewage sludge and treated effluent) and the idea of reusing them for environmental sustainability and conservation.”

He said there is now no reuse application for sewage sludge due to public misconception the sludge is foul-smelling, filthy and unhygienic.

“Presently, the sludge is transferred to a landfill site, posing a threat to the forest because a large area of trees were cut down to create new landfill for the sludge.

“The solution is to reuse the sewage sludge by turning or processing it into building materials such as pavement bricks and also into fertilizers with a process called vermicomposting,” explained the Master of Philosophy student.

To create awareness on the subject, Lee came up with a communication campaign called the Environmental Conservation Wagon (ECW).

“This is basically a car that fits all our materials needed for our Environmental Conservation Exposition. We need only two-three ECW (one for exposition materials and the others for taking our Green Trooper to facilitate exposition) for our exposition at various venues such as schools around the country.”

The field trip was definitely an eye-opener for Haneesa, Lee and the envoys who gained first-hand experience of the principles and applications of modern environmental protection in Germany through tours of various environmental facilities in Leverkusen such as Leverkusen Municipal Waste Management (AVEA), a waste processing and disposal facility.

“We were given an insight into how every single item of waste from German households was managed with the utmost care for the sake of the environment,” said Haneesa, who witnessed all sorts of trash ranging from computers and fridges to blenders and bottle corks, all separated accordingly for recycle or reuse.

“Larger items like computers, for example, were even stripped apart to obtain smaller parts such as precious metals from wires and electrical boards.

“Furthermore, we were made aware of the many laws and policies developed and enforced through the years to maintain the wellness of the environment in Leverkusen,” she added.

Leaves for compost

What impressed Haneesa was how leaves swept from the streets of Leverkusen were sent to AVEA to be turned into compost.

As the trip coincided with Autumn in Germany, the collection of leaves was in full force and the compost produced would later be reused as fertiliser. The leaves were dumped into a huge barge within AVEA grounds, mixed together with a large roller before the readied compost or soil is collected in a pile.

“This process was very much related to my project in terms of manpower and proper management as I’ve learnt that good organisation and thorough knowledge on waste is crucial in maintaining an efficient and environment-friendly waste management system,” she said.

Other site visits included a tour to the Emschergenossenschaft Water Treatment Plant, which operates 65 wastewater treatment plants, 184 pumping stations and other water management devices in the catchment areas of the Emscher River and the lower part of Lippe River as well as the Bürrig Waste Management Center where about 180,000 tonnes of solid waste (that cannot be recycled)were burned in the incinerator.

Apart from tours, the young envoys also attended lectures and dialogues covering various environmental issues such as nature conservation, soil quality, and environment friendly recycling management.

A gratified Lee told thesundaypost through the programme, they found there is a big gap in terms of environmental conservation efforts between Germany and Malaysia.

“I personally learned we can act now to ensure ourdevelopment is environmentally safe and clean in the long run.

“On returning to Malaysia, I want to highlight the importance of Precautionary Development — which is develop with care for the environment, not polluting it — instead of Compensatory Development (develop without care to the environment, then try to save it after it is polluted) into my project’s second phase,” he said.

Self-sustaining

Haneesa observed that although Germany is a highly industrialised country, a lot of projects have been initiated to overcome environmental concerns over the years.

“The visit to The Water Treatment Plant at Bottrop was an eye-opener — the plant is used solely to treat the Emscher River, very badly polluted some 100 to 200 years ago,” she said.

In the olden days when the Germans lacked a proper sewage system, the river was used as a means to dispose of human waste from the surrounding city, resulting in badly affected biodiversity, river quality and hygiene within the area.

“I was told efforts to rehabilitate the river were carried out after an outbreak of diseases and the increased awareness of the people in the region.

Said Haneesa: “It was interesting to also learn the water plant itself is highly self-sustaining. A large amount of the electricity is generated by the plant and the remnants from the incineration process are also re-used by construction companies.”

Despite being on a tight schedule, the two Malaysians were grateful to Bayer for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“It was really a privilege to meet officials from Bayer and UNEP as well as envoys from all over the world with whom we were able to share our ideas to forge lasting friendships,” Lee said.

“We got to know the envoys and though English may not be the main language for some, we learned if you put your differences aside, see someone from the inside and just take the time to talk and laugh with them, you can build bridges that links the miles that set you apart,” Haneesa added..

She and Lee’s green journey as stewards of the environment has only just begun. Armed with much-needed environmental knowledge now, they are able to raise awareness of sustainable development in Malaysia by passing on the impressions, experience and insights they have gained.

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Call to extend study on buffer zones

Posted on December 4, 2010. Filed under: Ecology |

-The Borneo Post-

SANTUBONG: The Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) will submit a proposal under the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) to extend the study on buffer zones to increase developed areas along rivers.

FOR THE ALBUM: Wong (seated centre), and (seated from third left) Peter, Nansian and Dr Penguang with NREB senior officers after the opening. – Photo by Jeffery Mostapa

Its controller Peter Sawal said part of the study conducted in Mukah under the 9MP had been completed, and the effort would be extended to another area once approved by the federal government.

“It is put in the conditions of our EIA (environmental impact assessment) report that there must be sufficient buffer carried out for any development along rivers. The guideline we last used was based on that of the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID).

“We have come up with a better guideline on buffer zone based on soil and vegetation of the area. We are making use of other parameters to come up with a new formula to set aside buffer zone for development.

“Once this guideline is implemented, we will improve in terms of trapping erosion from developed areas from entering rivers and streams,” he told reporters after the opening of the board’s Senior Officers Retreat 2010 at Damai Puri Resort and Spa here by Minister of Environment and Public Health Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh yesterday.

Twenty-one NREB senior officers from throughout the state are attending the three-day programme to discuss issues affecting the state’s environment and board’s overall strategic plan.

Wong pointed out that under the Land Code, buffer zones for development along rivers in the state had to be looked into.

“We ought to have river reserve, which is a buffer zone. This is in the Land Code – something like roads and road reserve.”

The Second Finance Minister said the state government wanted to see proper buffer zones in place to enhance the quality of rivers.

In his opening remarks, Wong called on the board to translate the principles of sustainable development into reality and appropriate strategies to better address environmental pollution.

NREB should assess the impact of all development on environment to ensure the necessary factors were incorporated into land use planning to minimise pollution, which might compromise the quality of life, he said.

“Our careful environmental planning should result in orderly development of our state and quality of living environment for generations to come,” he added.

He urged the board to set up specific key performance indicators (KPIs) to help guide its staff focus on value-added activities.

Appropriate KPIs would enable the management to better control the results, particularly in view of the rising number of mega projects taking place throughout the state.

The board would face greater challengers as it was tasked with regulating all development activities to minimise any adverse impact on the environment, he said.

“Although some incidences are beyond our control and jurisdiction, we cannot simply brush them aside as being the (concern of the) environmental agency,” added Wong.

Among those present were Assistant Minister of Environment Datuk Peter Nansian Ngusie and permanent secretary to the Ministry of Environment and Public Health, Dr Penguang Manggil.

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Help prevent haze, Jakarta told

Posted on October 23, 2010. Filed under: Ecology, Pollution |

New Straits Times

JOHOR Baru, Malaysia – The deteriorating air quality in southern Johor caused by indiscriminate slash and burn farming practice in Indonesia has irked politicians and the business community here and they want the Indonesian authorities to address the issue urgently.

The air quality here, in Pasir Gudang and Kota Tinggi breached unhealthy levels yesterday, with the air pollutant index (API) at 109, 113 and 107 respectively.

Pasir Gudang, the largest industrial zone in the south, had the highest API reading in the country on Thursday at 91.

API reading in other parts of the country was either good or moderate yesterday.

BN Johor Baru youth division chairman Khalid Mohamad criticised the Indonesian authorities for failing to control the forest burning, which brought a huge mass of haze to the peninsula annually.

“This affects our health and economy as our people are getting sick and tourists cancel their holiday plans to come here.

“The most annoying thing is that the haze comes every year without fail. Enough is enough, we will submit a memorandum to the Indonesian consulate here next week,” he said.

The annual haze usually occurs in either May, June or July, but it came as late as mid-October this year.

What brings the haze across the Straits of Malacca is the on-going south-west monsoon.

MCA Johor Baru division chairman Kua Song Tuck hoped the Indonesian authorities would understand that they were the main cause of the haze problem faced by Malaysians now.

“The slash and burn farming practice has become an unfailing norm every year because of the lack of preventive measures and enforcement carried out by the Indonesian authorities.

“I hope Indonesia will be sincere in addressing the problem quickly,” he said.

Johor Tourist Guides Association chairman Jimmy Leong said the tourism sector was badly hit during the haze period every year, with tour cancellations or postponements of up to 50 per cent.

“The situation now is not alarming yet. But if the haze worsens, all tourism-related sectors will be badly affected as in the past,” he said.

Johor Indian Businessmen Association chairman P. Sivakumar said Indian traders who operate stalls selling festive goods in conjunction with the coming Deepavali were severely affected as very few were willing to go out to shop, even at night.

Pasir Gudang MP Datuk Seri Mohd Khaled Nordin said he was monitoring the situation in his constituency with the Department of Environment daily.

He advised the people in his constituency to reduce all outdoor activities especially those with respiratory and heart problems.

“While the situation in the next few days could be unpredictable, what the people could do is to put on face masks for protection,” he said.

In Kuching, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah said he and his officers were surprised at the haze which hit parts of Johor this week.

He said they were bracing for “heavier rain than usual” because that was the forecast for the coming season.

“Based on reports from the Meteorological Department and the ministerial steering committee on trans-boundary haze, heavier rain than usual was to be expected from this month until early next year.

“(So) we were preparing for a more wet season,” he told reporters when inspecting a flood mitigation project at Sungai Lajim in Kampung Bandarshah that had fallen behind schedule.

However, Uggah does not believe the haze would get any worse.

He said cloud seeding operations in hard-hit areas of Johor had already been conducted and the latest report showed the number of hot spots in Sumatra had reduced.

“We hope the rain will come soon. If the situation in Sumatra is not very serious, then other states in the peninsula will not be affected.”

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Rajang logjam causes estimated loss of RM2.7m

Posted on October 12, 2010. Filed under: Ecology |

-Bernama- KUCHING, Oct 12 — The massive logjam in the Rajang River has caused an estimated loss of RM2.7 million after bridges and jetties were awash with debris, beginning from the Malataheli timber camp, about 75km upstream from Kapit.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said today the logjam, which began since last Thursday, destroyed two logging bridges at the upper reaches of the Baleh tributary, as well as five clinic and longhouse jetties at Entawau, SK Sempilik and Nanga Entelawan.

He said the state government had yet to ascertain the loss to the ecological system as the relevant authorities, including Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board and Sarawak River Board, were still conducting preliminary investigation.

Dr Chan, who is also state disaster management committee chairman, told a press conference here that a 54-hour mammoth operation maneuvered the logjam from the source to the river mouth at Kuala Igan.

Asked if illegal logging was the main culprit, he said, firm action would be taken against illegal loggers who did not adhere to the state’s regulations.

The deputy chief minister refuted reports that the logjam was due to over-logging and poor management of logged areas as there was proper monitoring of sustainable forest practices as recognised by the International Tropical Timber Organisation.

Meanwhile, he said that during the clean-up operation, hazard lights would be put up on half-submerged logs and boats to warn the shipping community of dangerous debris along the Rajang, the country’s longest river.

In getting to the real cause behind the logjam, Dr Chan said, it happened following a heavy downpour at the site where waste logs had accumulated, causing landslides and a river bank to collapse.

He said it was compounded by the strong La Nina phenomenon, which saw Sarawak experiencing above-normal rainfall of 40-60 per cent more than the mean rainfall during the current north-east monsoon.

The logjam resulted in the disruption of service for cargo vessels and express passenger boats, which are a vital mode of transportation for people living in Kapit, about 125km or three hours by river to Sibu. — Bernama

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Consider Sarawak’s Interest In Bakun, Says Awang Tengah

Posted on October 9, 2010. Filed under: Ecology, Forestry/Wetlands |

(Bernama) — Sarawak wants the federal government to consider the state’s interest in the sales of Bakun hydro electric dam to avoid the multi-million ringgit project being branded as a “white elephant”.

State Public Utilities Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said the federal government should look into the state government’s purpose to purchase the dam which was to power the state’s heavy industries.

“The federal government should consider not only on making profit but also look at the overall factors,” he told reporters after attending the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, Sarawak, Hari Raya Aidilfitri gathering here last night.

“I’m sure they (federal government) will consider in a holistic manner,” he said, adding that Sarawak needed Bakun dam as it would speed up the process of industrialisation for the state and nation as a whole as was being discussed with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Asked whether the state government would buy power from the bidders if the state failed to secure the deal, Awang Tengah said: “That is one of the factors that we emphasise. However, if it is still within our control, it is better in terms of planning”.

The Bakun Dam, located on Balui River in the upper Rejang River basin, 37 kilometres upstream from Belaga, is expected to be completed by December this year.

Sarawak Hidro, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated, is the developer of the Bakun Dam, which will generate 2,400 megawatts of electricity when all the eight turbines are in place by 2012.

The overall cost of Bakun has been placed at RM7.3 billion but due to cost overruns, compensation for delays and interests, the final cost is said to have escalated.

Last month, Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said the state government offered RM6 billion to buy the Bakun dam from the federal government.

However, he said the state was willing to raise its bid to RM7 billion if the method of payment could be made lighter.

It was reported that there were two other bids for the dam with the highest coming from a partnership between the Qatar Investment Authority, Malton Bhd’s Datuk Desmond Lim and a China company, which offered RM8.8 billion.

The other bidder is the government strategic investment unit, 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which offered RM8 billion for the dam.

Negotiations on the sale of Bakun are still ongoing and a final decision has yet to be reached.

On Wednesday, Taib said he has a better case than the other bidders because Sarawak’s purpose for the dam is to power the heavy industries which were poise to further develop the state whereas the other bidders wanted the dam for commercial purposes.

He said it was not easy for a private company to buy a dam the size of Bakun for commercial purposes or purely as a business ventures since it would need to secure clients.

“The successful bidder must be able to decide to whom the power should be sold and secure these clients for a very long period to make profit,” he added.

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