Archive for February, 2009

Campaign on “Save the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve”

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

ALOR STAR: A nationwide signature campaign against Menteri Besar Datuk
Seri Azizan Abdul Razak’s plan to log timber in the Ulu Muda forest
reserve was launched yesterday.

A spokesman for the 19-member group, Shamsul Ery Shamsudin, said: “The ‘Save the Ulu Muda forest reserve’ campaign is on.

“We waited for feedback from the menteri besar for almost one year, but
there was no response. He didn’t even want to meet us.

“We fear the logging plan is on and we want to stop this.”

Shamsul, who is a field research officer with Penang-based Sahabat Alam
Malaysia, said the group expected to collect 1,000,000 signatures
before the end of the year.

“We are also targeting 100,000 signatures in Penang, Kedah and Perlis.

“We will not relent until the menteri besar rescinds his decision.”

He said the group was appealing to the Federal Government to honour its
promise to pay the Kedah government RM100 million annually if it spared
the forest reserve.

He said the Penang and Perlis governments
should also pay the Kedah government for preserving the forest reserve,
which is about twice the size of Perlis, as it was a major source of
water for the three states.

Azizan had proposed to fell timber
in the forest reserve to earn revenue that will help the state
government carry out development programmes.

Members of the
group, led by Sahabat Alam Malaysia, are Malaysian Nature Society,
Malaysian Karst Society, World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia,
Environmental Protection Society of Malaysia, WaterWatch Penang,
Partners of Community Organisations, Treat Every Environment Special,
Environmental Management and Research Organisation of Malaysia, United
Rural Citizens Association of Kedah, Mada Farmers’ Action Group,
Community Development and Research Movement, Campus Environmentalist
Network, National Friends of Environment Coalition, Consumers
Association of Penang, Malay Empowerment Group, Suara Rakyat Malaysia
in Penang, Malaysia Social and Health Awareness Association and the
Fishermen’s Action Network.(NST)

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Most Asean members want nuclear power

Posted on February 27, 2009. Filed under: International Watch |

Most of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are amenable to tapping nuclear power to promote alternative sources of energy, an official said yesterday.

They expressed support for the idea even as they prepared to sign an agreement today that will allow governments to sell their oil to neighbors at “friendship” prices.

“Nuclear energy is being seriously looked at, but we are still very much at the preliminary discussion stage, at the technical working group level,” Asean Deputy Secretary General Pushpanathan Sundram said in an interview during the Asean Business and Investment Summit.

“There are some that are opposed to it, while others are pushing for it,” he said.

Those in favor of creating or reactivating nuclear plants are Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia.

In the Philippines, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes had said earlier that the Cabinet was discussing the re-activation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant to avert a power shortage in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Land-locked Laos said every country should be allowed to take advantage of “peaceful nuclear energy.” The ruling junta in Myanmar has already declared its intention to build at least a research reactor and has sent technicians to Russia for training.

Thailand plans to build four 1,000-megawatt nuclear plants to generate electricity by 2020.

Vietnam wants to build a nuclear power plant in Ninh Thuan by 2017.

Indonesia, the world’s largest exporter of natural gas, has also said it will build one, and Malaysia has asserted its right to develop nuclear power.(Manila Standard Today, Joyce Pangco Pañares)

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Move to launch micro-hydro power systems

Posted on February 27, 2009. Filed under: Energy |

PUTRAJAYA: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is looking into creating micro-hydro electric systems at remote villages in Sabah and Sarawak that are too far from the main electricity grid to receive power supply.

Its Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas said the ministry decided to explore the use of the system as it was a good alternative source of power for villages that would otherwise have to depend on diesel-powered generators.

“The system is cheap and pollution free, unlike diesel-powered generators. It will get the communities involved in preserving the surrounding jungle as the jungle a vital part of water catchment areas that feed the rivers being tapped for the hydro power,” he said.

He said the Ministry was working with the Rural and Regional Development Ministry and the respective state governments to identify areas where the system could be introduced.

Embas said there were five such systems already operational at villages in Sabah and Sarawak and the Ministry was looking at how well they operated before proposing it for implementation in other identified areas.

“One of the areas is Bario Asal village at the Kelabit Highlands in Sarawak where about 50 families have been enjoying the alternative power since last month.

“The project was carried out through the Bario Asal Village Security and Development Committee and the Ministry is impressed by it,” he told a press conference after handing over cheques to 13 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in environment conservation in the country.

The Ministry, which received RM15mil from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for preserving biodiversity, gave RM183,500 each to 11 of the NGOs and RM7,300 to the other two.

The 13 recipients were selected by the local chapter of GEF.

Embas said the Ministry was happy to support the NGOs and urged others to start similar efforts to create awareness in local communities on the need for preservation.

GEF Malaysia coordinator Dr Martin Abraham said the NGOs had conducted 40 projects under the facility since its inception in 1992, and there were a growing number of companies supporting the projects.

“Many of the projects are long-term, so the participation of the companies is important to ensure the projects continue when funding from the Ministry stops,” he said, adding that GEF was hoping that more companies would fund the projects under their corporate social responsibility efforts. (The Star)

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Malaysia Needs To Introduce Green Building Index – PAM

Posted on February 24, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Green Building Index (GBI), a voluntarily professional-driven initiative, will be introduced in Malaysia in April this year to promote higher environmental-friendly compliance in buildings in the country.

Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) and the Association for Consulting Engineers Malaysia (ACEM) had been working hand-in-glove since August last year for the setting of the index, which had been implemented in other countries such as Singapore and Australia.

PAM Chairman Tan Loke Mun said the PAM would liaise with the government next week to see what incentive could be given to support the GBI initiative in enhancing sustainability in the environment and reducing the nation’s urban carbon footprint.

Tan said Malaysia put little emphasis on transport emission in which energy use was high.

“For instance, 70 per cent of Malaysians use cars and thus, we need to encourage the use of public transport to reduce energy consumption,” Tan said at a talk on “Green Global Cities and an Introduction to Green Building Index Malaysia” at the PAM headquarters here, TUesday.

He said that the climate had definitely changed and action needed to be taken now for a sustainable city that was able to feed and power itself with minimal reliance.

He said the age of automobile had ended while the age of technology was declining.

The next generation would be the age of green, he added.


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High usage of plastic bags

Posted on February 24, 2009. Filed under: Waste |

There is no solution in sight for the plastic menace as the material is still freely issued, then carelessly discarded, each day.

THE pink bag in the heap of garbage clogging a drain catches your eye instantly. Another one clings to a tree branch in a mangrove swamp. Yet another is blown across across the street as cars pass by.

These are the plastic bag menace that many Malaysians can identify with. Although they are an undisputed modern day convenience, the clarion call to do away with plastic bags have echoed around the world for environmental reasons. Several countries have banned the use of plastic bags or levied a tax on them.

Last year, China which uses three billion plastic bags a day, banned the production of ultra-thin plastic bags. In 2002, Ireland introduced a tax on plastic bags, reducing their use by 90%.

In some countries where the central government has not acted, communities have taken unilateral action to outlaw the bags. San Francisco became the first American city to ban plastic bags from large supermarkets in 2007 and the state of California requires large stores to take back plastic bags and encourage their reuse.

In Malaysia, the call to ban its use has been mooted now and then with little success. The latest is the Subang Jaya Municipal Council’s plastic-free campaign launched last August with a declared aim of turning the Selangor municipality into the first place in the country to eliminate the use of plastic bags by 2010. The public is encouraged to switch to paper bags, biodegradable carriers or their own shopping bags.

Punching bag

“It’s not the bag that is the problem but what you do with it after that,” argues Malaysian Plastic Manufacturers Association chairman Lim Kok Boon, who felt that the humble bag has been made a punching bag for anyone who professes to be a greenie.

“You want to be seen as green, you go after the plastic bag, nobody will disagree with you,” he says, acknowledging that plastic bags, being free, does encourage the “throw away” mentality.

Frustrated by the negative public perception of plastic bags, the industry under the umbrella body Malaysian Plastics Forum is trying to address the problems associated with plastic waste by asking Malaysians to re-examine their attitudes towards the bags. The other Forum members are the Malaysian Petrochemicals Association and Plastic Resins Producers Group.

They launched a month-long campaign at the end of 2007 with six hypermarkets in the Klang Valley to kick-start its 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) programme. During the campaign, shoppers were encouraged to maximise the use of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) grocery bags in a bid to reduce the numbers dispensed at check-out counters. Each hypermarket assigned one outlet for this pilot scheme.

Employees were told to pass on the message of the campaign to shoppers in the hope that they would support the drive. Customers could also drop off unused plastic bags of all sizes and colours into recycling bins provided by five participating recyclers.

At the end of the month-long campaign, four out of six outlets registered a 25% to 36% decline in dispersion of plastic bags. However, figures shot up for two outlets by 25% to 51%. Overall, a 6% increase was recorded, while 14,630 pieces of bags were collected from the outlets.

Lim explains that the outcome was influenced by the festive shopping period which generally sees an increase of 50% in sales, hence the 6% increase (in bags dispersed) actually marks the success of the campaign.

He is also satisfied with the 2.4% (of the 609,000 bags given out) return rate of plastic bags as he reckons many shoppers will keep the bags for secondary uses, particularly as bin liners.

Still, the bin liners will eventually find their ways into the landfills, where they will remain and not degrade.

Plastics waste

Lim argues that the degradable issue is grossly misunderstood by many.

“Studies in the United States discovered that paper does not degrade at a substantially faster rate than plastic as nothing completely degrades in modern landfills due to the lack of water, light and oxygen that are necessary for the process to be completed. Researchers have pulled out an intact piece of newspaper buried three decades ago in an Arizona landfill,” he says in reference to a project undertaken by the University of Arizona.

Lim is also sceptical of statistics that highlight the menace posed by plastics in landfills. He says the official figures that plastics constitute 24% of landfill volume, the second highest after food waste, is questioned even by two waste management concessionaires, which have recorded lower figures.

The National Solid Waste Management Department recognises the discrepancy in the figures and hopes to clear the doubt under the 10th Malaysian Plan with better data collation system.

“It’s equally important for us to get the right picture so that we can have an effective waste management plan,” says department director-general Dr Nadzri Yahya.

Lim also says distinction must be made on biodegradable plastic – those made from organic material like corn starch, and those that use petroleum like the normal plastics but with an additive that speeds up disintegration.

Ideally, both types of “compostable” plastics should be treated in specialised industrial facilities rather than sending them to landfills. But there isn’t such a facility in this country and bio-degradable plastics are not widely used.

“It’ll be silly and self-defeating if we dump something that is supposedly biodegradable into the landfill but it doesn’t live up to its claim,” he warns.

MPMA is also worried that should biodegradable bags gain popularity, it would pose a serious challenge to recycling of the standard HDPE plastic bags.

“The polymer compositions are different and if they are mixed, it could jeopardise the recycling process,” Lim explains. To prevent the anticipated contamination, he is seeking the co-operation of retailers to adopt the plastic coding system on their plastic bags to ease identification in support of the 3R programme.

“The retailers, especially the big hypermarts, can instruct their respective (plastic bag) suppliers to print the code on the bags. They can even go one step further by enhancing the visibility of the recycling logo on the bags to drive home the message to the public,” he adds.

Nevertheless, the intention of the 3R campaign begs a question: Why would the industry support a programme that will surely affect the bottomline of plastic manufacturers?

Lim says the industry expects to see between 20% and 30% drop in business but the campaign has the support of all 900 members, who account for 80% of the country’s total production of plastic products. The plastic bags industry is worth RM1.8bil of which 80% are exported. The local market consumes the remaining 20% valued at RM360mil.

Lim says the industry is helmed by third generation managers who are educated and are aware of the environmental impact of their business.

“They know that it makes business sense to do the right thing, rather than have plastic bags blamed disproportionately, resulting in a ban that will mean the end of the business,” he says, adding that Malaysian Plastic Manufacturers Association will take its campaign beyond the Klang Valley this year.

Well, don’t take the industry’s word for it. Take it up on its challenge – recycle your plastic bags! (The Star, Hilary Chiew)

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Malaysia Hopes To Achieve 30 Per Cent Recycling Rate

Posted on February 23, 2009. Filed under: Waste |

SIBU, Feb 23 (Bernama) — Malaysia hopes to achieve 30 per cent recycling rate by 2020 from the current five per cent, Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew said.

“We need to inculcate awareness among the people on the importance of recycling wastes to safeguard the environment and to contribute towards tackling global warming,” he said at a swearing-in ceremony of 15 councillors of Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) here Monday.

Lanang member of parliament Datuk Tiong Thai King who was re-appointed for his second term, led the ceremony.

Lau said that in comparison, the recycling rate among Scandinavian countries had reached 70 per cent.

Meanwhile, he called on the 26 local authorities in the state to also give priority to urban poverty eradication, town beautification and the setting up of more voluntary fire fighting units, particularly in rural areas.

He said it was the aim of his ministry to make Malaysia a garden nation through good landscapings and more designated green areas.

“We must have more beautification programmes be they in towns, districts, villages or longhouses.

“All are integral components contributing to the ambition. On my part, I will try to get more federal fundings,” he said.


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Malaysia bemoans low recycling rate

Posted on February 23, 2009. Filed under: Waste |
Malaysia’s housing ministry bemoaned the country’s low recycling rate which is currently a dismal 5 per cent, far lower than its neighbouring South-east Asian neighbours, official news reports said Monday.

Lau Hoi Chew, deputy housing minister, said the government hoped to dramatically increase the rate of recycling to 30 per cent by the year 2020.

“We need to inculcate awareness among the people on the importance of recycling wastes to safeguard the environment and to contribute towards tackling global warming,” he was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency.

However, Lau did not specify how the government intended to increase recycling efforts nationwide.

Neighbouring Singapore recorded a 56 per cent recycling rate last year, and the Philippines at 12 per cent while Malaysia’s northern neighbours Thailand boasted almost a 50 per cent recycling rate in 2008.

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CAP:End The Use Of Polystyrene At Official Functions

Posted on February 23, 2009. Filed under: Pollution, Waste |

THE Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) wishes to call the attention of the Selangor and Penang state governments and especially the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, to the widespread use of polystyrene food and drink containers during the recent Thaipusam festival in their respective states.

CAP conducted a study comprising random data collection at both locations where large crowds gathered during the festival to gather information on the number of polystyrene food and drink containers used.


Shockingly, the study revealed that 630,000 and 347,000 polystyrene food and drink containers were used in Selangor and Penang respectively. This data was acquired over the two days of the festival and from the numerous stalls providing free food and drink.

At times, these stalls provided up to 40,000 polystyrene food and drink packages. The data gathered does not include polystyrene package usage in other states such as Kedah, Johor or Perak during Thaipusam.

CAP takes a serious view of the fact that almost 1,000,000 polystyrene containers were used during the two days. Although there have been claims that polystyrene can be classified as non-hazardous to the environment, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims as yet.


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Coal-fired power plant too close to popular beach spots

Posted on February 23, 2009. Filed under: Energy, Pollution |

IT does not take an environmental expert to point out that a coal-fired power plant should not be at the proximity of marine ecosystem.

But the threat looming over the Bagan Lalang beach in Sepang, Selangor, is real and one, which the StarMetro discovered traverses state boundaries.

The Jimah 1,400MW coal-fired power plant is at the border between Selangor and Negri Sembilan, in Port Dickson (PD) to be exact, which is a popular beach holiday spot.

Jimah is an independent power producer (IPP) set to fire up in July. The plant is owned by Jimah Energy Ventures Sdn Bhd (JEV) with 80% share and Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) owning 20%.

JEV and TNB have drawn up a Power Purchase Agreement for 25 years.

On a national scale, the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) is riled as it has been actively monitoring the Bagan Lalang coastline and its interior rich with mangrove swamps and a forest reserve.

“Ships transporting coal to the power plant will disturb the marine ecosystems and cause the fish population to dwindle,” said MNS environmental education department head I. S Shanmugaraj.

At present, efforts are being undertaken to promote the eco-tourism potential of Bagan Lalang.

“The MNS plans to work with locals to promote village life through homestays so it is a shame for tourists to see a power plant with its jetty extending out to the sea,” added Shanmugaraj.
Not needed yet: The power plant is set to operate in July but given the current excess in electricity supply, power will not be needed till 2011 or 2012.

Sungai Pelek assemblyman Yap Ee Wah whose constituency extends to Bagan Lalang said the authorities should study the economic and social impact of projects like the Jimah power plant before giving it the green light.

“We don’t want a situation where the authorities act without getting the bigger picture and get blamed later when something happens,” he advised.

Bagan Lalang Federal Village Development and Security Committee (JKKP) chairman Tasirun Abd Majid said with Jimah’s 10km radius and proximity, fishermen would have limited area to fish.

Besides its eco-tourism potential, Bagan Lalang is hoping to make its mark through the RM3bil Sepang Palm Tree Water Villas project by Sepang Goldcoast Sdn Bhd (SGC), a joint venture company between Permodalan Negeri Selangor Berhad (PNSB) with a 30% stake and Sepang Bay Sdn Bhd.

“The development consists of 22km of shoreline with a majority of foreign property investors so we have our concerns,” said SGC president Ho Hock Seng.

If Bagan Lalang is foreseeing an ecological threat, the scenario is different for PD residents.

Coal produces approximately two times the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) as natural gas and a third more C02 per unit of heat than oil.

Port Dickson Residents Association (PDRA) president Maj (Rtd) Anthony S. Raj said thick smoke was spotted billowing from the plant during a test run recently, alarming residents.

“Strong winds cause carbon deposits from the mountains of coal stored in the storage yard of the plant to settle on houses.

“Imagine the smoke pollution once the plant starts to operate,” he pointed out.

He also said the PDRA was seeking to study the Detailed Environment Impact Assessment (DEIA) report on the plant to better understand the long-term implications.

Port Dickson assemblyman M. Ravi said residents of Lukut and Chuah, whose houses were closest to the coal plant had been voicing their fears over the plant since 2006.

“PD is a famous tourist spot so a coal plant mars our image as a holiday destination. Coupled with the impact to the environment, what is the rationale in having this coal plant?” he asked. For the record, the Tuanku Jaafar power plant is also in Port Dickson.

When contacted, a spokesman for JEV said the matter would be referred to the directors for comment.

In its website, Jimah stated that it was conscious of its environmental responsibility and that “each unit of the coal fired power plant project was equipped with a Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) plant, Electrostatic Precipitator (ESP) and low NOx burners which will minimise emissions to the permitted level”.

It was also stated that the “DEIA approval was obtained from Department of Environment (DOE) in January 2005.” (The Star)

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SAM: Bakun area overlogged

Posted on February 22, 2009. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

The Bakun hydro-electric dam catchment area has been overlogged by more than 40,000ha, an environmental group said.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) said the original catchment area for the Bakun project in central Sarawak, as stipulated in the first environmental impact assessment report, was supposed to be 64,000ha.

However, more than 100,000ha have already been logged, said SAM field officer for Sarawak Jok Jau Evong, adding that ground studies in Bakun showed that forests outside the original catchment area had been subjected to intensive logging.

“It seems that the logging is being carried out all the way from Bakun to the forested areas earmarked for clearing under the proposed Murum Dam project.

“A large portion of the forest within the Murum Dam area has already been logged,” he told The Star yesterday.

He said the whole area from Bakun to Murum would eventually be cleared of all timber.

“SAM is worried that the ecosystem will suffer even greater damage because of the massive land clearing,” he said.

Evong was commenting on Assistant State Environment and Public Health Minister Dr Abang Rauf Abang Zen’s statement that tonnes of fish in Bakun had died recently due to excessive siltation in the Bakun catchment area.

He said this practice had caused serious siltation in the river systems in Bakun and had contributed to the suffocation of a large number of fishes.

Under Sarawak’s Natural Resour­ces and Environment Board laws, any land development project measuring 500ha and above must be subjected to EIA scrutiny and approval.

Evong said the authorities must monitor all land development projects regardless of the size because all of them contribute to destruction of the environment, riverine resources and wildlife.

Dr Rauf, when asked yesterday how big an area had been logged in the Bakun catchment region, replied that he did not have the exact figure. (The Star)

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