Archive for August, 2009

Paradise lost for the Penan

Posted on August 31, 2009. Filed under: Indigenous People |


By Desmond Davidson

LUSONG LAKU (Belaga): When Ulu Rajang member of parliament Datuk Billy Abit Joo first came here as a 13-year-old, this Penan settlement deep in the interior of Sarawak was a paradise to him.

The upper Sungai Linau, which passes by the settlement, was full of fish and the forest was a huge garden.

When he returned 40 years later, what Abit saw shocked him.

“It’s a paradise lost,” he said.
All around the settlement, the scarred forest is a testament to what logging has done to the area. The sides of the hills and mountains have been carved out to make roads, timber storage areas and logging camps.

Landslides are common occurrences, dumping mud into Sungai Linau.

“It’s just not possible now for the Penans to go into the forest to look for food. There are very few animals.

“Even if there are, they would have to go deep into the forest for them.”

Destruction of the forest — the source of food for the Penans — was a fact that Maria Hassan Sui of the state Planning Unit in the Chief Minister’s Department conceded in her briefing to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, who visited the Penan service centre adjacent to the settlement earlier this month.

Maria said the extraction of timber had seriously threatened the food source of the Penans.

“It affected what they can get from the forest.

“Logging has also polluted the river.”

Abit said the Penans did not farm or rear livestock for food.
“Whenever they want meat, they will just go into the forest and hunt for it.

“When they want shoots or other edible plants, they will also go into the forest and collect them.

“That’s why you don’t see a rubber plantation, you don’t see a cocoa tree and you don’t see any kind of farm here (in Lusong Laku).”

Food shortages will likely be a common yearly occurrence for the state’s most backward ethnic group. When they run out of rice, they cannot just go to the nearest store to buy it or other foodstuff such as sugar as they have no money.

Already categorised as hardcore poor, they have no source of income.

Even if they do, the high cost of rice and other foodstuff put these items out of their reach.

Their response to the agricultural programmes introduced to them by the Agriculture Department to make them food-sufficient has been lukewarm.

Pandikar Amin, before he took the 10-hour journey here from Bintulu, was told that one of the problems getting the Penans into the mainstream of society was that they were “extremely difficult to change” and were entrenched in their way of life.

“They will not open up nor are they receptive to new ideas to change their way of life,” Maria said in her briefing.

“They are not willing to give up and they have also failed to take up the various offers and opportunities provided by the government in the many programmes to improve their livelihood.”

Despite these difficulties, Abit said the Penans could still be helped.

“However, it takes a special solution to solve a special problem.

“The government cannot adhere to general guidelines. They have to look at other ways, ways that could produce results.

“What is good for other ethnic groups will not necessarily be good for the Penans. And most importantly, we shouldn’t impose our values on them.”

Abit said if the Penans were reluctant to plant vegetables for food, maybe the government should not force it on them just yet.

“What about teaching them to cultivate sago? After all, sago is a tree they are very familiar with and it is also their staple diet, not rice or vegetables.”

Abit said if they could be taught to plant sago on a large scale, this could be their future source of income.

Getting the Penans into the mainstream of society is a mammoth task without a doubt. The task to get them to open up their minds is even harder as few Penan children ever reach secondary school.

After primary school, parents are reluctant to allow their children to continue with their secondary education, as the schools are usually very far away and hard to reach.

In the case of children of Lusong Laku, the nearest secondary school is in Belaga, which is eight hours by road.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Johor Urged To Ensure Project Not Causing Pollution

Posted on August 29, 2009. Filed under: Pollution |

(Bernama) — The state government was Saturday urged to order the developer of the RM2.7 billion Lido Boulevard to activate its environment management plan to ensure the project was not causing water pollution in the Tebrau Strait.

Pulai Member of Parliament Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said there were concerns among the people on the change in the qualify of water along the strait.

“We are worried over this development and fishermen and fish rearers are beginning to voice out their concerns over the quality of the water which has been their source of daily income,” he said.

He added that pollution would also affect the area’s tourism attractions.

Early this month, several fish rearers in Teluk Jawa and Perigi Acheh in Pasir Gudang lost thousands of ringgit when the fish they reared in cages perished, believed to be due to a change in water quality.

The Lido Boulevard, launched on Nov 22, 2007, is a joint venture project between Central Malaysian Properties Sdn Bhd and the State Secretary Incorporated.

It involves land reclamation which will start next month after being approved by over 30 departments and agencies as well as the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

MACC gets wildlife memos

Posted on August 29, 2009. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star- By YENG AI CHUN

KUALA LUMPUR: A group of animal rights activists has submitted documents to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to back their allegations against the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan).

The documents allegedly show Perhilitan deputy director-general Misliah Mohamad Basir endorsing the renewal of special permits for convicted wildlife trafficker Anson Wong.

The endorsement later led to the approval of the special permits by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

Malaysian Animal Rights Society president N. Surendran said the documents were dated 1998 to 2003 and were correspondence between Misliah, who was the then Penang Perhilitan director-general, with the head office in Kuala Lumpur.

“During that time, Wong was in prison in the United States for wildlife smuggling. How can the permits be renewed for a man who is in jail for wildlife smuggling?” asked Surendran as he showed the letters bearing Misliah’s signature to reporters.

“We believe the special permits were used as a cover to facilitate wildlife smuggling all over the world. It is embarrassing that Malaysia is helping Wong with his smuggling activities.”

He showed reporters a letter dated March 24, 1998 in which the ministry approved Wong’s request to have a tiger shipped to Higashi Tsukuba Utopia Zoological Garden in Japan.

The group checked and could not find any information on the zoo, and yet Wong now had permits from Perhilitan to keep two tigers.

Surendran called on the ministry to abolish the special permits.

Pet Positive president and PJ councillor Anthony Siva Balan Thanasayan demanded that Misliah be sacked to restore confidence in Perhilitan.

On Aug 14, the group filed reports with the commission, urging it to probe allegations of Perhilitan’s link with Wong made by author Bryan Christy in his book The Lizard King.

On the same day, Misliah dismissed the group’s claims.

She said the signatures on the documents were forged and that Wong had complied with local laws and had the necessary licences.

The others who accompanied Surendran and Anthony were Malaysia Animal Welfare Society president Shenaaz Khan, SPCA Selangor chairman Christine Chin, Independent Living and Training Centre president Francis Siva and two MPs – S. Manikavasagam (Kapar) and M. Manogaran (Teluk Intan)

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

PAM To Propose Incentives For Green Developers

Posted on August 28, 2009. Filed under: Energy, Environment and Livelihoods |

(Bernama) — The Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) will submit a proposal asking the government to provide incentives to developers who fulfilled the Green Building Index (GBI) criteria.

Its president Lee Chor Wah said PAM hoped that the proposal, to be submitted to the Finance Ministry on Friday, would be considered positively by the government as a form of appreciation to developers who built environmental-friendly buildings, which cost higher.

Lee said financial factors were among the issues hampering efforts to build green buildings, which cost 10 to 15 per cent higher than ordinary buildings.

“I think there will be announcement on the matter later,” he told Bernama at the signing of a memorandum of understanding today between PAM and Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Faculty of Design and Architecture to incorporate the PAM-developed GBI system into the faculty’s curriculum.

Apart from developers, the PAM also hoped that the government could provide incentives to contractors, architects and engineers similar to what was being practised in Singapore.

He said that the incentives need not be in the form of cash.

It could be in the form of tax relief as well as rebates on equipment and stamp duties, he added.

Lee said that since its launching in May this year, only one building fulfilled the GBI criteria, namely the GEO building in Bangi.

There were also 40 GBI projects currently being evaluated by PAM, he said.

There are six categories for the GBI evaluation namely energy efficiency, interior air quality, site planning and management, material and resources, water usage efficiency and innovation.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Borneo timber firm dismantles bridge, stalls food aid to Penans

Posted on August 27, 2009. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods, Indigenous People |

-The Star- Stephen Then

MIRI: Efforts to send food aid to Penan natives in Central Sarawak are now stalled after a timber giant dismantled an iron bridge that provided critical access to 3,000 people living deep in remote areas.

On Thursday, more than 1,600 packets of rice weighing 16,000kg were despatched by donors through the Miri Catholic Church.

However, the food is now stuck at the Sungai Asap settlement about 50km from the Bakun Dam.

Lorries delivering the food discovered they could not cross Sungai Linau because a timber giant based in Sibu had dismantled the bridge.

The timber concession area was earmarked for flooding this October in order to create a reservoir for the Bakun Dam.

Reverend Father Sylvester Ding, who is coordinating the aid collection, said it would take a long time to carry more food aid across te Sungai Linau by boat.

“We are in a dilemma about how to sent the food aid to Lusong Laku settlement and SRK Lusong Laku where food shortage is most acute.

“We have no choice but to seek help from locals to transport the food aid across the river.

“We will also will try to reach five other settlements near the Indonesian border by other routes.

“We hope the weather remains favorable so that we send the food. It has been a few weeks since supply reached those in need,” he said.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Rain brings relief to drought-stricken Sarawak villagers

Posted on August 27, 2009. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods, Indigenous People |

-The Star- Jack Wong

KUCHING: “Lots of rain’’ of late has brought relief to villagers from drought-stricken areas and doused all the wild fires statewide.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said the rains had solved the water shortage problems.

The state authorities have sent millions of litres of drinking water to affected villagers hit by the prolonged drought two weeks ago.

Water rationing had to be imposed in Sarikei and Simunjan disrtricts while in Miri and Sibu, thousands of hectares of forest were destroyed by wild fires.

Dr Chan, also state disaster relief committee chairman, said the return of the haze as predicted last week did not happen as there was no change in the wind direction.

He said there were now only fewer than five hotspots in the state.

“The number of hotspots in neighbouring Kalimantan, Indonesia has also dropped to about 100 from more than 600 at the peak,’’ he told reporters at his office at Wisma Bapa Malaysia here.

Dr Chan said the Meteorological Department had now predicted drier weather until middle of next month as the “south westerly wind is coming our way.’’

However, he said the situation would not be as bad as compared to the recent dry spell.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Selangor Sultan launches book that sheds light on fireflies

Posted on August 27, 2009. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-

KAJANG: A book featuring the life-cycle and description of fireflies in Kuala Selangor has been launched.

It was mooted by Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) to preserve the insects.

Written by Hajah Embon Abdullah, the coffee table book features pictures and information on the luminescent insect, as well as its habitat in Kampung Kuantan.

For a good cause: Sultan Sharafuddin signing the book after the launching Wednesday. Looking on are Khalid (left) and TNB Corporate Affairs senior vice-president Datuk Abdul Razak Abdul Majid. — Bernama

The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, launched “The Mysterious and Magical World of Fireflies: Kg Kuantan, Kuala Selangor” at a buka puasa function at the Universiti Tenaga Nasional mosque, here, yesterday.

“The preservation initiatives by TNB is a joint effort with the Selangor government,” TNB said in a statement.

“TNB has been entrusted with upgrading the infrastructure, conducting promotional activities and research on the fireflies in Kampung Kuantan.”

The initiative is part of TNB’s corporate social responsibility in line with its theme “Powering the Green Nation”.

A total of 1,500 books were produced and would be given to corporate entities for free when they visit the firefly habitat in Kuala Selangor.

At the event, Sultan Sharafuddin also gave away contributions from the Selangor Islamic Religious Council to 400 orphans, Muslim converts and the less fortunate.

Also present were Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and Sepang district officer Mohd Amin Ahmad Ahyar.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Councils to recycle used cooking oil

Posted on August 27, 2009. Filed under: Waste |

-The Star-

WITHOUT proper handling methods, used cooking oil can contribute to environmental hazards and two councils in Selangor have come out with a brilliant solution – recycle the oil.

The Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) and the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) announced their Cooking Oil Recycling Project in their respective full board meetings yesterday.

For MPSJ, the pilot project would be carried out in USJ for six months on a trial basis before the council decides whether to expand it to other areas.

Some 200 halal restaurants in USJ would be informed of this project next month and the operators can decide if they want to participate voluntarily.

They would be provided with a container each to store the used cooking oil in their kitchens and MPSJ’s contractor would collect the oil once a week.

For every litre of oil collected, the restaurants would be paid 25 sen.

“The used cooking oil can be processed to make bitumen,” MPSJ president Datuk Adnan Md Ikshan said.

MPS, meanwhile, has appointed contractor CGV Industries Sdn Bhd to collect and dispose of used cooking oil throughout the Selayang constituency to curb the problem of cooking oil being thrown into drains.

The operation will be conducted in three phases. The used cooking oil would be used to make bio-fuel.

MPS president Datuk Zainal Abidin Azim said the first phase is for all the MPS stalls and night markets and the operation will commence within the next three months.

“The second phase will involve the collection of used cooking oil at private restaurants throughout Selayang, Gombak, Kepong and Rawang on the fourth month onwards.

“The final phase is the collection of cooking oil from all food premises in Selayang. MPS will monitor the situation to check on fraud when the operations are carried out,’’ said Zainal, during the MPS Full Board Meeting at MPS building in Bandar Baru Selayang yesterday.

During the operations, the premises would be given two drums that could hold about 25 litres. The service is free of charge.

One of the drums is for restaurant and food operators to fill up used cooking oil only.

Another drum will have an oil trap for food or liquids.

“This project will help the environment to be clean and safe,’’ he said.

Zainal also urged ratepayers to pay their assessment before Aug 31, or risk being fined.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Fishermen against petrochemical project

Posted on August 27, 2009. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods, Pollution |

-The Star-

JOHOR BARU: Fishermen from Tanjung Kupang in Pontian are appealing to the state to intervene and stop the clearing of mangrove swamps to make way for a petrochemical project.

A group of about 450 gathered outside the old state administrative centre in Bukit Timbalan to hand over a 20-page memorandum to Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman.

Abdul Ghani’s senior private secretary Mohd Haffiz Ahmad accepted the memorandum on his behalf, at the building entrance around 11.30am yesterday.

Action committee chairman Fuad Ehsak said the livelihood of the fishermen had already been affected since a part of the mangrove swamp was cleared in June.

“The fishermen have already lost 70% of their livelihood since the development of Tanjung Pelepas Port (PTP).

“Besides, the construction of the petrochemical project will cause pollution and affect our health too,” he said, adding that the affected fishermen were from 11 villages in the area.

He said the project, to be carried out near Sungai Pulai, would destroy 913ha of mangrove forest, part of it within the Ramsar (Wetland of Global Importance) site.

He added that they hoped the Mentri Besar would respond to their request within 10 days or they would consider lodging police reports.

Fisherman Abdul Shukor Osman, 46, said he used to make about RM1,300 a month but his income had gradually declined since the construction of PTP about 10 years ago.

“Now, I can earn only about RM700 a month and find it hard to cope,” said the father of nine.

Another fisherman, Ab Kadir Awang Chik, 65, said several fishermen had taken up additional jobs to supplement their income.

“Some of them have also moved to other places to look for jobs,” he said.

Jang Ujur, 52, said health was his main concern, adding that he did not want his family and other villagers to be affected.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

The great plastic headache

Posted on August 27, 2009. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods, Pollution |

-The Sun-Himanshu

FOR the last two decades, each time the streets of Penang get hit by flash floods, municipal workers rush to clear the drains, scooping out tonnes of mostly plastic waste that has choked the waterways.

Many people, including tourists, have long complained that Penang’s streets and water channels are littered or clogged with plastic waste. In fact, the indiscriminate disposal of plastic materials is a problem that has affected urban areas across the country.

On July 1, Penang launched a campaign against plastic waste, declaring, as a start, every
Monday as a “No Plastic Bags Day” to dissuade the public from using new plastic bags while shopping.

A few hundred retail businesses, including popular hypermarkets, mini markets and supermarkets, were roped in to charge shoppers for new bags. It was a measure to encourage consumers to bring their own bags and not depend on plastic. The state had earlier in June banned all  government agencies and departments from using polystyrene food containers at official functions.

A couple of weeks after the state had launched the campaign, the Malaysian Plastic Manufacturers Association responded by delivering a memorandum to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, calling on him to reconsider the decision to make Monday a “No Plastic Bag Day”.

It urged the state to instead set up a working group comprising all the relevant stakeholders to implement programmes based on the concept of “reduce, reuse and recycle”.

But Lim, to his credit, said the government had no plans to abort the campaign. In fact, he stressed that if it bore visible positive impact, the state would consider intensifying the campaign.

Certainly, one can understand the appeal of plastic. Petroleum-based plastics, such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene and polyvinyl chloride have been used widely in almost all industries and sectors of life – for packaging, building, transport and even agriculture. Plastic is cheap, useful and can be produced in abundance.

But these are precisely the factors that make plastic a problem, specifically in its disposal. “The injudicious and indiscriminate dumping of plastic bags has turned an otherwise useful product into something that is polluting our environment,” Lim said.

The campaign against plastic was not just motivated by pressure from environmentalists. It stemmed from a genuine headache that the authorities are facing in the state’s waste disposal system.

As many as 25.2 million plastic bags, or 2.5 million pieces a month, were given away last year in just six major groups of supermarkets and hypermarkets in Penang. Add that sum with the millions of unaccounted for bags distributed by retailers, hawkers and other traders, and you could probably see the problem the authorities are facing.

Studies have shown that plastics made up 15% to 17% of Penang’s solid waste composition. And the figure may well be rising. In contrast, however, the recycling rate for plastic is just 3%.

So the government’s idea, with the backing of environmentalists and NGOs, has been to not just promote recycling, but also stop making or reduce plastic altogether – rather than having to treat it afterwards.

Mind you, Penang is said to have one of the highest recycling rates in the country – with 15% of waste recycled by the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) and 18% by the Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP). But solid waste management is still a massive challenge for Penang, particularly because of the scarcity of space and therefore of landfills.

The problem is of course a major one confronting not just Penang, but also urban settlements across the world. It is projected that some 60% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2020.

Developing countries will particularly become the focus for global population explosions.

The environmental challenge posed by plastic bags is expected to increase even further in the future due to their non-biodegradable property. Most developing cities are facing enormous urban environmental challenges. There is garbage and toxic waste, as well as pollution of air and water.

The rate of waste in Penang island is about 700-800 tonnes a day, while that on the mainland comes up to about 800 tonnes. This means that on the average, each Penangite generates about 1kg of waste a day.

At the rate, the state may be forced to use up its landfills very soon. The authorities are therefore compelled to look into ways to prevent a widespread consumerist lifestyle characterised by a wasteful culture from festering even more.

As it is, the state’s solid waste disposal bill makes up for a significant proportion of the municipal councils’ assessment rates. In 2006, solid waste management costs constituted up to 20% of the revenue collected by the MPPP.

It is sad that many people, who care about their immediate surroundings, are far less bothered about what is happening in the wider environment. Even with the new measures imposed by the state, the biggest problem in this matter may well be the culture of waste that permeates our society.

And like the drains clogged with plastic, that may ultimately be the biggest obstacle in the
attempt to make our cities green and healthy.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

« Previous Entries

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...