Archive for October, 2009

Villagers still adamant to have dam resited

Posted on October 31, 2009. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

-Daily Express-

Penampang: Villagers affected by the proposed RM2.8 billion dam in Kaiduan, Papar, unanimously rejected the government-funded project as well as any plan to relocate them.

John Sobitang, Kampung Buayan village chief, who claimed to be representing residents of Kampung Babagon Laut, Tiku, Timpayasah and Buayan, said they had been residing in the village even before the British rule.

“We’ve been planting paddy, fruits and rubber, among others, on our land and based on the Sabah Land Ordinance 1930, we have rights to this land based on Section 15 of the Native Customary Rights (NCR),” he said.

The four villages, according to engineering consultant company SMHB Sdn Bhd director, Ong Boo Say, would be the only ones affected if the dam were to be built.

John said the villages concerned have basic infrastructure such as balairayas, primary schools, teacher’s quarters, hostels, churches, Bailey bridges, non-sealed roads and gravity pipes, among others.

In addition, there were also facilities provided jointly by the community and NGOs such as micro hydro, nursery, eco-tourism, traditional medicine farms, tagal system and water catchment areas. “We also have acquired the approval for assistance to rear livestock and commercial crops such as white pepper and rubber,” he said.

The people in the four villages, he said, are in the process of getting a telecentre built by Unimas (Universiti Malaysia Sarawak) that would provide Internet access to villagers in Buayan and the surrounding villages.

“But if the dam is built, all these would be seriously jeopardised and lost not to mention agricultural areas along the lower Papar River because it would cause sea water to seep further inland.”

John said the 12 sq km area that would be flooded after the dam is constructed would submerge their heritage and also the unique biological system in the area that has been part of the tourism destinations in Sabah.

He said the project is clearly against the World Indigenous People’s Rights Declaration signed by the Malaysian Government on Sept 13, 2007 during the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

“It also contradicts the Government’s slogan of 1Malaysia that the people comes first and performance given priority,” he said.

He said if the dam were to be built, it would submerge a large area of forest that has been the Kadazans’ and Dusuns’ source of traditional medicine, wild fruits, forest resources, wildlife and fishing spots.

The villagers, he said, are actually the protectors of the forests including its inhabitants. And it would deprive the younger generation of a source of income, culture and heritage, he continued.

He said the people are against being relocated because it would relegate the community to backwardness due to their way of life being compromised.

To this end, he said they suggested the dam be built at Mandalipau River where there are no human settlements.

And as for the non-revenue water (NRW) that is causing millions of ringgit in losses to the Government, a detailed and systematic management on the water pipes and enhancement of its security system should be applied to overcome the NRW, he said.

“Regarding electricity, we suggest that in areas where there are frequent power shortages, the Government build dams near these areas to supply electricity to the areas concerned,” said John.

He said the government also ought to enhance its enforcement to stop power thefts by squatters and errant factories to prevent loss in revenue and power shortage.

“If these can be addressed, the Government need not build the RM2.8 billion dam. The money then can be used to provide essential development projects for the people,” he said.

Maang villagers, on the other hand, also protested the proposed construction of the Water Treatment Plant (WTP) under the Kota Kinabalu Water Supply Phase III project.

Its village chief, Joannes Jiony said the project that was approved by the State Cabinet on April 13 this year would cover 70 per cent of the land area in Maang.

He said they don’t agree with the WTP being built in Maang for the simple reason that the village is heavily populated.

“The water treatment plant should be at another location that has less population and where there will be a lower impact to the environment,” he said.

Land, he said, is the cause for existence as well as culture, religion, customs and thrusts of the Kadazandusuns. Hence, if they lost their land, it is tantamount to destroying or insulting the people in Maang.

“If we lose our land, it is just like destroying the existence of a race, religion, culture, customs and thrusts,” he said.

Referring to the proposed land acquisition plan issued by Smart Survey Consultant dated Aug. 6 this year under the authority of the Water Department, he said it is very clear the WTP requires a huge area for its construction.

Joannes said the people are very disappointed that the government did not bother to carry out social and environment impact studies before the State Cabinet approved the project last April.

“This is clearly not in line with the 1Malaysia concept that the people should be given priority first,” he said.

While Maang residents are not against the Government’s aspiration to provide water supply to the people at large, he said they are only against the location the WTP is to be built.

The people, he said, suggested that the water treatment plant be built near the shooting range in Lok Kawi.

 

 

 

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Environmental groups to push for green energy for Sabah

Posted on October 31, 2009. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Star- By MUGUNTAN VANAR

KOTA KINABALU: Five environmental groups have united to push for the use of ”green energy for Sabah.

The group of non-governmental organisations dubbing themselves as ”Sabah Unite to Re-power the Future or Green Surf is opposed to the use of dirty energy like proposed coal powered plant planned for the east coast of the state.

The NGOs involved are Land Enpowerment Animals and people (LEAP), Partners of Community Organisations (Pacos Trust), Sabah Environmental Protection Associatio (SEPA), the Malayan Nature Socieity (Sabah branch) and Sabah office of WWF Malaysia.

The Green Surf group, which was launched at Tanjung Aru beach here, said that the coalition aims to present positive solutions to current energy situation in Sabah.

”It is time to promote and provoke a paradigm shift in thinking about the future energy in Sabah, Cynthia Ong, a member of the coalition who is pushing for the government not to allow the controversial coal plant in Tungku, Lahad Datu.

”It is not a question of no coal plant, we want to present to the leadership that there was alternatives in renewable energy.

“We are not against the government, we want to work with them,” she said.

Green Surf is calling on Sabahans to sign a petition to show their support about their concerns over climate change with emphasis on the planned Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd’s coal fired power plant.

Green Surf has set up a web page in Facebook and already has some 1,000 members and are urging more to visit http://www.nocoalsabah.blogspot.com to sign the online petition against the coal plant.

The group claimed that a coal plant was not in line with Sabah shoreline management and Sabah development Corridor to make it one of Asia’s most liveable places by 2025.

Green Surf also welcomed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razaks 2010 budget that plans to set up green pioneer townships and they hoped that Sabah as a regional leader in conservation would be considered for the townships.

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Malaysia’s green energy gap

Posted on October 31, 2009. Filed under: Energy |

-The Star-

IT is without a doubt that the Government is serious about promoting green technology. This is evident in some of the measures that the Prime Minister has outlined for Budget 2010.

In fact, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Peter Chin in his recent blog posting has termed those measures as a “shot in the arm” for his ministry’s efforts to promote the niche area of growth for the country’s economy.

The main objective of green technology, which encompasses the development of renewable energy and the promotion of energy-efficiency, is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for a sustainable development and to counter the rising threat of global warming. While the prospects are bright, industry observers say the journey towards green technology is going to be a long process, especially in terms of developing clean energy for the country.

For instance, it is going to take at least another 20 years before hydropower become a prominent energy source for Malaysia. The Government is targeting to increase the share of hydropower in the electricity generation fuel mix to 30% by 2030.

According to Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB)’s recent report, power generation from hydro stood at only 6.3% for its financial year (FY) ended Aug 31, 2009, while power generation from other renewable sources such as biomass and solar was almost negligible.

The national utility company still had to burn fossil fuel, including gas and coal, which constituted more than 90% of its total fuel mix, to generate electricity for the country.

In its last financial year, hydro contributed 17.47% to TNB’s power generation fuel mix, while gas and coal contributed 54.46% and 27.96%, respectively.

While the Government has set goals to reduce the burning of fossil fuel for energy and to increase the use of alternative sources, particularly those that are renewable, their investment costs and scarcity remain a major challenge. And that explains the reason for the gradual process towards these alternative sources.

Also, for some of these alternative sources, such as nuclear, their feasibility and suitability for the country remain a debatable issue.

Last month, TNB signed a memorandum of understanding with Argentina’s giant utility firm Impsa to conduct a viability study on developing wind energy sources in Malaysia. If the project is viable, which we will know in the next one year or so, Malaysia would be able to add wind to its list of renewable energy sources.

It is reported that the cost of generating wind power ranges between US$1.8mil (RM6.1mil) and US$2.5mil for a one megawatt (MW) to 2.5MW capacity.

Meanwhile, the Government has earmarked RM5bil under the Budget 2010 as the capital expenditure for TNB to implement electricity generation, transmission and distribution projects next year.

The allocation includes spending for TNB’s hydroelectric projects in Ulu Jelai and Hulu Terengganu. Both the plants come with an estimated combined capacity of 600MW and they cost more than RM1bil each.

Over the week, TNB president and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohamed Noh said the tender for Ulu Terengganu was closed, and more details would be unveiled in the first quarter of FY2010. It was reported last month that TNB planned to award key contracts to build the two hydroelectric plants by the middle of next year.

Both the plants are targeted for completion by 2014. And with the Bakun hydroelectricity dam in Sarawak coming on stream in 2011, and the ability of the plant to transfer electricity to the Peninsular Malaysia from 2015 onwards, these projects are major milestones towards increasing the share of green energy in the country’s fuel mix.

Analysts view the completion of the Bakun dam project as one of the key catalysts for TNB counter in the near term.

The Bakun dam, which comes with an electricity-generating capacity of 2,400MW to be supplied to Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan, is touted to be Southeast Asia’s largest power project.

Another key catalyst for TNB counter is the possible upward revision of electricity tariff in January. With the Government indicating its intent to cut subsidy as part of a move to narrow its budget deficit, the likelihood for the upward revision is high, even though the Ministry has refrained from making any hints this time round.

For FY2009, TNB’s net profit dropped 64.6% year-on-year (y-o-y) to RM917.9mil due mainly to substantial foreign exchange translation losses and higher operating expenses arising from higher coal costs.

Its revenue for FY2009, however, rose 16.3% y-o-y to RM28.78bil, thanks to the higher average electricity tariff that managed to offset the marginal decline in electricity demand in the country.

Of the 28 research houses polled by Bloomberg, 18 have a “buy” call on the counter, while eight call for a “hold” and two for a “sell”. The average target price for TNB is RM9.19 per share.

At the Bursa Malaysia closing on Friday, TNB was quoted at RM8.41 per share.

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Surviving climate change

Posted on October 30, 2009. Filed under: Climate Change |

-The Nut Graph- By Gan Pei Ling

 

–>banners about environmental activism
Exhibition by regional coalition People’s Actions on Climate Change during the Asian Youth Climate Workshop
(© Gan Pei Ling)

“WE should do it for our children and future generations!”

This is one of the most common rallying cries used by some individuals and organisations to convince the public to take action to combat climate change. It’s an appealing sound bite, but does it feel urgent?

Mohamed Nasheed
Mohamed Nasheed, president
of the Maldives (© Mauroof
Khaleel / Wiki Commons)

We tend to talk about climate change as if it is some distant and long-term issue, yet the impacts of climate change are in fact already threatening people’s survival around the world. The president of the Maldives is looking for new land to migrate his population of 350,000 to because his nation faces  the real threat of sinking due to rising sea levels. At the same time, increased and more intense floods in Bangladesh are already disrupting food production and displacing millions of its coastal people.

Moreover, poor people, women, indigenous people as well as youths are disproportionately affected by the impacts of a changing climate. Women and girls in the Global South have to walk further to obtain water and risk being raped and abducted in conflict-ridden territory. Indigenous people worldwide are facing reduced crop production and increased risk of contracting diseases due to a changing climate. Climate change exacerbates poverty and gender inequality, and threatens the health of communities particularly children and the elderly.

Stopping climate change is not just about future generations. It is about today’s generation who are already suffering from the impacts of this global crisis.

Time running out

Time is running out for us to act, which is why nearly 80 youths from ten Asian countries gathered in Bangkok from 2 to 6 Oct 2009 to attend the Asia Youth Climate Workshop. I was one of the Malaysian participants sponsored by 350.org to attend the workshop.

At the workshop, youths learnt basic campaigning skills to become more effective climate change organisers and activists. The workshop also aimed to build the groundwork for a lasting Asian youth climate movement that would continue beyond 24 Oct — the international day of climate action.

On that day, last Saturday, over 4,000 events were planned in more than 170 countries around the world, including in Malaysia, to tell world leaders and the public about the importance of the number 350 — it is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere measured in parts per million (ppm).

The amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is currently 387ppm, clearly exceeding this safe figure of 350ppm. This explains why we are already experiencing the effects of climate change worldwide. If we are to prevent runaway climate change, we need to get back to 350ppm as soon as possible. That actually means right now.

Governments ignoring science

participants of workshop painitng a huge Indonesia 350 banner
Indonesian participants at Asia Youth Climate workshop.
The banners were also used during the Asian Peoples
Climate Justice March on 5 Oct 2009 in Bangkok
(© Gan Pei Ling)

In stark contrast to scientific demand, world governments, particularly developed countries, are currently negotiating to allow for the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to further increase to 450ppm, 550ppm, and even 600ppm before they will attempt to bring it down.

Therefore, 350.org attempts to set the agenda ahead of the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference (COP15) in December where governments will decide on a new climate deal. We need to tell world leaders that our survival is non-negotiable and 350ppm must be the target we should settle on in COP15.

Sometimes, I’m unsure whether it is amusing or disturbing that Malaysians are barely concerned and talk so little about these climate negotiations that will ultimately impact our survival and immediate future.

Malaysians have reasons to be concerned about climate change. Really. Food prices will rise due to reduced crop productions locally and globally. Oil palm and rubber plantations will suffer a decline in yields.

car on flooded road
Studies predict increased floods in Malaysia’s coastal cities (© shootthedevgru / Wiki Commons)

Additionally, according to studies by Malaysian scientists, there will be increased floods in coastal cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Kota Baru, Kuala Terengganu, Alor Star and Muar. The study also says urbanised states such as Selangor and Johor will have water shortages.

Yes, the UN negotiations can be complex and difficult to follow, yet there are also various sources that simplify the information for public consumption. But why is this vital information not reaching the masses? And why aren’t people interested in arming themselves with knowledge? Could it be because the alarm bells have not started ringing yet?

Ignorance is no bliss. Climate change is indeed a complicated issue intertwined as it is with economics, politics, security, development issues, human rights, and so on. However, this should not stop us from being informed about climate change issues and taking the appropriate actions to address it. Our survival is at stake, and the clock is ticking.

If we delay action any longer, I think it would be apt to describe our age as The Age of Stupid, and the current generation the generation of stupid. favicon

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The German Green Ambassador

Posted on October 30, 2009. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

(Bernama) — The wheels of his bicycle races on the busy streets of Kuala Lumpur as cars honk along the congested lanes during peak hour madness.

He navigates through the rough terrains of the city landscape – avoiding the potholes, slowing down for pedestrians and careful to distance himself away from the oncoming traffic.

He takes this route everyday to work, cycling by houses, apartments and skyscrapers, noticeably the iconic Petronas Twin Towers located just a few blocks away from his workplace.

Taking only 10 minutes to reach his building, it was another triumphant morning as he managed to escape the traffic nightmare experienced by others on the road. Wiping off the beads of sweat on his forehead, he locks his bicycle then fixes his tie and suit. Upon entering the office a staff greets, “Good Morning Your Excellency!”.

Now how many diplomatic officials can claim that they travel to work on sheer pedal power? German Ambassador Dr Guenter Georg Gruber definitely can.

(more…)

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Most UK palm oil buyers fail sustainability test

Posted on October 30, 2009. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

A handful of companies are showing real progress in their commitments to buy and use sustainable palm oil, yet the majority, contrary to their commitments, are failing to buy the product in spite of its availability.

WWF’s Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard assessed the performance of 59 of the most prominent European retailers and manufacturers that buy and use palm oil in products ranging from chocolate bars and ice-cream to soaps and shampoos. No company achieved the maximum score of 29 points.

Nearly half of the European companies assessed (25) are UK-based – and their performance varied considerably:

• Seven UK retailers and manufacturers scored above 20 points, each showing they have the right policies in place, are monitoring their purchases of palm oil and starting to make good on the commitments that most of them have made to buy certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO). Each is also a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

• The majority (17) scored between five and 20 points. Those at the top end of this scale are showing encouraging signs, yet 12 of the 17 companies scored under 50% (14 points or less out of 29), suggesting they have yet to start dealing with palm oil consistently.

• One UK company scored zero. Companies scoring zero are either showing no action on palm oil or even declined to respond to requests for information. These companies really need to up their game, and WWF is willing to help them do so.

WWF opted to grade palm oil buyers after releasing figures in May this year which showed that only a small percentage of the sustainable palm oil available on the market had been bought. The situation is starting to improve slowly. Over the last year, RSPO certified plantations have produced over one million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil, over 195,000 tonnes of which has been sold to date. While this still represents only 19% of the available supply, the RSPO has reported that CSPO sales have been growing in the past few months.

The Scorecard comes a week before the world’s largest producers, buyers and traders of palm oil gather for the 7th RSPO in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As such, the Scorecard provides a timely wake-up call to those who are failing to act, said Adam Harrison, WWF’s senior policy officer for food and agriculture:

“We welcome the action of those companies that have moved toward buying certified palm oil – several of which are UK companies. But commitments are one thing, what’s needed now is action from all of them.

“The top-scoring companies have shown what’s possible, with some buying fairly substantial quantities of CSPO, but now it’s a question of whether the majority will follow. If they do, it will transform the market, giving producers the confidence to grow more sustainable palm oil. If they don’t, there will be grave consequences for the environment.”

The growing demand for palm oil is adding to the already severe pressure on remaining rainforest areas of the world. The loss of forest in Indonesia is threatening the survival of species such as the orang-utan, the Sumatran tiger, rhino and elephant. Forest loss and the draining of peatlands for palm oil plantations is also contributing to climate change and displacing local people who rely on the forest for food and shelter. Palm oil is one of the world’s fastest expanding crops in Southeast Asia as well as West Africa and South America.

This European Scorecard is just the start of a process to bring more transparency to the global market for sustainable palm oil. In years to come, the Scorecard will set higher benchmarks – including more attention on the purchase of CSPO – and include countries like the US, China and India.

WWF’s work on sustainable palm oil is part of its wider One Planet Food programme, which incorporates the whole food chain, from the production of commodities (like palm oil and soya) through processing and on to consumption and disposal. The goals of the programme are to radically improve the key environmental impacts of the food that is eaten in the UK, including our impact on the parts of the world richest in biodiversity. This is a complex task, and since 2008 WWF has been working in collaboration with scientists and key actors in the food system – businesses, policy makers, consumer organisations and other non-governmental organisations – to understand the impacts of the food consumed in the UK, whether grown here or imported from abroad.

A summary of the Scorecard and results are available at:

http://www.divshare.com/download/9023365-76c

Palm Oil Facts

• The oil palm tree originated in West Africa but it has been planted successfully in many tropical regions
• Indonesia and Malaysia are the largest exporters of palm oil
• Over 28 million tonnes of palm oil are produced worldwide and comprise a major food source all over the world.
• Europe imports 4.7 million tonnes of palm oil annually, making it the third biggest market for palm oil in the world, after India and China.
• Palm oil is used in 50% of all packaged food products sold by supermarkets
• Palm oil can be found in food including margarine, cooking oil, crisps, cakes, biscuits and pastry
• Palm oil may not always be listed as such on products, with companies using terms such as ‘vegetable fat’ and ‘vegetable oil’ instead
• Palm oil derivatives are also found in cosmetics, soaps, shampoos and detergents.
• Sales of palm oil in Europe have grown recently due to palm oil being an effective substitute for partially hydrogenated soft oils, such as those produced from soy oil, rapeseed and sunflower thereby eliminating trans-fatty acids from many products.
• Certified Sustainable Palm Oil has been available since November 2008

Notes

1. The scoring of companies was a two-step process that took six months to complete. In the first step, WWF evaluated the performance of companies based on publicly available data, such as corporate sustainability reports. WWF then sent a preliminary score to each company with a package of information to brief companies about the Scorecard, including details of the project’s objectives and methodology. The companies were given the opportunity to submit additional information to WWF and a final score calculated.

2. WWF was a founding member of the RSPO, and has worked since 2002 with the palm oil industry to ensure that the RSPO standards contain robust social and environmental criteria, including a prohibition on the conversion of valuable forests. The RSPO brings together oil palm growers, oil processors, food companies, retailers, NGOs and investors to help ensure that no rainforest areas are sacrificed for new palm oil plantations, that all plantations minimize their environmental impacts and that basic rights of local peoples and plantation workers are fully respected.

3. The RSPO began in 2002 as an informal cooperation on production and usage of sustainable palm oil among Aarhus United UK Ltd, Golden Hope Plantations Berhad, Migros, Malaysian Palm Oil Association, Sainsbury’s and Unilever together with WWF. These organisations held the first Roundtable meeting in August 2003 in Kuala Lumpur in order to prepare the foundation for the organizational and governance structure that resulted in the formation of the RSPO. Since then the RSPO has grown to include more than 400 members between them accounting for more than 40% of global palm oil production.

4. WWF recognizes that palm oil is a basic foodstuff with high consumer demand. Europe imports 4.7 million tonnes of palm oil annually for food and soaps, making it the third biggest market for palm oil in the world, after India and China. In addition, palm oil is increasingly used to replace fossil fuels in the transport and energy sectors of (mainly) developed countries. Taking into account the growing demand for palm oil for bioenergy as well as traditional uses, the FAO estimates that palm oil production will double between 1999/2001 and 2030.

5. Despite having the highest yield per hectare of any oil or oilseed crop, it is recognized that there are environmental pressures on its expansion to eco-sensitive areas, particularly as oil palm can only be cultivated in tropical areas of Asia, Africa and America. Oil palm plantations have often imposed environmental and social costs due to indiscriminate forest clearing, loss of habitat important to threatened and endangered species such as orang-utan, elephants and tigers, uncontrolled burning with related haze, and disregard for the rights and interests of local communities.

6. The way we live is leading to environmental threats such as climate change, species extinction, deforestation, water shortages and the collapse of fisheries. WWF’s One Planet Future Campaign is working to help people live a good quality of life within the earth’s capacity. For more information visit http://www.wwf.org.uk/oneplanet

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Tiger rescued from poachers in Malaysia perishes from injuries

Posted on October 29, 2009. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-Mongabay.com-

Rescued in early October from a poacher’s snare, a Malayan tiger has died from stress and infection due to its injuries. The 120 kilogram (264 pound) male tiger died on October 19th in the Malacca Zoo after undergoing surgery to amputate its right foreleg, which two weeks before had been caught in a poacher’s snare and severely injured.

“It broke my heart as I was there during the rescue. Everyone had such high hopes of the tiger being released back into the wild after its treatment at the zoo, and no one spoke of the in-betweens,” says Reuben Clements, species conservation manager for World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Malaysia’s Malayan tiger and Sumatran rhino projects.

The tiger was found on October 4th in the Belum-Temengor forest by WWF’s Wildlife Protection Unit. WWF’s anti-poaching team called in officials from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) who freed the tiger from the snare. The animal was then transported to Malacca Zoo for treatment. It was decided that the right foreleg had to be amputated.

Clements says that this incident highlights the need for Malaysia to bring in more resources to fight the illegal wildlife trade, which has decimated species across Southeast Asia.

“The government really needs to set up a task force to tackle rampant wildlife crime,” Clements says. “Stopping armed poachers is dangerous and difficult work that needs the support of many agencies. Therefore, we are calling for additional government agencies to join the fight in Belum-Temengor to stamp out poaching and cross-border encroachment.”

Malaysia has set up a National Tiger Action Plan to double its number of animals within 10 years, but it is questionable how this will be achieved if poaching continues. An estimated 500 Malayan tigers (Panthera tigris jacksoni) survive on peninsular Malaysia: an 83 percent drop from a population estimate conducted in the 1950s.

“My commitment to help save tigers is even stronger now, as this incident clearly shows that we have to do more in order to eliminate the real reason that the tiger died – poaching,” Clements said.

No suspects have been charged or caught in the poaching of this tiger.

Special thanks to WWF-Malaysia Species Communications Officer, Sara Sukor, who covered the story on the ground.

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Malaysia to replant trees in logging-ravaged Borneo to save endangered orangutans

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

-AP-

Malaysian authorities will replant trees in a forest ravaged by logging on Borneo island in the latest effort to restore the natural habitat of endangered orangutans, a global environmental group said Wednesday.

The government of eastern Sabah state signed an agreement with the World Wildlife Fund this week to replenish trees in a piece of forest territory totalling 2,390 acres (967 hectares) over the next five years, the WWF said in a statement. The area is nearly the size of 1,500 soccer fields.

The effort is part of the “Heart of Borneo” initiative, led by the WWF since 2007 to strengthen conservation planning among Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, the three countries that have territory on the island.

Environmentalists say Sabah’s orangutans, pygmy elephants, rhinoceroses, sun bears and other animals are at risk because their jungle habitats are increasingly taken over by loggers and plantations.

Earlier this month, Sabah authorities announced plans to bar companies from planting palm oil and other crops near rivers to preserve the natural habitat.

A French-based conservation group, Hutan, recently estimated that fewer than 11,000 orangutans remain in Sabah. Up to eight times that number existed 15 years ago.

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green tech incentives

Posted on October 27, 2009. Filed under: Environmental Economics |

-The Star-

To expand the use of green technology, the government launched the Green Building Index (GBI) on May 21, 2009. Can you elaborate on what GBI pertains to and some of the tax incentives available.

GBI was developed by Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia and the Association of Consulting Engineers Malaysia.

Under the GBI assessment framework, points will be awarded for achieving and incorporating environment-friendly features which are above current industry practice.

Two different sets of GBIs have been developed for both commercial and residential properties.

The assessment criteria include:

·Energy and water efficiency

·Indoor environmental quality

·Sustainable management and planning of building sites in respect of pollution control and facilities for workers

·Usage recyclable and environment friendly materials and resources

·Adoption of new technologies

As a measure to encourage the construction of buildings using green technology, it is proposed that the owners of buildings awarded the GBI certificate be given exemption equivalent to 100% of the additional capital expenditure incurred to obtain the GBI certificate.

This incentive is applicable on new buildings and upgrading of existing buildings.

The proposal is effective for buildings awarded with GBI certificate from Oct 24, 2009 until Dec 31, 2014.

Further details on GBI can be viewed at http://
www.greenbuildingindex.org.

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Different shade of green

Posted on October 27, 2009. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-The Star- IT may be one of the highest-billed wildlife tourism spots in the country but the lush Lower Kinabatangan forest in the east coast of Sabah is taking on a different shade of green – that of oil palm fields.

Plantations owned by public-listed companies, private enterprises and family growers have carved up the floodplain, pushing wildlife into pockets of forest. In response to the situation, conservationists way back in 1998 called for the creation of wildlife corridors so that animals like the orang utan, elephant and rhinoceros can migrate from one pocket of forest to another.

Sabah declared the creation of this wildlife haven in 1999, calling it Gift To The Earth. But the gazettment of 26,000ha under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 came six years later, after more forests had been cleared, resulting in further fragmentation. The initial size of the sanctuary was 50,000ha.

Meanwhile, non-governmental groups like the World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia and Hutan (an orang utan conservation outfit run by a French couple) have begun reforestation with the participation of villagers.

However, these small scale initiatives are no match for the rapidly expanding plantations.

Oil palms are planted right up to the river bank. Countless media reports highlighted the largely illegal encroachment into river reserves but the problem persisted. It is not only wildlife that is affected; the livelihood of villagers is compromised by dwindling catch of prawns and fish.

It is puzzling that state authorities like the Land and Survey Department preferred the “soft approach” rather than booking culprits for violating licensing conditions. Department director Datuk Osman Jamal said the persuasive method was more effective than prosecuting errant land owners as “one case could take years before it is concluded”.

A conservationist pointed out that Section 26 of the Land Ordinance is vague on the minimum size for river buffers and gives discretionary power to the state government to decide on that. He said developments of more than 500ha, which most plantations are, would be required by law to set aside riparian reserves.

Meanwhile, scientists warned that the Sabah orang utan population is reeling towards extinction if nothing is done to halt deforestation. In the last two years, orang utan researcher Dr Marc Ancrenaz of the Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Programme has observed an unusual behaviour among the orang utan population that he had followed since 1997 – the primates are walking on the ground as shown by footprints found in oil palm estates. Known as an arboreal ape, orang utans hardly venture to the ground. With decreasing forest cover, the animal appeared to have adapted to its changing environment.

Ancrenaz acknowledged that scientists’ knowledge of orang utan has increased tremendously in the last few years. “They are much more adaptable to the changing environment than we thought. We know primates are smart creatures. They are surviving for the time being but we don’t know for how long.”

In a three-year DNA profiling study of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, wildlife geneticist Dr Benoit Goossens of Cardiff University and Dr Isabelle Ancrenaz of Hutan found strong evidence of a population collapse that coincided with deforestation. They warned that the population could go extinct in 50 years if nothing was done to reconnect fragmented forests and isolated populations.

At the recently concluded Orang Utan Conservation Colloquium, participants comprising orang utan experts, state officials, local and international NGOs and the plantation industry called for a minimum of 100m for wildlife corridors along riverbanks to be acquired by the Sabah Wildlife Department.

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