Archive for March, 2010

Biodiversity Can Be Harnessed To Generate Economic Benefits – Report

Posted on March 30, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

(Bernama) — Malaysia’s rich biodiversity can be harnessed to generate economic benefits from tourism, recreation, pharmaceutical applications and nutritional products, says the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC).

“Although a shift away from reliance on heavy resource consumptive industries for economic growth is essential, Malaysia’s natural resources endowment can be used in creative and sustainable ways as a base to build new, diverse, high value and high technology industries and services,” says the NEAC in its New Economic Model for Malaysia Part 1 Report released here on Tuesday.

A good example would be renewable energy industry industries such as photovoltaic and biomass technology, it says.

Malaysia is one of the 17 most important mega-biodiversity countries in the world with 16 million hectares of tropical forest area, covering 60 per cent of the country’s land area.

Over 90 per cent of the forest remain state-owned and 73 per cent of the total forest area is designated as national parks.

Malaysia has a total coastline of 4,675km, the 29th longest coastline in the world, teeming with coral reefs and marine life, it says.

The report says Malaysia is a culturally rich society with an array of diverse ethnic groups spread across the Peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak and this diversity provides Malaysia with substantial advantages.

“Diversity of culture, ethnicity, languages and religions enables a society to leverage the best of each group’s innate skills and traits for the good of the society as a whole.

“Diversity of culture also stimulates imagination, creativity and innovation,” it says.

The report says Malaysia’s rich and unique cultural heritage and even its colonial history are assets for forging relationships with many countries, especially in the high growth economies of China, India, the Middle East and Indonesia.

“Malaysia’s diverse language networks help to support the development of tourism and industry links in those markets,” it says.

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NEM Proposes Malaysia Lead Global Green Revolution

Posted on March 30, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

(Bernama) — Malaysia, one of the top 17 mega-biologically diverse countries in the world, should embrace a leadership role in green technology, proposes the New Economic Model (NEM) Report Part 1.

It says the country, which has rainforests covering 60 per cent of its landmass, should become a strategic niche player in high-value green industries and services that play to its competitive advantages.

The report, released today by the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC), says that building on Malaysia’s natural resources and biodiversity is central to strengthening the comparative advantages.

“Having such a precious natural heritage is important not only for Malaysia but also the world. Preserving the natural rain forests and marine reefs plays a significant role in the global carbon mitigation strategy,” it says.

It says that these natural resources, if properly managed and preserved, have the capacity to reduce the world’s carbon emission and help offset the impact of environmental deterioration on sustainable living.

It warns that if mismanaged, Malaysia could face not only irreparable environmental damage but also global sanctions that could have significant economic impact on its future exports and income.

Recalling that Malaysia has already made significant commitments in Copenhagen to deliver a 40 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 (compared to 2005), it says this is a major challenge for the economy.

The report also says that the global focus on environmental considerations will result in large shifts in demand for commodities and manufactured goods, to which Malaysia can adapt and is well positioned to anticipate, deliver and lead, and suggests that Malaysia create clusters of research and development to exploit these leads.

“The commercialisation of our natural biodiversity into high-value products and services will be a major national challenge. But is also an excellent avenue for partnership between the private and the public sectors.

“The major benefit of our green, high income, and inclusive strategy is that future generations of Malaysians (and world citizens) will continue to enjoy the clean air and water, and natural environment that they deserve and work so hard to preserve and enhance,” it says.

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Students to vie for green awards

Posted on March 29, 2010. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

-NST- PETALING JAYA: Primary and secondary students within the Klang Valley will once again be inspired to think green with the return of Anugerah Hijau or the Green Awards.

The coveted awards organised by green organisation EcoKnights is back this year with more accolades.

Instead of being limited to clubs and associations of secondary schools within Petaling Jaya, the contest is now open to clubs and associations of schools in Selangor as well as Kuala Lumpur.

The competition is divided into two categories.

The first requires participants to build a “Totally Active Robot” while the second to create a “Wildly Attractive Mural” with a green message.

Two winners will be picked for each category. They will each receive RM1,000.

Four merit awards for the Most Creative, Most Original, Most Promising and Most Inspiring project will be given out for each category.

The merit awards carry a cash prize of RM500.

“We want everyone to go home as winners,” said EcoKnights director Yasmin Rasyid at the launch of the competition at the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) recently.

Also present were Anugerah Hijau partners CIMB Community Link, MBPJ, RCOMM Centre and Whiz Wits.

Students who want to take part in the competition must submit a proposal on their project by May 30.

Ten teams will be shortlisted for each category. They will attend a workshop on how to make a robot or create a mural.

The students will be given RM500 to carry out their project. They have to submit their projects within two months of the workshop.

There is no limit on the number of entries allowed per school.

For details, log onto http://www.anugerahhijau.my. — By Veena Babulal

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Eco-friendly shrimp farming

Posted on March 29, 2010. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

-The Star- The Integrated Shrimp Aquaculture Park that is being built in Terengganu is driven by a vision to place Malaysian seafood on the world map.

THESE are the prawns of progress. The shrimps of the future. The crustaceans of development. And here in this tiny village of Penarik, in the Setiu district of Terengganu, is where it will all happen.

If everything goes according to plan, the RM200mil Integrated Shrimp Aquaculture Park (i-SHARP) that is being built here will revolutionise not just the economy of this sleepy coastline district, but possibly the entire seafood industry in Malaysia as well.

Designed and constructed by aquaculture specialists Blue Archipelago Bhd (BAB), i-SHARP (which is set to start operations next year) encompasses a whopping 1,000ha, and will have about 600 ponds producing an estimated capacity of 10,000 tonnes of white-leg shrimps a year. Now that’s a lot of shrimp.

In demand: The black tiger prawn (pic) and the white-leg shrimp that i-SHARP will be producing are amongst the most widely-cultured prawn species in the world.

The main drawing point of i-SHARP is not its production capacity, but the fact that it aims to be the first sustainable shrimp aquaculture farm in Malaysia.

“i-SHARP is not just about shrimps. It’s about food, seafood in particular, about people, ecology and most of all sustainability,” said BAB chief executive officer Dr Shahridan Faiez. “We are trying to achieve a balance between economic growth, social well-being, and the ecosystem that supports all of us.”

According to Dr Shahridan, the shrimp aquaculture industry has evolved a great deal since the days when it was the main perpetrator of mangrove destruction and other environmentally-damaging practices. It has now reinvented itself by imposing the strictest requirements possible when it comes to sustainability.

“The market now demands high safety and environmental standards. Producers who are unable to meet such standards will find themselves squeezed out of the market,” he said. “As such, it would be foolhardy for us to do anything not sustainable because it would only hurt our reputation and our business.”

In a shrimp shell, what the market is looking for are responsible producers who take environmental matters into consideration right from the planning stage to implementation. This is where i-SHARP comes in.

Look SHARP

The idea is to make i-SHARP a one-stop facility for shrimp farmers; they lease the ponds within the site and just concentrate on growing shrimp.

“What i-SHARP provides is a place where all the necessary certification is provided, the infrastructure is in place, and all the regulations are met, so that farmers don’t have to worry about spending money on all that,” said Dr Shahridan.

Good stuff: A shrimp farmer holding up cultured prawns. Blue Archipelago Berhad hopes to position Malaysia as the country of origin for safe and high quality seafood.

Much thought has been given to making i-SHARP a sustainable venture, not just economically, but more importantly from an environmental and social aspect as well.

Travelling by boat on Sungai Caluk, you would not have guessed that a 1,000ha shrimp farm was being built behind the thick mangroves that line the river.

“The minimum regulation for a buffer zone is 50m from the river. Our minimum is 70m, and at some points, the buffer zone stretches up to 180m,” said Sharizal Shaarani, BAB strategic communications manager, our guide for the day.

Just 5.5km outside the borders of i-SHARP, Sharizal points out a stark reminder of how damaging development can be if done indiscriminately – a vast swath of barren, cleared forest can be seen from the river.

“No one knows what was being done here,” said Sharizal, who added that it was a reminder of what BAB did not want to do when constructing i-SHARP.

“One of the factors in building the farm is that it must not be built on pristine forest land. Historically, the site in Setiu has been disturbed for logging and charcoal mining, and farms,” he said.

During construction of the farm, measures were taken to minimise impact on the environment and wildlife. The directional felling method was used during land clearing (to facilitate movement of wildlife into adjacent forests and prevent them from getting pocketed into fragmented forests or driven into adjacent villages). Silt traps were constructed to prevent silt from the construction site from flowing into the river.

A resident of Setiu and a conservationist at heart, Umar Salleh is the BAB senior aquaculture specialist and consultant in charge of making sure i-SHARP stays focused on its goals. As a former lecturer in Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Terengganu branch (now known as Universiti Malaysia Terengganu), he started the turtle conservation programme in UPM in Setiu in the 1980s, and used to do freelance conservation and consultation work for the Terengganu government before joining BAB.

“One day, we saw a tree in the middle of our site that had a bird’s nest in it, and I insisted that the contractors not bring it down until the nest was empty,” he said, beaming proudly.

Umar is also painfully aware of the poverty of the people in Setiu, the second poorest district in Peninsular Malaysia.

“i-SHARP will help to galvanise the economy, create jobs for the people here and lift the standard of living,” he said. “The locals are already working on the construction of i-SHARP. Even if they’re not working on the farm itself, there is already a positive impact on secondary industries in the area.”

Sustainable shrimp

To ensure that they cover all bases, BAB conducted a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) study before building i-SHARP. This was subsequently submitted and approved on Sept 3 last year by the Department of Environment (DOE), thus making them the first and only aquaculture farm to have conducted and submitted a DEIA successfully.

The extensive consultation process involved 12 government state agencies, four federal agencies, 727 households in seven villages and several reputable international NGOs, including Wetlands International.

This cleared tract of gelam forest in Setiu, Terengganu, where villagers used to go to collect wild honey, was wrongly identified in our article on Jan 26 as part of the 1,000ha i-SHARP project. Blue Archipelago Berhad, the project operator, has clarified that this piece of land is outside its project site. We apologise for the error.

Through the DEIA, BAB was able to plan mitigation measures to conserve the surrounding wildlife and environment, some of which influenced the design of i-SHARP, at the cost of extra profits.

For instance, the shrimp ponds occupy only 38% of the 1,000ha. The rest of the land is used to ensure that the farm is run in an ecologically sound manner.

“In the old aquaculture model, you can be sure the production area would be 80%-85%, because the aim was to maximise production,” said Sharizal. “What we want to do is find the optimal production size so that we can produce and fetch a decent return, and at the same time not undermine the very ecosystem our production process is based on.”

The DEIA process also identified the riparian vegetation along Sungai Caluk as a High Conservation Value Habitat; as a result, BAB allocated an additional buffer zone of 200ha within i-SHARP to ensure the natural vegetation remains intact.

The company is working with Universiti Malaysia Terengganu to form an NGO called Friends of Sungai Caluk, and set aside a 2ha site dedicated to the conservation of the area’s wildlife (which include the endangered river terrapins) and the riparian vegetation along the river.

“We want to show that sustainable shrimp aquaculture is possible. And that is why we invested in a bigger buffer zone, and allocated the 2ha of land for conservation purposes,” said Sharizal. “We have also taken pro-active measures with regard to the conservation of river terrapins.

“Another example of BAB willing to go the extra mile is the building of a submarine pipeline 1.2km out into the sea for their marine water intake. This ensures that the water intake will not have a significant impact on the terrapin nesting site at Pasir Tebing Penarik, and also to maintain the picturesque vista of the world class beach in Penarik.”

BAB has also been working closely with DOE to monitor the water quality of the river for a period of 12 months, so that accurate data can be used to remodel the impact of the water discharge.

To alleviate fears that the discharge will pollute the river, BAB will build what will be the largest sedimentation pond for a shrimp farm in the country, and practise minimal water exchange as well.

“The sedimentation process is so extensive that it will take almost four days before the water is discharged into the river. This will enhance the quality of our water discharge while reducing the volume of water discharged into the river,” said Sharizal.

“A 40ha pond translates to 80 potential shrimp ponds, which means we’re losing at least RM150,000 in revenue per pond. We want to make sure that this farm will be the first environmentally and financially sustainable farm in Malaysia.

Food of the future

If all goes according to plan, i-SHARP may yet usher in a new dawn for Malaysian seafood. Dr Shahridan’s vision is that in the future, every shrimp that comes from Malaysia will be produced by i-SHARP.

“We want a whole new paradigm for aquaculture. The old way of aquaculture was done in small farms that had the classic problems of lack of scale and inability to perform consistently,” he said.

“We want these smallholders to come and produce in the secure environment of i-SHARP, which has all the necessary certification, security, bio-safety and infrastructure. They will have access to technical expertise, and can sell their products to processors who target premium markets.”

Through the i-SHARPs, BAB plans to raise the production of aquaculture companies, and raise the standard of aquaculture products in the country.

“We want to position Malaysia as a country of origin for safe seafood,” said Dr Shahridan. “Think about meat, for example. We tend to choose Australian beef or New Zealand lamb over those from other countries. We want the same thing for Malaysian seafood – so when people want safe, high quality and sustainable seafood, they will automatically go for Malaysian seafood.”

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Smaller drop in power demand

Posted on March 29, 2010. Filed under: Energy |

-The Star- KUALA LUMPUR: Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) recorded a small drop in demand during Earth Hour on Saturday night with a load reduction of 203MW.

In a statement yesterday, the company said in the same energy conservation campaign last year, TNB posted a bigger drop in electricity usage – 550MW.

High power consumption during the current hot weather might have contributed to the lower reduction in energy consumption during this year’s Earth Hour, it added.

A new maximum demand of 14,890MW was registered on March 25 beating the previous peak of 14,740MW on March 14.

TNB also said that it fully supported Earth Hour which calls for the switching off of non-essential lights and electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change.

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‘Malaysia still a long way from being energy efficient’

Posted on March 29, 2010. Filed under: Energy |

-The Star-

GEORGE TOWN: Efforts by Malaysia to adopt energy efficiency measures are fairly limited as energy in the country is still cheap.

Greenest Person on the Planet 2008 award winner Matthias Gelber said yesterday Malaysians were having it easy as energy rates here were subsidised by the Government.

“The challenge now is how the Malaysian Government can increase the rates but minimise the problems on the social impact. Surprisingly, the most energy efficient countries in the world are the ones who are the biggest energy consumers,” he told reporters after delivering a talk entitled “Building Green Cities & Green Live” at the Green Solutions Conference 10 at the Penang International Sports Arena on Saturday.

The conference was part of the three-day Green Solutions Tradeshow, which started on Thursday, showcasing various green technologies for business communities.

Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry senior undersecretary Mohd Rosli Abdullah, who represented Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin, opened the event.

Gelber said there was no major initiative to bring together everyone such as Tenaga Nasional Bhd, the government and NGOs to formulate a massive campaign such as a 1Malaysia energy efficiency campaign.

The German environmental entrepreneur who has been living in Malaysia for the past six years, also said the Green Building technology in Malaysia was increasing due to encouraging tax rebates for the technology.

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Sarawak Minister: Take care of environment first

Posted on March 29, 2010. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

Bernama-SIBU: All local authorities in the state have been reminded to ensure that any economic activity carried out should not be at the expense of the environment.

State Minister of Environment and Public Health Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh said this was vital for the well-being of future generations.

“We need to reconcile economic development with environmental protection,” he said at the annual dinner of the Sibu Municipal Council Sports Club, here, Sunday night. Wong said the local authorities in the state had a very important role to play in this respect.

“With rapid development taking place, we have to always ensure our cities and towns remain clean, hygienic, beautiful and green,” he said.

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Heavy rains hit Sabah after long dry spell

Posted on March 29, 2010. Filed under: Climate Change |

– The Star-

KOTA KINABALU: Heavy rains hit most parts of Sabah raising hope that the El Nino-triggered long dry spell was coming to end.

However, meteorologists remained cautious about declaring the dry spell over despite the heavy rains experienced over the last week over many parts of Sabah.

Sabah Meteorological Department director Abdul Malik Tussin said that the current rains in the west coast of the state was due to wind convergence in the South China Sea.

“The rains is just a relief in the current dry spell, we don’t expect it to continue for long,” he said when contacted Monday.

Malik, whose team studied the current weather pattern, maintained their view that the El Nino dry spell would continue till April.

“We do not see the end of the current El Nino dry spell,” he said, adding that rains were expected in May and June when the current dry northeast monsoon changes to south west monsoon commonly termed as the inter monsoon period.

Over the past week, various parts of Sabah experienced heavy rains helping to douse bush fires reported in many parts of the state.

A spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Services Department here said that they were no longer receiving calls to attend to bush fires over the last 24 hours as compared to over 20 calls a day during the peak of the dry spell in February and March.

The rains, particularly in water catchments are also bringing relief to officials at State Water Department who anticipate that the rains had eased, to a certain extent, concerns over drying up rivers.

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Sabah’s Sustainable Forest Management And Conservation Continues

Posted on March 26, 2010. Filed under: Ecology |

(Bernama) — The Sabah Government is continuing its cooperation with the Global Forestry Services (Malaysia) to conserve and manage the forest in the state, through sustainable development.

Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said through the five-year cooperation, the company would be entrusted to check and monitor 11 forest areas in Kalabakan, Beluran, Tongod and Sipitang, comprising 164,000ha of land.

“The effort is part of the initiatives taken to reduce the effects of forest-clearing activities in the state,” he said at the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the state government and Global Forestry Services here Friday.

Mannan signed the MoU on behalf of the state government while Global Forestry Services was represented by its director, Kevin T. Grace.

This is the second MoU signed by the two parties concerning forest management after the first involving Malua Forest Reserve in 2007.

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Malaysian palm oil firm denies clearing rainforests

Posted on March 26, 2010. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

(Reuters) – Malaysia’s second-largest planter IOI Corp (IOIB.KL) dismissed claims by a green group that it cleared rainforests on Borneo island to expand oil palm estates, saying the report was inaccurate.

IOI Corp said on Friday it conducted its own investigations and held a dialogue with Friends of the Earth group, which published a report last week looking at how the planter was expanding estates on the Indonesian side of the island.

The report alleged the planter was enroaching into rainforests, draining peatlands and practicing open burning, which leads to vast amounts of global warming emissions getting released.

That prompted one of IOI’s key customers, Neste Oil (NES1V.HE) to say it will carry out its own investigations on the planter that supplies Finnish refiner’s biofuel plants in Europe. [ID:[nSGE62N01P]

“It has been established that Friends of the Earth’s field research had been highly selective and limited, and that several incidents on which allegations were based were incorrectly reported,” IOI said in a statement on its website.

“IOI Corporation is also not involved in any open burning activities and as part of its zero-burning policy, it is monitoring and preventing third-party burning activities on its concessions.”

The planter also said, without going into the details, that it had set up a clear action list and timeframe to address Friends of the Earth’s remaining concerns.

IOI owns 80,000 hectares of land in Indonesia, mostly in Kalimantan province in Borneo.

Green groups are scrutinising Indonesian and Malaysian planters on their expansion activities and pressurising top palm oil buyers to halt contracts with errant suppliers as food and fuel demand for the vegetable oil grows this year.

Buyers like Unilever (UNc.AS) (ULVR.L) and Nestle have cut ties with Indonesia’s top planter Sinar Mas after a Greenpeace report said the firm felled forests.

Agribusiness giant Cargill could be the next to censure the Indonesian planter

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