Archive for May, 2010

Right to trade palm oil products ‘earned’

Posted on May 31, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity, Forestry/Wetlands |

-NST- TRADE in palm oil products should not be victimised by legislation in the European Union (EU), and in Australia, arising from the Western anti-palm oil campaigns, said the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) chief executive officer.

Tan Sri Yusof Basiron said that such legislation would be seen as a trade protection measure, which could force the affected countries to relatiate.

Malaysia’s above average performance in habitat conservation of the orang utan and in greenhouse gas emission (GHG), as well as being a net sequester of carbon, deserves recognition, he said.

“We have earned our right to trade. We should not be asked to clean the mess (GHG emission) of developed countries,” Yusof said in addressing the International Palm Oil Sustainability Conference in Kota Kinabalu recently.

He cited the refusal of Russia, a world leader in timber production and export, to comply with the EU-certified timber scheme.

Likewise, palm oil should not be singled out for sustainability compliance unless other competing oils are also subjected to similar requirements.

GHG emission is not an issue as Malaysia is a net carbon sink country with more than 82 per cent tree cover provided by permanent forests and plantation crops, including oil palms, rubber, cocoa and coconuts.

Yusof said the Western non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should focus on campaigning for the reduction of GHG emission in their own countries, for instance, closing polluting coal mines.

“How is it that the UK produces 18 million tonnes of coal per year and the NGOs do not seem to notice the GHG emitted but they can detect burning of a few hectares of forest for agricultural conversion in Indonesia 10,000 km away?”

He pointed out that 66 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted a year from 18 million tonnes of coal produced in the UK was equivalent to deforestation of 378,000ha of degraded rainforests.

“This is more than double the yearly expansion of oil palm cultivation in Malaysia which in the past involved deforestation of degraded forest land zoned for agriculture.”

Yusof warned that the Western-orchestrated palm oil campaigns could drive small oil palm growers in Indonesia and Malaysia to poverty even as the industry has been trying to raise the earnings of those in Indonesia to US$20 (RM66) a day from US$2 (RM6.62) currently.

The dangers of global warming should not be used to stifle oil palm expansion unless other GHG emitters in the developed countries are equally focused on mitigating GHG emission, such as taking steps to shut down their coal mines.

On the Sarawak peat paradigm, Ramesh Veloo, Paimin Selamat and Shahrir Abdul Aziz from Tradewinds Plantation Bhd listed zero burning, good water management and palm nutrition as important elements to consider in planting oil palm trees in peat soil.

Sarawak has the highest distribution of peat in the country at 64 per cent of the total of 2.58 million hectares.

According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, 400,000ha of oil palm in the country is on peat land out of a total oil palm area of 750,000ha in Sarawak.

Tradewinds has 75,000ha of oil palm in Sarawak, with the crop grown in both mineral soil and peat soil.

//

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Crisis After Crisis Only Made Palm Oil Emerge Stronger

Posted on May 31, 2010. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-Bernama-

The palm oil industry has faced a string of crisis in the past with the major one being the attack by various quarters against palm oil in the 1980s on health and nutritional grounds.

Malaysia managed the crises very well judging from the industry’s spectacular growth with palm oil exports, of about four million tonnes then, growing by many folds to 18 million tonnes last year.

The potential crisis looming now for the industry is the use of palm oil to develop biofuel energy with the attack now focused on sustainability.

We may think that this is not a major issue for palm oil as 90 per cent of the commodity is used for food, not for biofuel.

However, we must remind ourselves that the would-be ramifications can go beyond this and we cannot ignore it.

Gernot Pehnelt, a research associate at the German-based European Centre for International Political Economy, says imposition of the sustainability requirement would most likely extend beyond biofuel uses to food, the mainstay of the palm oil industry.

Pehnelt, who recently attended the International Palm Oil Sustainability Conference in Kota Kinabalu, said Malaysia must take advantage of any market opportunity for palm oil, including its use as biofuel, to support future higher palm oil production.

Ironically, oil palm cultivation has always been blamed for widespread deforestation that destroys biodiversity, degrades ecosystems, emits greenhouse gases and carbon which contributes to climate change and traps workers in inequitable working conditions.

To the NGOs, deforestation in developing countries should be stopped at all costs but by doing so, it will stifle development and create poverty in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Sustainability and carbon issues can be linked to palm oil price.

The market perception which labelled palm oil as “unsustainable” and involving “high carbon intensity” will have economic implications that is high price discounts of palm oil vis-a-vis other vegetable oils.

It can ultimately result in income foregone for the plantation companies and export earnings loss for Malaysia.

Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) CEO Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron, who also attended the two-day conference, did not mince his words when he accused Western NGOs of committing a sin.

“For developing countries, to ask them to stop developing is a sin. Who are they? Are they God to tell them to stop developing when they themselves went through the same process a long time ago.

“The NGOs are churning out lies and Malaysia and other oil palm producing countries must continue to produce facts for the truth to prevail,” he said.

Malaysia has 56 per cent under permanent natural forest cover while developed nations, on the other hand, have less than 30 per cent and claim to protect the already protected orang utans, but no funding is contributed for initiatives to protect them.

Dr Yusof said zoos in New Zealand and Australia are guilty of confining orang utans under cold and non-tropical climates and they should start thinking of releasing them back to the wild.

“Of course, the orang utans will not complain of being held captive by the zoos. How can they? If only they can speak up,” he lamented.

In Malaysia, the MPOC, in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department and Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort, has established a RM20 million wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre in Sabah to care for the orang utans.

Sprawled over 100,000 hectares of rainforest, the centre will have 10,000 hectares of nucleus with rehabilitation and release function for orang utans and other wildlife.

This just goes to show that the Malaysian oil palm industy cares for orang utans and the environment. Perhaps, the Western NGOs should come forward and contribute funds for the mega sanctuary.

When are these NGOs going to wake up to the reality of the day and ask themselves what they really want and why they are not doing something for themselves to meet their own objective.

It is clear that the campaign against palm oil in the European Union and Australia is motivated by trade protection intention, judging from the fact that independent studies have found that palm oil gives one of the best emission savings compared with competing biofuels.

Data on soyoil’s emission savings levels have been withheld as the figures are worst than expected. Isn’t this in favour of soya which is produced in the EU and the USA?.

How is it 33 million tonnes of carbon emitted from coal mines in the United Kingdom annually, contributing to global warming, goes undetected by the NGOs?

Malaysia is not resting on its laurels but is constantly gathering scientific evidence to favour palm oil in the environmental debate.

The lack of alternative large sources of oils and fats also favours palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia to remain the major source of supply to the world market.

Although habitat conservation and greenhouse gas emission are non-issues for the Malaysian palm oil industry, Malaysia cannot be complacent.

It must anticipate and continue to manage this crisis as it has in the past to remain competitive and relevant.

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EU lawmakers to look into palm oil discrimination claims

Posted on May 31, 2010. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-NST- European Union (EU) lawmakers are increasingly convinced that Malaysia is on the same path as the EU on the sustainability of palm oil production, but would need more scientific data to support Malaysia’s case.

Dan Jorgensen, who is the vice-chair of the environment, public health and food safety committee in the European Parliament, has promised to bring Malaysia’s case on its discrimination versus other oils in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

“We don’t want any discrimination at all of the palm oil sector, and we promised the industry here to help have discussions with the EU on this,” he said.

Jorgensen, who was in Malaysia last week with two other Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Martin J. Callanan and Ole K. Christensen, were impressed with the work undertaken by the government and the palm oil industry and the sustainability efforts.

“People there don’t know how efficient an oil it (palm oil) is. I wasn’t aware myself how much oil you can get per hectare compared with other oils – in that way it is discriminated against,” he added.

Oil palms on the average produce 2.5 times more oil per ha than rapeseed.

According to the RED which will come into force in December this year, biofuels must have greenhouse gas savings of at least 35 per cent and according to EU’s calculation, the use of palm oil-based biodiesel failed the requirement as it achieved only 19 per cent.

“We promise to look into the discrimination (claim) and, if there is, we’ll do anything in our powers to change it. The numbers would need to be accurate and based on scientific data,” said Jorgensen.

A social democrat MEP who hails from Denmark, Jorgensen said the EU is committed to the sustainability criteria as it helps mitigate problems of greenhouse gases, climate change, global warming and also biodiversity.

“We’re happy to hear that the industry acknowledges and respects it. They have been discussing how it can become more competitive on the sustainability criteria.”

Jorgensen also suggested that the palm oil industry considers making entrapment of methane gas mandatory to increase the energy efficiency of Malaysia.

Palm oil mills are currently encouraged to trap methane gas from palm oil mill effluent.

“We are convinced that the industry has been doing a lot and we expect it will proceed to become more sustainable because palm oil is important for biofuel as well as oil for food,” he said.

The parliamentarians recognised that palm oil has been the largest contributor of wealth in the country and lends bigger potential compared to the other edible oils.

Christensen also lauded the Malaysian government and the industry for their achievements in bringing the people out of the poverty bracket and also providing employment, especially in the Felda smallholder schemes.

“Palm oil is not a bad thing as is being perceived by many people in Europe. We are gratified that Malaysia has strict laws in place to make sure no more rainforests are destroyed and expansion is on agriculture land,” said Callanan.

Callanan also does not expect Malaysia to be affected by the RED in the short term as the use of palm oil for biofuel is still very small.

Malaysia’s ambassador to the EU, Hussein Haniff, who also attended the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, said more outreach programmes were necessary to enable the EU lawmakers to be convinced that Malaysia is not clearing rainforests to grow oil palm.

There is also the tendency to lump both Malaysia and Indonesia, the top two producers of palm oil, together.

“We want an equal playing field and they are willing to take up on the verification of scientific data. From what we know, they have outdated data.

“In the process of review, if they find the default value is not 19 per cent, then it will be good for us to be on par with the other oils,” said Hussein. //

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Uggah orders coastline to be cleared of oil by Wednesday

Posted on May 31, 2010. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Star- KOTA TINGGI: Little progress has been made in containing the oil slick caused after two vessels collided off the coast of Singapore and preventing it from reaching local shores.

And Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas is not happy about it.

He has ordered the polluted coastlines to be cleared within three days.

Blackened beach: Villagers from Pengerang cleaning up oil washed up on their shores recently.

In taking the relevant authorities to task yesterday, he said they should have taken immediate preventive measures to contain the oil spill after the incident which released 2,000 tonnes of crude oil last Monday..

“The oil spill was detected on Monday, but until now there has been very little progress in containment here,” he said during a meeting with officials from various departments including the Kota Tinggi district office, Department of Environment (DOE) and Petroleum Industry of Malaysia Mutual Aid Group (PIMMAG).

Douglas said that in times of emergencies, there should be very little protocol so that swift action can be taken.

He also told officials during the meeting that the standard operating procedures of various agencies needed to be reviewed to ensure that such problems do not arise again.

He added that the ministry would make claims from the vessels’ insurers for funds to help some of the 1,400 fishermen whose livelihood have been affected by the incident.

Later when speaking to reporters, he expressed confidence that the oil pollution problem in the area would be solved soon.

In a statement yesterday, the DOE said 200 people were involved in the clean-up work at affected shores with 18,911 litres of sludge being collected.

It added that up to 11am yesterday, the affected shores were Tg. Ayam, Sg. Rengit, Sg. Musuh and Sg. Haji Ahmad.

“Cleaning-up work is still ongoing,” it said.

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More crews to clear sludge

Posted on May 31, 2010. Filed under: Pollution |

-NST-

KOTA TINGGI: The remaining crude oil sludge on the shores of Pengerang is expected to be cleared by Wednesday.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said more personnel from agencies such as the Environment and Marine departments and private cleaning crews had been deployed to clean up the beaches since Thursday.

The oil spillage followed a collision between Malaysian-registered MT Bunga Kelana 3 tanker with bulk carrier, MV Waily, in Singapore waters last Tuesday.
The impact of the collision caused 2,500 tonnes of crude oil to spill from a gash on the double hauled tanker’s port side.

The oil slicks reached the coastal areas here two days later.

Douglas said about eight tonnes of sludge were collected between Thursday and yesterday.
Local fishermen, who were unable to go out to sea following the incident, were helping out and they were paid about RM50 a day.

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Malaysia introducing tough new wildlife laws

Posted on May 31, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

– Mongabay.com- By the end of the year, Malaysia will begin enforcing its new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 including stiffer penalties for poaching and other wildlife-related crimes, such as first time punishments for wildlife cruelty and zoos that operate without license.

Dr. William Schaedla, the director of the wildlife-trade monitoring group TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, told mongabay.com that “the new law represents the first major revamp of the national wildlife law in over 30 years.” The bill will replace the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.

To better combat ongoing poaching problems in the Southeast Asian country, penalties have been boosted: killing a Sumatran rhino, a Malay tiger, a clouded leopard, or any protected wildlife will now bring a maximum fine of RM 100,000 (31,000 US dollars) and five years in jail or both if they are female or young. The maximum fine drops to RM 50,000 (15,500 US dollars) for male animals. In addition, for the first time setting snares, hunting, or keeping certain species captive—such as rhinos and tigers—comes with mandatory jail time.


A Bornean rhino, a subspecies of the Sumatran rhino, in captivity in Borneo. Researchers believe there are only some 250 Sumatran rhinos left. Photo by: Jeremy Hance.

“There are areas where the law could be much better organized and tightened, but as it stands, this bill is a vast improvement on the existing law,” says Schaedla. “This is because it shows greater recognition of current threats facing wildlife and addresses problems that have plagued enforcement agencies trying to protect wildlife.”

For example, the bill also expands protection to more species, including the Asian elephant. Before this new bill, the elephant was considered by Malaysian law as a ‘game animal’.

According to the IUCN Red List the Sumatran rhino is Critically Endangered, while the Malay tiger and the Asian elephant are listed as Endangered. These three species are most threatened by poaching, although habitat loss has played a large role in both their historic and ongoing declines. The two clouded leopard species, only recently split into two by taxonomists, are both considered Vulnerable. Although less a poaching target than the other species, clouded leopards are still killed for their coats.

Schaedla says that the success of the new bill in protecting these species will largely depend on implementation. Many countries have stiff penalties for poaching and strong wildlife laws, but fail to catch poachers or punish them with much more than a slap on the wrist.

“How well the new penalties work will depend entirely on how successful enforcement agencies are in bringing poachers and other wrongdoers to justice,” Schaedla explains. “The judiciary system must treat wildlife offences as a criminal offence. Offenders must be held liable and be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. For endangered species to be protected, it must be made clear that poaching does not pay.”

Schaedla also says that more needs to be done to infiltrate poaching networks: “[Malaysia] should invest more in intelligence led investigations for more effective enforcement. […] More checks at known hotspots throughout the country, at sites that are known to be used as entry-exit points for smuggling wildlife, is needed. To do this, all enforcement agencies—police, customs, army—must work together.”

Given that it has taken over thirty years for a new wildlife bill, Shaedla adds that the government should look more frequently at its wildlife trade laws to deal with new situations as they arise.

TRAFFIC is a conservation organization devoted to monitoring the global wildlife trade, encouraging sustainability, and ending illegal trade in species or species’ parts.

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Forest Conservation: Don’t let law of the jungle ruin forests

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

-NST-

WAS surprised to read the report from Datuk Dr Baharuddin Ghazali, a council member and past president of the Institute of Foresters, Malaysia, that we have lost two million ha out of 19 million ha Class V state land previously earmarked as Permanent Reserve Forest over the past 15 years.

According to the report, because of the lack of professionals such as environmental chemists, geologists, scientists and hydrologists, our ability to conserve the forests has been hampered.

Humans started clearing forests 10,000 years ago for cultivation and was this accelerated by the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. The greed for economic development has caused forests to be converted into agricultural land, industrial estates, towns and so on.
With the lack of professionals to care for forest health and the desire to accelerate production, forests are not conserved.

There must be mechanisms in place to manage, monitor, evaluate and implement policies on the ground. Otherwise, the international community will accuse us of not implementing the policies we devise.

Transparency and accountability should be the rule. Failure to observe this will lead to conflict. We should not allow development to proceed at such a pace that we lose our soul in the process.
K.T. MARAN
Seremban, Negri Sembilan

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Taiwan’s AUO, US’ SunPower to invest solar plant in M’sia

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

-AFP- TAIPEI : AU Optronics, one of Taiwan’s leading flat screen manufacturers, said Friday it had joined up with US-based SunPower to build a solar cell plant in Malaysia.

The company’s board of directors approved the decision on Thursday to invest US$350 million for a 50 per cent stake in the joint venture, it said in a statement.

The plant is expected to start commercial operation in the fourth quarter of 2010 with a maximum output of 1.4 gigawatts, it added.

A company official said Malaysia was chosen for its good investment environment, which has also attracted other international companies such as First Solar.

SunPower is the largest manufacturer of residential and commercial solar systems in the United States and a market leader in Germany, Italy and Spain.

Taiwan has estimated its solar energy industry will be worth up to NT$200 billion (US$6.25 billion) by 2020.

The parliament last year passed a major renewable energy bill aimed at adding between 6,500 and 10,000 megawatts of installed energy from renewable sources over the next 20 years.

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Government initiatives needed to boost green tech

Posted on May 28, 2010. Filed under: Energy |

-The Star- HIGH installation costs and lack of government initiatives is hampering the design of sustainable buildings and civil works in Malaysia.

Malaysian Society for Engineering and Technology chairman Prof Datuk Abang Abdullah Abang Ali said there might be a lot of enthusiasm, but green initiatives were just starting in the country.

Speaking at a press conference to promote the Fourth World Engineering Congress to be held in Kuching, Abang Abdullah said that Government policies should encourage more public participation.

He cited solar energy as an example, saying that Malaysia’s energy sector should adopt buy-back programmes similar to that of Australia’s.

“Houses with solar panels that generate surplus electricity should be able to sell back to the national grid,” he said.

Abang Abdullah said the lack of installation of solar panels was largely due to the difficulty in storing the electricity produced.

“Certainly, it’s difficult to store electricity at home. You wouldn’t want too many batteries at your house, but the Government can come in on this.

“If you can sell back your energy to the national grid, then people will naturally adopt more green technologies.”

In Australia, the buy-back programme has encouraged many homes, schools, community centres and other public buildings to install solar panels as a source of revenue.

He noted that sustainable living awareness was fragmented in Malaysia, adding: “In Kuala Lumpur, there is a lot of enthusiasm, but elsewhere, it’s lower. Through the congress, we hope to rectify this.”

Meanwhile, Infrastructure Development Assistant Minister Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman, who was present at the press conference as guest of honour, said that high cost was another impeding factor.

“Right now, it is too expensive,” said Daud, a trained engineer.

“This is the main problem. In Sarawak, we are trying. If you look at the extension of the Kuching Waterfront, we incorporated green technologies, but more can be done once costs come down,” he added.

The adoption of green technologies has become a talking point globally.

Federation of Engineering Institutions in Islamic Countries deputy president Associate Professor Megat Johari Megat Mohd Noor said that Malaysia could not escape climate change.

“Climate change that is accelerated by human activity anywhere in the world will have an impact on Malaysia as well,” Johari said.

“Just because Malaysia is free from most natural disasters, it doesn’t mean that we won’t be affected in some way.”

Johari said the Government should adopt a carbon-trading programme.

Carbon trading is where high-polluting countries pay towards less-polluting countries to conserve the environment.

Since the early part of this decade, Papau New Guinea has been earning revenue from rich countries by preserving its rainforests.

“Climate-change problems are no longer localised. Malaysia has to play its role in balancing global pollution,” he added.

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‘No plastic bags on Mondays’ drive

Posted on May 27, 2010. Filed under: Waste |

– Daily Express-  Kota Kinabalu: City Hall together with six districts and one sub-district in the West Coast aims to reduce the use of plastic bags through a “No Plastic Bag On Mondays” campaign beginning next month.

Those who cannot do without such bags will be chared 10 sen per bag at participating supermarkets, retail shops and hypermarkets every Monday.

The money collected from the plastic bag sales would go towards funding environmental activities.

City Hall Director-General Yeo Boon Hai said the campaign is being organised to cut the prevalance of plastic bags which account for about 35 per cent of the rubbish collected here.

He said City Hall would take the lead while the other districts – Penampang, Putatan, Papar, Kota Belud, Ranau and sub-district Tamparuli – would follow suit in stages.

Yeo said the campaign would be simultaneously launched with an event to recognise Tanjung Aru township as a “Green and Litter-Free Town” on June 7 in conjunction with the celebration of World Environment Day on June 5.

“City Hall has taken the challenge to reduce the use of plastic bags by making every Monday a day with no plastic bags at selected supermarkets, retail shops and hypermarkets here that have volunteered to join us in this noble bid.

“City Hall took the initiative together with the Environmental Action Committee (EAC) to set up a committee to promote the move.

As a result, 23 trading premises like supermarkets, retail shops and hypermarkets are joining us and the operators will sell each plastic bag for 10 sen or more, every Monday, to consumers who do not bring their own bag to carry their groceries,” he told a press conference, Wednesday.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun would launch the two events at Sunny Supermarket in Tanjung Aru at 10.30am on June 7.

Yeo said the 23 trading premises have been giving full support to join the campaign and agreed to give the money raised from the sales of plastic bags to the EAC coffers for the purpose of carrying out various environment and cleanliness projects or activities.

“EAC will provide about 500 coin boxes to these trading premises and about 100 reusable bags will be distributed to each premise to be given free to their customers.

“We are targeting to achieve zero coin box during the campaign as it would mean people are not buying the plastic bags to carry their groceries and they will begin a habit of bringing their own bags when shoppingÉthat is what we hope for,” he said.

Yeo noted a similar campaign was carried out in Selangor, Penang and Miri with Selangor collecting about RM30,000 in three months from the sale of plastic bags from the participating trading premises.

Selangor carries out the campaign once a week on Saturdays while Penang and Miri have increased it to three times a week.

He said the campaign is not about banning the use of plastic as it would be impossible because plastic is also used for good purposes like for medical uses, domestic and other industries.

For example, he said his son will undergo heart surgery and they are considering either using a valve made from plastic that will last long but his son has to take medication to avoid blood clots or using animal valve that will last only 10 years and needs to be replaced.

Yeo also called on other trading premises here to join the campaign or take the initiative to have their own “no plastic bags” campaign and that they could produce their own reusable bags to enhance public awareness.

In recognising Tanjung Aru as a ‘Green and Litter-Free Town’, Yeo said such recognition is a first in the country.

He said it is also a continuous effort through the anti-litterbug campaign that has been implemented since May 2008 by City Hall.

So far, he said a total of 17 zones have been recognised as litter-free zones including several schools, government offices, private offices, banks, shopping complexes, resorts, condominiums and higher learning institutions.

In conjunction with the event, Yeo said the beautification and landscaping of Tanjung Aru town has been upgraded and improved as well as public infrastructures and building owners have voluntarily re-painted their buildings green to make the town look green.

He added that City Hall enforcement personnel would be wearing plain clothes at Tanjung Aru town to fine litterbugs between RM10 and RM20 per offence.

Among those present were City Hall deputy director (operation) Joannes Solidau, City Hall director for health and city service department Robert Lipon, Sabah Environment Action Committee’s Zahrah Yaacob, Environment Protection Department (EPD) director Yabi Angkat who is also EAC deputy chairman and Miss Malaysia Earth 2009 Mandy Nandu.

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