Archive for June, 2010

Rethink going nuclear

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

-Free Malaysia Today-

By Hilary Chiew

COMMENT So Malaysia is planning for a nuclear power plant as an alternative source of energy, given that the country’s oil and gas supplies are expected to dry up soon.

Advocators for the country’s first nuclear reactor capable of powering houses and businesses by 2025 are saying that it is necessary, safe and good for the climate.

Worldwide, proponents for a nuclear renaissance has seized on the climate change scourge to push their agenda further. But their carbon-neutral argument has since long been debunked.

However, that hasn’t stopped this misinformation from being propagated here. Their counterparts in Malaysia argued like-wise.

Since the government’s announcement in May of its plan to go nuke, opponents of nuclear energy had put forward their arguments convincingly. Safety has been their paramount concern, and rightly so given the deadly impacts on health and environment in the event of accidents.

Responses from the government have been less than reassuring, especially when Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Peter Chin has from the onset declared “no point engaging (with stakeholders)” and that the government would only discuss with local communities of the to-be-selected site.

Nevertheless, he paradoxically said “there must be a sincere debate on energy security”.

I totally agree with the minister. And I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt that he has yet to familiarise himself with the Renewable Energy Policy that his ministry has drafted and is expected to turn into a law.

In fact, the ensuing public outcry highlighted by both mainstream and alternative media has also got Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to “rethink” public consultation on this matter as shown on his 1Malaysia blog.

As consumers of energy and Malaysian growing awareness on environment viz-a-viz climate change, it is only appropriate that the government engage the public in a meaningful manner.

RE-al commitment

Malaysia has already recognised renewable energy (RE) as a potential source to diversify its energy mix since the Eight Malaysia Plan. The same vision was repeated in the following five-year development blueprint, albeit, scaled down.

Policy on renewables remains on paper with little attention given to serious research and development, hence the excuse that RE is expensive and unreliable. How often have we heard that solar energy is still in its infancy and not economically viable?

In 2006, in a joint report with Greenpeace, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association concluded that PV technology has advanced by leaps and bounds thanks to competition and serious investment that take the cue from strong political framework in countries like Germany. As a result, solar power has become a serious contender in the electricity market — able to provide low-cost, clean, carbon emission-free energy. It predicted that two billion households worldwide could be powered by solar energy by 2025.

Ironically, some of those PV panels are coming from the two world-class PV production plants in Malaysia.

So, when Malaysia derives electricity for the first time from a nuclear reactor, the rest of the world, including developing countries like China, are already embracing a cleaner and sustainable energy source.

Solar energy is the true renewable unlike nuclear which, although it does not emit carbon dioxide, leaves behind a toxic legacy and not to mention that uranium, the feedstock for nuclear reactor, is a finite raw material.

Policy incoherence

But do we really need the energy from nuclear as we are actually enjoying a surplus according to figures provided by Chin himself? He said current electricity consumption is 14,000 megawatt (MW) but we have an installed capacity of 23,000 MW. That gives Malaysia an extremely comfortable margin as the government’s target is only 20%.

How about the energy that is expected to be generated from renewable sources that are already in the government’s plan?

In the run-up to the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen last year, Malaysia boldly announced its 40% emission intensity reduction, which means that it will strive to reduce carbon emission for every unit of gross domestic production. Subsequently, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has drawn up its plan to achieve that goal through energy efficiency and taking into account the pending RE programmes.

There will be incentives for industries to beef up their energy efficiencies, households to participate in the feed-in tariff system (where buildings installed with PV panels capture and convert the solar energy and relay the electricity to the grid) as well as a waste segregation scheme to prevent the built-up of methane in the landfills.

(Methane is a potent greenhouse gas arising from decomposition of organic materials such as kitchen waste that made up more than 50% of a typical household waste stream that currently find its way to the landfills.)

Up until now, Malaysia seems to be moving in the right paths in realising the prime minister’s vision of transforming Malaysia into a global green revolution leader.

With surplus energy, a renewable energy policy that will contribute significantly to the nation’s energy supplies in the near future coupled with enormous potential for growth; and conceivable reduction of energy consumption in public, private, commercial and industrial buildings – one needs to ask if there is room for a nuclear power plant.

Perverse incentive

It’s good to know that the government is finally coming to grips with market pricing to reflect the actual costs of fossil fuel in the 10th Malaysia Plan that was launched recently. As we all know, oil and gas are heavily subsidised by the public coffer.

While criticisms had been levelled at the general public who resist any hike in petroleum or diesel prices (in the absence of an efficient public transport system), what is less talked about is the huge chunk of taxpayers’ money channelled to subsidise natural gas used by the many independent power producers (IPPs).

The power generated by these IPPs is contributing to the surplus energy and they are reaping huge profits from the lop-sided power purchase agreement at the expense of Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), the country’s main power distributor.

(An Energy Commission’s analysis in 2006 showed that the power sector was paying RM6.40 per MBTU [million British Thermal Unit] when the market price was RM26.43.)

Perhaps if TNB can cut its losses from paying exorbitant power (which it doesn’t need anyway) generated by the IPPs, it can fund serious research in solar, wind and biogas. And the government can divert the subsidies for IPPs to instead incentivise the installation of PV panels on individual rooftops.

After all, if a temperate country like Germany can be the first country to launch a successful feed-in tariff system, there is no reason why Malaysia can’t do it.

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Sabah adamant on keeping its wildlife

Posted on June 29, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star- KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will not budge from its stand that the state’s wildlife should remain in its natural habitat and not sent out to zoos.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said it would be irresponsible to relocate iconic wildlife such as the proboscis monkeys, Borneo pygmy elephants and orang utan.

“Moving them elsewhere will compromise the animals’ survival chances outside their home,” he told reporters on Monday evening after receiving a courtesy call from the Chinese International Travel Service United from China here.

“We may consider some animals but to ask for the iconic animals from Sabah is really out of the question.”

Masidi stressed that it was not a case of Sabah not wanting to give the animals but because they wanted to keep them in their natural habitat.

“Sabah understands the special needs of these animals, so it will be irresponsible for us to send them out of the state knowing that their chances of survival will be very much compromised,” he added.

He was responding to a statement by Malaysian Zoological Association president Ismail Hutson who had said that Zoo Negara visitors would be able to view more exotic wildlife from Sabah as preparation was underway to receive the Borneo pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, orang utan and hornbills.

Masidi said there has been no official request from the association or other parties pertaining to the matter.

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Regulations required

Posted on June 29, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

– The Star-

IN Malaysia, there are currently no laws to regulate the treatment and use of animals in labs. There is the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 which requires anyone using animals that fall under its purview to obtain permits from the Wildlife and National Parks Department.

There is also the Animal Act 2006 which empowers the Veterinary Services Department to act against animal abuse. But the penalties are insignificant: a fine of RM200 and/or imprisonment for a term of six months. The animals involved may be seized by the officers of the department.

According to the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), there is a European directive governing the use of animals in experiments, which is currently being revised. BUAV communications and special projects director Sarah Kite says they are disappointed with the review of an outdated piece of legislation.

The European Union (EU) bans animal testing for cosmetic purposes within the EU. It also has a partial marketing ban on the sale of cosmetics which have been tested on animals.

Kite says a full marketing ban is due to come into effect in 2013.

She notes though that the British legislation is considered the strictest in the world. In Britain, experiments are governed by The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 which is implemented by the Home Office (HO), a government department.

An animal experiment requires three different licences: A licence for the laboratory to carry out animal experiments; a licence for the person overseeing the experiment, with details of the number and species of animals to be used and details of the experiment; a personal licence for every researcher involved in the experiment.

“Before licensing an experiment, the HO is suppose to weigh a number of issues, including a cost/benefit test. This assesses the welfare cost to the animal against the perceived benefit of the experiment,” explains Kite.

There are a number of government inspectors who inspect the laboratories. There is also a code of practice which specifies how animals in laboratories should be housed and cared for.

In 1997, the British Government banned the use of animals for testing cosmetics, developing offensive weapons, and for alcohol and tobacco products.

There is also a ban on the use of Great Apes. The British Government decided that it would be unethical to use such animals for research purposes due to their cognitive and behavioural characteristics and qualities.

The British Government recently pledged to end the use of animals to test household products such as floor cleaners, air fresheners, and the like.

In the United States, notes Kite, under the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act and Guide For The Care And Use Of Laboratory Animals published by the National Academy of Sciences, any procedure can be performed on an animal if it can be successfully argued that it is scientifically justified.

The coalition against the proposed animal-testing lab in Malacca comprises the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Selangor, BUAV and the European Coalition To End Animal Experiments.

The animal-testing facility is a joint venture between the Indian company Vivo Bio Tech and the Malacca state government-owned Melaka Biotech. The coalition speculates that the lab is based in Malaysia because of our non-existent laws concerning the use of animals, as opposed to the stringent laws in India.

In India, The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals Act 1960 imposes a small fine and/or imprisonment of up to three months. It also empowers the department concerned to set up a committee to monitor the use of animals for experimentation.

There is also the Breeding Of And Experiments On Animals (Control and Supervision) Rules, 1998, which stipulates that animal-testing is allowed only if they are no alternatives available. It also provides rules on how the animals are to be housed and treated, and contravention of its rules could result in the closing down of the facility.

Kite says that Malaysia should follow the example of India, the EU and the United States, and enact laws that require standards for animal care in the laboratory; that mandate pain relief and veterinary care; that require review by an animal ethics committee; that mandate the use of available alternatives to animals; and that dedicates money towards the development of non-animal test methods.

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Suffering in silence

Posted on June 29, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-Story by S.S. YOGA

Millions of animals are being poisoned, burned, infected and dissected in the course of research.

EVERY year, an estimated 115 million animals are used for research and experiments in the name of science. Some of the animals commonly used in tests include dogs, cats, rodents (rats, mice, guinea pigs and hamsters), rabbits, fruit flies, fish, birds, frogs and non-human primates such as the common Macaque, baboons, squirrel monkeys and marmosets.

Supporters argue that progress in modern medicine depended on animal testing, while animal rights activists vehemently question its legitimacy.

Closer home, we have our share of proponents who feel it is justified to use animals to serve our needs. Malacca chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam was quoted as saying that God created animals to be used by humans, and animals needed to be sacrificed in order to find vaccines and cures for diseases.

Almost brain-dead: This monkey in a lab in Utah, the United States, had holes bored into his head, titanium pins drilled into his skull, electrodes implanted in his brain, and a metal device attached to his head so he could be restrained during experiments.

The state’s proposed plans to set up an animal testing laboratory for its cancer and diabetic research centre in Rembia, Alor Gajah, created a public uproar.

Meanwhile, an animal lab in Seberang Prai, Penang, has come under the scrutiny of the Penang State Government. Progenix Research Sdn Bhd, which runs the animal testing laboratory in Bukit Mertajam, said in its website that it is an independent contract research organisation offering toxicology services.

While the use of animals in experiments has stirred raw emotions, let us take a closer look at what goes on in an animal testing lab.

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an international animal rights group, take us through a typical scenario. BUAV, the prime mover against animal testing in Britain, also gives accreditation for products not tested on animals.

Target: This cat, also in the Utah lab, had a hole bored into his skull and electrodes implanted in his brain.

According to BUAV veterinary advisor Dr Nedim Buyukmihci, there is no one situation that is representative, as it depends on what is being tested.

“If the lab was testing for toxicity of botulinum toxin (botox), one would find mice suffering from paralysis and respiratory distress. Unable to reach for food or water, they eventually die from suffocation.

“On the other hand, if the lab was testing the effects of a nerve poison such as soman, you would see monkeys in cages suffering from the extremely painful effects of this poison,” says Dr Buyuk­mihci, who is speaking from his experience as principal investigator for several large National Institute of Health-funded projects involving animals in the United States.

Dr Buyukmihci is now against using animals in research which harms them.

The species that is used, says Dr Buyukmihci, is dependent on the drug or situation being tested. In general, every drug is tested on at least one rodent species, a large mammal species such as a dog, and in a non-human primate species.

Rabbits held in stocks for testing.

The duration of the experiment varies. For tests on acute toxicity (the LD50 test), groups of animals are given different doses of the drug and allowed to suffer the side effects. Lethal doses are administered to determine which dose will kill half the animals. The test may last several days to see how many of the animals in each group die.

“The test to see if cancer is caused by a particular drug, may go on for months or years, depending on the species used,” explains Dr Buyuk­mihci via e-mail.

Den of suffering

PETA laboratory investigations vice-president Kathy Guillermo paints a gruesome picture of unspeakable suffering inside some animal testing facilities: scenes of animals being forced to inhale toxic fumes, have holes drilled into their skulls, have their skin burnt and their spinal cords crushed.

“Tiny mice grow tumours as large as their bodies, kittens are blinded, and rats made to suffer seizures. Experimenters force-feed pesticides to dogs and rub corrosive chemicals onto rabbits’ skin,” reveals Guillermo in an e-mail interview.

“In some experiments, animals are traumatised at an early age, and then allowed to grow for years to observe the effects of the early trauma in late life.

“You see thousands of animals confined in cages, socially isolated. Many of these animals exhibit symptoms of severe psychological trauma,” points out Guillermo, who has been with PETA for 21 years.

A pregnant mouse being injected with a chemical in a laboratory at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, the United States. – Reuterspic

As Dr Buyukmihci notes, the effects on the animals are manifold: ulcers on the stomach or intestinal tract, bleeding from various orifices, muscle cramps, paralysis resulting in the inability to reach for food or water, internal bleeding, pneumonia which makes breathing difficult, and organ damage.

BUAV communications and special projects director Sarah Kite has gone undercover at many of these animal testing facilities. She saw toxicity tests being administered to rats, mice and dogs.

“For the dogs, this could entail anything from dripping substances into their eyes twice a day, lacing their food with fungicides or insecticides, force-feeding of chemicals, drugs and household products in the form of gelatine capsules or via plastic tubes inserted into their stomach,” she details via e-mail.

Dogs were strapped in harness for up to eight hours a day, and chemicals pumped into their bloodstream to test for skin toxicity.

“I have witnessed beagles being pinned between the technician’s legs, their jaws forced open and toxic capsules pushed down their throats. The highly distressed dogs would often struggle to escape, and retch and regurgitate after the ordeal was over.”

Kite saw that many of the dogs were shaking visibly. She often found blood, vomit and signs of diarrhoea on the cage floors.

Among the tests they underwent were a gastro-intestinal toxicity test for an anti-arthritic drug already on the market; a repeated 30-day dermal toxicity test for a psoriasis skin cream which was applied on the dogs’ shaved backs which bore open, weeping sores; and an acute oral toxicity test for 13 weeks for a component of polypropylene food wrap (the dogs were force-fed gelatin capsules).

No relief

At an international contract testing laboratory in Germany, BUAV uncovered macaque monkeys being subjected to a distressing routine of blood sampling, forced oral dosing of chemicals and long periods restrained in “primate chairs” for the slow intravenous drip of chemical cocktails.

At another contract testing lab in Britain, BUAV found rabbits being used in pyrogen tests (a pyrogen is a fever-inducing agent). As part of the test, the rabbits could be starved for up to 30 hours. During the test, they are immobilised in stocks for several hours.

“The test substance is injected into an ear vein, sometimes resulting in damage to the ears. A temperature probe was inserted 7.5cm deep into the rectum and left for hours,” details Kite.

Some of the rabbits were killed at the end of the test, but others were returned to their cages to be re-used.

For toxicology tests, BUAV’s Dr Buyukmihci says no anaesthetics or pain relievers are given because it is believed that they would interfere with the results.

PETA’s Guillermo notes that the prevailing ethics at all vivisection laboratories is that science always comes before the welfare of the animals.

She says that some tests require “death as an endpoint,” that is, they wait for the animal to die a slow, painful death. Other animals are killed intentionally so that their tissues can be harvested and their bodies examined.

According to Dr Buyukmihci, animals that do not die from the effects of the tests will be killed.

“If the animals become very sick, they may be killed before the end of the test but only if it does not interfere with the results,” says Dr Buyukmihci.

Guillermo further explains that animals are often afflicted with an illness to observe the effects of the disease on their body. “After the experimenters have obtained the data they need, the animal will be euthanised.”

The animals are generally supplied to the labs by companies that breed them onsite for this purpose. Many primates are imported from the wild, often from wildlife dealers in Asia. And then the pain and suffering starts.

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Painless options

Posted on June 29, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-Stories by S.S. YOGA

A look at alternatives to animal-testing.

WE are often led to believe that the only way to make sure any product is safe for human use is to test it on animals first. The pain, suffering and death of these animals are but a price that has to be paid.

We are told that dogs, for instance, have similar cardiovascular and respiratory systems to humans. Cats’ neurological systems are apparently very much like that of man’s. And non-human primates are the closest relatives to Homo sapiens.

Choices: There are a number of viable alternatives to animal-testing, such as using human tissues, cell cultivation and the usage of micro-organisms.

But do we know that there are actually other means to conduct trials on products, be it for cosmetics, body care, pharmaceuticals, household products, or industrial and agricultural products? The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), an animal protection and advocacy group, and the Dr Hadwen Trust, a British-based charity that funds non-animal alternatives, outline some of the options available.

BUAV communications and special projects director Sarah Kite opines that non-animal alternatives for testing can be cheaper, quicker and more effective, besides being more humane.

Silicon chip technology

This allows rapid identification of genes whose activity changes in response to certain diseases and drugs. It can help identify whether a drug or chemical is going to be therapeutic or harmful.

Kite quotes the example of the Toxichip, a cell-based biosensor, that could replace animals in toxicity screening. It was developed by scientists at the Tyndall National Institute in Cork, Ireland, and acts as a sensing system that monitors the effects of substances on human and animal cells in culture.

Toxichip works by detecting the cellular responses that occur as a result of toxicity. It can be used to examine the overall toxic effect of individual chemicals and combinations of these chemicals in areas such as environmental protection, and drug development and design.

Cell cultures

It is possible to obtain human cells and tissues from biopsies, post-mortems, placentas, or as waste from surgery, and grow them in the laboratory. The cells behave more simplistically than in the living body, though. Cellular systems have been central to key research on cancer, sepsis, Parkinson’s disease, kidney disease and AIDS, and are routinely used in chemical safety testing, vaccine production, drug development, and diagnosis of disease.

It is important that human cells, rather than animal cells, are used for medical research, to avoid the problem of relating results from one species to another. To encourage the use of human tissue, the Dr Hadwen Trust helped establish the UK Human Tissue Bank at Leicester. The Trust has funded research using human cells and tissues to replace animal experiments on Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, rheumatism, cataract, allergies and meningitis.

Human tissues

As an extension to cell cultures, healthy and diseased tissues can be obtained from human volunteers following biopsies, surgery or death. Blood or urine samples can also be easily taken. Post-mortem brain tissue has provided important leads to understanding brain regeneration and the effects of multiple sclerosis.

One important alternative is the Reconstituted Human Epidermis (RHE) skin model (trade names: EpiSkin, Epiderm and SkinEthic). The reconstituted human skin is derived from donated, discarded skin from cosmetic surgery. The models are used to test the irritancy of chemicals and cosmetics on the skin. One model has recently been shown to be more effective than the original rabbit Draize skin test which it replaces.

Animal rights activists, including Miss Malaysia/World 2009 Thanuja Anandan, are against animal-testing.

Micro-organisms

Tests with simple micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, yeast and algae are being used as early indicators of chemicals likely to be harmful. They are often faster and cheaper than animal tests. Bacteria can be genetically manipulated to manufacture useful products such as human insulin and monoclonal antibodies which were previously obtained from animals.

Analytical technology

Technological advances have resulted in improved molecular methods for analysing and identifying new compounds and medicines. The Trust has provided analytical equipment to researchers selecting new anti-cancer and anti-malaria drugs based on their molecular interaction with human DNA.

Quantitative Structure/Activity Relationship programmes (QSARs)

These are computer programmes which can predict the toxicity of new chemicals or drugs based on their similarity to more established compounds.

The Trust has helped develop various computer models, including a model of the human placenta and foetus which assisted in the treatment of problems affecting unborn babies; and a model of the human jaw and teeth for dental research. These models are based on relevant human data and can be used to carry out simulated experiments, in place of experiments on animals.

The Trust has also supported work using mathematical modelling to improve cancer treatments, and to explore illnesses related to ageing.

Volunteer studies

One of the best ways to conduct medical research is by studying the human body. New scanning and imaging techniques are making it increasingly possible to conduct safe and ethical studies of human volunteers, where previously animals had been used.

The Trust projects have made use of a variety of sophisticated imaging techniques to non-invasively investigate the intact human body. These include using a Magneto­encepha­lo­­graphy scanner (which maps brain activity) to study epileptic patients; Magnetic Reso­nance Imaging to investigate pain in patients; and developing a novel technique, Transcra­nial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to study the function of the human brain in healthy volunteers. So even humans can get involved in testing and trials with no pain. Do we still need to look at animal-testing?

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Study on for Asia’s greenest city

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

– BERNAMA- SINGAPORE: Asia’s greenest city will be known by the end of this year when the Asian Green City Index is out.

Siemens and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) announced Tuesday that they were conducting an environmental performance study of 20 leading Asian cities from 11 countries.

The countries are China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

In a statement released in conjunction with the on-going World Cities Summit here, Siemens said the cities would be compared in the context of their environmental sustainability.

The cities will be assessed in eight environmental categories: energy supply and CO2 emissions, transportation, buildings and land use, water, sanitation, waste, air quality and green governance.

“With the Asian Green City Index, the Economist Intelligence Unit and Siemens are covering new ground. So far, no other study of this scope has been done for Asia,” said Stefan Denig, who is leading this project at Siemens.

The study will be part of the Green City Index series, which sets out to compare the environmental performance of cities in different regions of the world.

Following the success of the European Green City Index, a study comparing the environmental performance of 30 major cities from 30 European countries, Siemens is now sponsoring similar studies for Asia, Africa and Latin America.

“The results of the study will help cities to better understand and tackle their specific environmental challenges,” said Lothar Herrmann, chief executive officer, Asean Cluster, Siemens.

It would enable city stakeholders to make more informed decisions about how to reduce their environmental impact by for example, making their power supplies, traffic systems and buildings more energy-efficient and eco-friendly, he added.

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Green task for schools

Posted on June 25, 2010. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

-The Star-

REGISTRATION is now open for the Green School Awards 2010, a project under the ‘Cleaner, Greener Penang’ initiative.

The awards challenge schools on Penang island to come up with the most holistic programme for environmental conservation in schools.

Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) management services director Patrick Khoo said the project, that was launched on Wednesday, was aimed at reaching out to the younger generation to conserve and protect the environment.

Creative reuse: Students checking out a green exhibition booth after the launch of the Green School Awards 2010.

“Awareness in creating a cleaner and greener Penang should be inculcated to the younger generation from a schooling age.

“With an emphasis on several core green practices, we hope this programme will encourage students to come up with holistic systems to manage and conserve the environment on a continuous basis,” Khoo said in a speech during the launching of the awards at Penang Times Square.

He said 10 basic green practices had been identified to help schools create green programmes.

Among them are finding ways to recycle and reuse excess food and cooking oil, using environmentally friendly cleaning products, cutting down the usage of plastic bags and polystyrene, planting trees, conserving water and saving electricity.

The competition is open to all primary and secondary schools on Penang island. Registration is open until July 30.

Schools will be judged on three criteria — a prepared report on the green programme (30%), a presentation (20%) and the project evaluation by the judging panel (50%).

The prepared report, that needs to be submitted to the competition organisers by Aug 30, will determine the list of shortlisted schools that will be visited by the judging panel.

Cash prizes of RM400, RM600 and RM1,000 are up for grabs for the top three winning schools in both the primary and secondary school categories.

Registration forms can be obtained from http://www.mppp.gov.my. For more information, call MPPP at 04-2592241 or 04-2592124.

‘The Cleaner, Greener Penang’ initiative is co-organised by the Star Publications (M) Bhd, Penang and Seberang Prai municipal councils with support from the state government.

The Green School Awards 2010 is sponsored by Ivory Properties and organised with the co-operation of the Penang Environment Working Group (Pewog), the Penang Education Depart-ment, Environment Department and MPPP’s Local Agenda 21 (LA 21) programme.

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CAP: Govt urged to smoothen ride for cyclists

Posted on June 25, 2010. Filed under: Climate Change |

-The Star-

THE Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) is calling on the state government to increase efforts to promote cycling and encourage more people to commute by bicycle.

Unfortunately, local cyclists face many obstacles, CAP president S.M. Mohd Idris said.

“The government must have bicycle lanes on all new roads and highways, modify existing road kerbs to accommodate bicycle-cum pedestrian paths, provide clear signages on bicycle routes, and introduce road designs that promote a safe and well-lit environment for cycling.

Healthy option : Idris (wearing songkok) posing for a group photo after announcing the cycling campaign in Balik Pulau.

“There should also be traffic calming measures to reduce automobile speeds,” he said.

He was speaking during a recent ‘CAP Bicycle Campaign’ press conference.

He said it was necessary to protect the safety of cyclists by restricting the use of motorised vehicles on the road during peak hours.

“There must also be safe, convenient and cheap parking spaces for bicycles.

“Much good can be derived from cycling as it improves health, preserves the environment, saves fuel and transport cost and is fun,” he said.

The ‘CAP Bicycle Campaign’ starting at Dataran Masjid Daerah, Balik Pulau, will be held on July 25 at 8am.

Participants will cycle through Balik Pulau Town and end up at the starting place covering a distance of 14km.

The campaign is organised by CAP with the co-operation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (Penang Office).

Idris said CAP had been organising this campaign since 2006 and had always received enthusiastic support from various sectors of society.

“We are promoting this campaign in the towns, rural areas and residential areas throughout the country to make cycling a popular form of recreation as well as a means of transport.

“This campaign is aimed at encouraging people to cycle to school or work especially if it’s within short distances,” he said, adding that Malaysians did not get enough exercise.

Participation in this campaign is free and every participant will receive one T-shirt and certificate.

Participants must be at the starting point by 7am with their own bicycle.

Entry forms can be obtained from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (Penang Office)(Norazma/Othman: 04-5751911), CAP Office (Haji Mat Yusof: 04-8299511/019-4444625; http://www.cap.org.my), bicycle shops in Balik Pulau, Pejabat Belia Balik Pulau (04-8668244) and Jabatan Perpaduan (04-8668244).

All completed forms are to be submitted at the above mentioned locations by July 12.

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Wildlife crimes flourish due to corruption, says minister

Posted on June 25, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

– Bernama- KOTA KINABALU: Poaching and smuggling of exotic wildlife here continues as these wildlife crimes are aided by a “third force.”

That ‘force’, which goes by the unsavoury name of corruption, is considered the main challenge in combating such crimes.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said that although the situation in the state was not alarming, there have been instances where Borneo wildlife was recorded or photographed in other parts of the world, suggesting foul play at work.

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Malaysia Tenaga To Sign Initial Nuclear Plant Pact With Kepco

Posted on June 25, 2010. Filed under: Energy |

-Dow Jones Newswire- Malaysia’s state-owned power firm Tenaga Nasional Bhd. expects to sign a preliminary agreement with Korea Electric Power Corp., or Kepco, toward construction of what would be Malaysia’s first nuclear power plant, Tenaga Chief Executive Che Khalib Mohamad Noh said Wednesday.

“We will be signing an agreement with Kepco next week to explore a technical requirement for a nuclear plant,” Che Khalib said .

The news comes as a string of Southeast Asian nations are either considering building, or have decided to build, nuclear reactors to supplement energy supplies, and as South Korea is emerging as a serious competitor to Japan, which has a well-established nuclear power export industry, including in China.

The plan to build a nuclear plant in Malaysia is still at a preliminary stage, and the government has yet to identify a site for the plant, Che Khalib told Dow Jones Newswires.

Kepco, he said, was chosen due to its strength in nuclear energy.

Late last year, a South Korean consortium, including Kepco, won a landmark contract, valued around $20.4 billion, to build four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates, ending a closely watched contest between bidders from Asia, France and the U.S.

On Saturday, South Korea’s Minister of Knowledge Economy, Kyunghwan Choi, told Dow Jones Newswires that four or five other countries were looking at South Korean nuclear technology.

The same day, Japan’s trade minister Masayuki Naoshima expressed concern over what he called a “serious flaw” in Japan’s business model for selling nuclear power technology. Japanese utilities are experienced and knowledgeable in nuclear power production, but lack sufficient experience dealing with overseas customers, he said.

On Wednesday, the Vietnamese government said it plans to build 13 nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 15 gigawatts by 2030.

The first Vietnamese reactor, with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts and using Russian technology, is scheduled to be operational by 2020. State-run Vietnam Electricity Group signed a nuclear power cooperation agreement with Russian energy group Rosatom in December.

Malaysia’s immediate neighbors of Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore are also mulling whether to go nuclear.

Malaysia may face a power supply shortage by 2015 if it doesn’t start to build more power plants from early next year, Che Khalib said.

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