Archive for July, 2010

No room for error in environs report, says Musa

Posted on July 30, 2010. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Star-KOTA KINABALU: All preparatory work for a proposed 300MW coal-fired plant on Sabah’s east coast must be above board, Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said.

He said studies like the detailed environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the project must be accurate.

“Such studies should not leave any room for questioning. It must contain correct information,” he said after launching a palm oil industry exhibition here yesterday.

Musa was responding to reports quoting WWF Malaysia and the Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA) officials as saying that the detailed EIA for the coal-fired plant was fraught with errors.

The environmental groups said the errors became apparent at a panel review of the document on Monday.

Among the mistakes was the inclusion of non-existent animals species in Borneo such as the Dusky Langur, a type of monkey that was said to have been spotted at the project site in Kampung Sinakut, some 300km from the state capital.

In addition, the communities living in the area including the Orang Sungei and Tidung were wrongly described as of Indonesian origin.

WWF Malaysia policy analyst Lanesh Thanda said the consultants that drew up the detailed EIA also erred as they had compared the coastline at the project site which comprised mud flats to coral reefs in places like Pulau Tioman, Klang and the Straits ofMalacca.

The panel review was held at the Department of Environment (DOE) office here and among those present were state government representatives headed by Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry permanent secretary Datuk Susanna Liaw.

Lanesh who was also at the meeting, said a new study should be commissioned.

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Corals on the brink, warns expert

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

-The Star- KUALA LUMPUR: Some 90% of Malaysia’s corals are dead due to global warming, and the reefs may never recover unless the people switch to a greener lifestyle.

Universiti Sains Malaysia marine biologist Prof Dr Zulfigar Yassin said the lack of coral reefs, which provide a home to many marine species, would lead to fewer fishes in the ocean and hurt the fishing industry.

Noting that coral life depends on how long it has been exposed to bleaching and its frequency, he said that even with measures to reduce carbon emission, closure of dive sites and reduced intake of seafood, it would take years for corals to recover.

Earlier this week, it was reported that corals in marine parks at Pulau Payar, Pulau Tioman and Pulau Redang had suffered bleaching, leading to the closure of some dive sites until the end of October.

Dr Zulfigar said bleaching had been occurring since April, spreading from the coast of India to Australia.

“It is definitely due to climate change; it cannot be due to a localised cause as in the case of the BP oil spill,” he said in an interview.

Coral bleaching is most likely to occur when the sea temperature rises above 31 °C for more than two days, making corals appear white, said Dr Zulfigar.

“Corals are essentially white. The colour comes from the algae living in them. Any stress on the corals, such as temperature (changes), will cause them to expel the algae.”

Dr Zulfigar said closing down the marine parks would certainly help the corals to recover by reducing additional stress caused by sewage from chalets, oil and grease from motorboats and abuse by tourists.

“People get upset over the closure (of the marine parks) because they are not aware, educated and sensitised to these issues.”

Some people have suggested transplanting live corals to Malaysia, but Dr Zulfigar said it was not a foolproof solution.

“Firstly, how many will survive? And you are creating a business. A price is placed on the corals.

“After the tsunami, people said it was due to a lack of mangroves. Some started selling mangrove saplings, and others planted them in places which originally did not have mangroves.”

Prof Zulfigar suggested that Malaysians start changing their lifestyle to prevent climate change. To raise awareness, Prof Zulfigar who heads a panel of judges in the Eco Earth Awards, said an essay writing competition for youths between 17 and 26 will be held. Participants are to write in English or Malay on “Global Warming And Its Effects On Malaysia” inless than 800 words, and submit it to before Aug 20.

A two-day camp awaits the shortlisted 15 participants, who will then have to come up with a five-minute documentary. The top five would join a team of scientists on a research trip to Aceh, Indonesia.

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Solar Power Usage In Malaysia Expected To Reach Grid Parity By 2017

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

(Bernama) — Solar energy usage in Malaysia is expected to reach grid parity by 2017, said Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister, Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui.

Chin said grid parity would occur when alternative means of generating electricity, such as solar-powered electricity, reached cost parity with conventional fossil fuel-based electricity provided by the utility companies.

He said the installation of photovoltaic (PV) panels was still costly in Malaysia while the electricity offered by utility companies, Tenaga Nasional Bhd, Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd and Sarawak Electricity Supply Corp, was still lower and cheaper.

“That is one of the reasons why we are so slow in using PV panels. But one day it will be achieved when the production cost of PV panels goes down and the electricity rate goes up.

“We predict that in another seven to eight years from now we will achieve grid parity. By then, more houses will install photovoltaic because it is cheaper to generate electricity,” he told reporters after officiated the “Programme Mentor:1IPTA, 1 Menteri” at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) here Thursday.

Chin, Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Senator Datuk Seri Idris Jala, are Unimas’ mentors.

He said the introduction of feed-in-tariff (FIT) for renewable energy to enable users to sell excess power to the power grid next year would encourage more installation of PV panels in the country.

“With FIT, users who install PV panels in their house will get better electricity rate,” he said, adding that the return on investment would take 12 to 15 years.

Meanwhile, Chin said his ministry would allocate RM605,000 to Unimas to undertake research and development to find a solution to the problems of electricity supply to the rural off-grid areas in Sabah and Sarawak.

“Currently, about three to five per cent of the rural areas in Sabah and Sarawak are still not getting electricity supply from the utility grid.

“The ministry supports Unimas efforts to carry out the R&D. This will help boost economic and social growth in the rural areas indirectly and would have a positive impact to raise local income,” he said.

Chin said his ministry would give Unimas a RM25,000 grant to enable its students interested in green technology to attend the International Green Tech and Eco Products Conference and Exhibition Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur (IGEM 2010) from Oct 14-17, 2010.

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Nuclear Power The Green Answer to Energy Demand, says Scientist

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

-UKM News Portal-

By Kuah Guan Oo

BANGI, 29 July 2010 – An adjunct professor of Universti  Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Nuclear Science Programme says nuclear power generation is the best option to meet Malaysia’s energy demand in the years to come.
“I do not mean to undermine the use of solar, wind and water energy  to meet future power requirements from green and renewable resources but the best carbon-free option is nuclear energy generation,” said Prof David Bradley, a nuclear physicist, who arrived here 10 days ago for his two-week adjunct duty.
He said he is well aware of the present debate over the question of whether Malaysia should go for nuclear power generation, in view of the dwindling supply of fossilized fuel “which we can’t depend on forever,”  and the carbon-spewing coal or combustion of vegetative wastes.
Except for nuclear power generation, all the other sources of power generation would require vast tracts of lands that can be better utilized for cultivation, not to mention the damage that they can do to the environment.
Prof Bradley, 58, who is from Surrey University, United Kingdom, said he could understand the Malaysian situation because “people all over the world generally fear anything that has to do with nuclear.”
What they did not know is that science and technology have developed and advanced so fast that  “we know more about nuclear energy and we have much more sophisticated technology to ensure the safety of the nuclear power generation plant.”
With such a huge and growing industrial base, he said, nuclear power generation is an essential component of future supply of energy for Malaysia.
What people do not know, he said, is that the human body itself emits a low level of radiation, just like the environment. It is this fear and lack of knowledge that made people shy away or reject nuclear energy or anything that has to do with the word “nuclear”.
“Do you know that MRI (or Magnetic Resonance Imaging) was first called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging and they dropped the word ‘nuclear’ so that people can be comfortable using it in nuclear medicine,” he said.
“Ignorant is poverty,” he mused, noting that the first Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had once said that India’s poverty was tied to its lack of energy. But the Indian economy is booming today because it had nurtured and grown its own crop of nuclear scientists who are at the fore-front of their home-grown nuclear power generation  industry, he said.

Product of Reverse Technology Transfer
Prof Bradley is no stranger  to Malaysia, having lived here for some 20 years when he taught at Universiti Sains Malaysia in 1982 and where he obtained his Ph.D. in radiation physics.

It was his supervisors, Prof A. M. Ghose and Prof C.S. Chong who fanned his interest in radiation physics, and to whom he is grateful.

“You can say that I am a product of reverse technology transfer between Malaysia and the UK,” he laughed.

While his professional life might have been shaped in USM, his heart belonged to a Malaysian girl, a Kampung Baru girl, to be precise.  Samsidar or Mrs Bradley is the daughter of the late Hamzah Alang, the Umno MP for Kapar and the man who lowered the Union Jack at Stadium Merdeka when Tunku Abdul Rahman was proclaiming the Independence of Malaysia.

Samsidar, he said, had studied at Bk Nenas Convent and obtained her Ph.D in 1977, years before him.  But it was after having married Samsidar that he made first trip to Malaysia. “Unfortunately, I did not get to meet my late father-in-law then, because he had passed away.”

After all these years, he said he was amazed to see the widespread use of radiotherapy with its entire sophisticated infrastructure that can normally be found in developed countries.
When he first came to Malaysia, he recalled, there were only two radiotherapy units in the country – one at Hospital Kuala Lumpur and the other at Mt Miriam Hospital in Pulau Pinang.
“Now, I have lost count of the number of radiotherapy units in the country.  But this is a good thing because it shows the level of sophistication in the treatment of cancer.”
It is this high level of radiotherapy treatment and the sophisticated infrastructure that is attracting “health tourists” from the region to this country.
Asked about the radiation protection measures in Malaysia he said, “you have excellent protection in place. In fact, they are so well controlled that it is difficult to fault it.”
Their quality assurance (QA) is second to none, and in this, he gives due credits to the physicists and physics students who had influenced the excellent development of QA, as well as the regulatory and licensing authorities of the Ministry of Health.
All these players, he said, have a tremendous awareness to benchmark against the best in the developed countries.

Balik Kampung
Prof Bradley who has spent the past few days meeting the students from Year One to post-graduate level, said the Nuclear Science Programme of the School of Applied Physics of UKM is central to the development of nuclear science in the country. It is for this reason that scientists and researchers come  here from the UK, South Korea and so on.
“UKM is a huge campus with tremendous activities going on at the same time….I am amazed at all these levels of activities,” he said when asked about his personal impression.

“You know, they put me up at Equatorial Hotel in town but I have quickly moved out to stay at a better hotel at Puri Pujangga!”

One other good thing that Prof Bradley found in UKM is that despite its size, “here, everybody knows each other, like a big brotherhood. This is good because you cannot live in isolation.”

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‘Free’ water system unfair

Posted on July 28, 2010. Filed under: Water resource |

-The Star- THE first 20 cubic metres of free water in Selangor is deemed unfair as it is not “flowing” out to the more deserving people, especially those from the lower-income group and those residing in low-cost units.

These people are not enjoying the “free” status.

It has been almost two years since the state government announced the scheme to ease the burden of the people but the effectiveness is yet to be seen.

Selangor Umno Youth Infomation chief Safarizul Mustafa posed this question over the water being a burden to Selangorians.

He said the whole scheme was nothing more than a political gambit by the Pakatan-led government.

“Now they are facing problems with future water resources and when the federal government wanted to intervene with the Langat 2 Water Treatment Plant project, they rejected it.

“Water is not an issue in the state and if they wanted to help, it should have been carried out fairly.

“At present the low-income people are not enjoying this scheme and the new voucher system that was introduced recently is another ad hoc measure taken by them,” he said.

Despite this, Safarizul said many flat dwellers were not enjoying the voucher system as well.

Selangor MCA chairman Datuk Donald Lim said they would wait and watch the effectiveness of the system.

He said they had not commented on the system yet as it was only fair to give time for it to work.

“There are many problems when it comes to bulk meter system in apartments as there are those who do not pay bills and face water cut.

“At this juncture, the state government needs to look at the whole issue and rectify the flaws,” he said, adding that bulk meters were more expensive.

Lim added that there were many poor people in the Klang Valley due to migration from small towns.

“As for the voucher system, we will see how it is distributed. We want to see how genuine they are and the fairness of the state government,” he said.

In June 2008, it was announced that domestic consumers in Selangor who are using individual meters would be able to enjoy free water for the first 20 cubic metres.

Those whose supply is linked to bulk meters – including residents of flats, apartments and condominiums – have not been enjoying the free water scheme.

At present, residents of flats, condominiums and apartments are already paying a higher rate at RM1.38 per cubic metre for the first 20 cubic metres compared with domestic consumers who pay only RM0.57 per cubic metre.

The coupon system for flat dwellers was introduced in May as the change from bulk meters to individual meters was costly and time consuming.

The Selangor Housing and Property Board would issue coupons (worth RM12.08 for 20 cubic metres of water) to Commissioner of Buildings (CoB), which would then distribute them to the management bodies of the low-cost flats monthly.

The residents could use the coupons when settling their water bills with the management bodies.

Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Irbahim had said the total value of coupons for 620 low-cost flat blocks in the state, with 168,479 owners, would work out to RM24.5mil a year.

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Forum shares info on coal power plant

Posted on July 28, 2010. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Star- LAHAD DATU: Some 600 locals including villagers from Sinakut, the area proposed for the controversial 300 megawatt coal power plant, turned up at a forum for a greener Sabah here.

The public forum at SJK (C) Siew Ching, kicked off with students reciting to the audience the importance of a clean environment and why everyone should protect the state’s rich biodiversity.

WWF-Malaysias Borneo Programme chief technical officer Dr Rahimatsah Amat, WWF-Malaysia marine biologist Nina Ho and Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA) Sandakan chairman Charles Chow presented papers at the event.

Rahimatsah touched on the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) for the plant, while Chow went into the finer points of understanding the document that was released last month by the Department of Environment.

Ho spoke about the marine environment, stressing on the fact that the area proposed for the coal plant was important for marine life and food security.

SEPA Lahad Datu decided to organise the forum following requests by locals who wanted to know more about the issue.

Villagers from the Silam area, the first proposed site for the plant, also attended, lending their support at the forum.

Following strong protests, the project slated for Silam was cancelled in 2008, and last year, a second proposed site in Sandakan was also scrapped following opposition by local communities.

Many took the opportunity to sign a petition started by Green SURF (Sabah Unite to Re-Power the Future) to get the Government to scrap the project.

SEPA is a member of Green SURF along with WWF-Malaysia, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and Partners of Community Organisations (Pacos).

The public was also reminded to send in written comments to the DOE before July 31, as just voicing opinions verbally or through social websites was not sufficient.

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Alternative water resources cannot provide supply all year round, says minister

Posted on July 28, 2010. Filed under: Water resource |

-The Star- PUTRAJAYA: The water dispute between the Federal authorities and Selangor continues with Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin firing another salvo at the state government over its insistence to use alternative water resources, like lakes and underground water.

“It does not make sense because they are not sustainable and cannot provide supply all year round.

“Lakes and underground sources take time to build their water volume and, therefore, might not be able to quickly replace the amount syphoned out to water treatment plants,” Chin said yesterday.

He was speaking at a press conference after unveiling the new logo for Malaysia Green Technology Corpo­ration (GreenTech Malaysia), an organisation entrusted to manage the green technology financing scheme (GFTS).

The Federal and Selangor governments had been at loggerheads over the water issue for months, with Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ib­­rahim refuting Federal claims that his administration was delaying the construction of a vital water treatment plant.

The Selangor Government is alleged to be delaying approval for 15 remaining lots of land needed for the construction of the RM5bil Langat 2 water treatment plant.

The project is expected to pump 1,890mil litres of raw water from Sungai Semantan in Pahang to the Hulu Langat water treatment facility in Selangor daily via a 44.6km long tunnel.

Chin said a consistent and easily replenished supply for raw water was needed to ensure that consumers did not face inconveniences.

On the GTFS, Chin said the RM1.5bil initial allocation for the fund was adequate for now, even though the 33 successful applicants so far would take up loans amounting to about RM1bil.

He said, however, with the overwhelming response received for the scheme, they would need to increase the sum once the small and medium enterprises and industries also start to apply for such loans.

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Plan for ‘green bank’ seen as not practical

Posted on July 28, 2010. Filed under: Environmental Economics |

-The Star- But some observers say this is viable if jointly done with other expert countries

PETALING JAYA: The proposal to set up a dedicated special-purpose bank in Malaysia to fund clean-energy industries is not practical at this juncture due to the complexities of such ventures, according to some industry observers.

However, they believe its establishment would be more viable if carried out on a collaborative basis with other countries who have expertise in this area.

At the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum last month, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has proposed the setting up of a Clean Energy Development Bank to boost eco-sustainable efforts by developing countries of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

Najib added that Malaysia was ready to spearhead the initiative, which would help accelerate the development of clean energy-related industries.

»The inability to function as a commercially viable entity will, in turn, impact the longterm survivability of such institution« ANANDAKUMAR JEGARASASINGAM

Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd (MARC) vice-president and head of financial institution ratings Anandakumar Jegarasasingam said the strong public policy mandate of such an institution would make it challenging to function as a commercially viable entity.

“The inability to function as a commercially viable entity will, in turn, impact the long-term survivability of such institution,” he said.

Anandakumar said there were several practical issues that needed to be resolved before such a bank could be set up in Malaysia.

He, however, felt an inter-governmental initiative among a group of nations where financial resources and expertise could be pooled was a better option.

Anandakumar said one of the issues for the setting up of a “green bank” in Malaysia was whether the bank should operate on a commercial or public policy mandate.

A bank operating on a commercial basis may not be attractive for potential borrowers, while a bank operating on a public policy basis may face funding constraints should it be dependent on market funding.

In addition, he said, such an institution that funded new and experimental technology would need to have very high standards of corporate governance to ensure its credit origination and risk management standards were adequately robust.

An industry observer concurred, adding that apart from high standards of corporate governance, funding would also be an issue in terms of sourcing for funds.

“Will it be from the public sector or private funding or from external sources?,” the observer asked.

Anandakumar said it would be challenging for the new bank (especially if it is Malaysia-focused) to acquire the appropriate credit-risk expertise to evaluate green technology projects.

He believes a more practical way to encourage green energy-related industries in Malaysia would be to set up a clean-energy fund that could be funded by the Government and administered by an existing government-controlled bank.

Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd executive vice-president and head of corporate strategy and business planning, Tim Daniels, said the Government’s move to spearhead the development of such a bank was timely and forward-thinking.

He said it was in tandem with the increasing global interest and urgency in environmental conservation and management to achieve sustainability of the country’s eco-system and natural resources.

As such, Daniels said, Malaysia’s environmental agenda that was recently tabled under the 10th Malaysia Plan had laid out specific plans to protect the environment while harnessing economic value from the process.

According to the Plan, he said, the Government was taking steps to introduce a comprehensive eco-system for environmental sustainability through the AFFIRM (awareness, faculty, finance, infrastructure, research and marketing) framework.

“As the Government is now targeting rapid development to achieve the national agenda of becoming high-income nation, it is more critical now than ever to ensure that sustainability is a theme that is emphasised right from the onset of these plans.

“The Green Bank concept hence dovetails nicely, playing an important role in the financing aspect of the roadmap for climate-resilient growth as well as to ensure conservation of the nation’s ecological assets,’’ he noted.

Daniels said Alliance Bank realised that financial institutions had a significant secondary impact on the environment via the types of projects and business strategies that they supported.

To date, he said, the bank had an informal policy of assessing the environmental and social impacts of potential lending opportunities which were conducted as a part of its regular review of risks.

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Malaysia may close more dive sites hit by coral bleaching

Posted on July 28, 2010. Filed under: Climate Change, Eco-tourism |

(AFP) – Malaysia may close three more popular dive sites in the South China Sea which have been hit by coral bleaching blamed on global warming, an official said Wednesday.

Last week authorities announced the closure of nine dive sites on the tropical islands of Tioman and Redang until the end of October in an attempt to relieve stress on the fragile marine ecosystems.

The two islands are located off the east coast of Malaysia in the South China Sea.

Marine authorities said they were studying a proposal to shut down three more sites on Redang island after resort operators said they detected coral bleaching and wanted the diving spots closed.

“We have received the proposal, we will study it and verify the matter,” a marine park official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The dive sites will only be closed if more than 60 percent of the coral has been damaged, she added.

The closure would give the coral a chance to regenerate and would remove stress caused by tourism-related activities such as diving.

Coral bleaching, which can eventually kill corals, occurs when stresses such as rising sea temperatures disrupt the delicate, symbiotic relationship between the corals and their host organisms.

The marine department has said 60 to 90 percent of the coral in some areas of the closed sites has been damaged.

The reefs in Redang and Tioman island attract some 500,000 tourists annually.

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Turtle Feeding Habitats Unaffected By Coral Bleaching – Expert

Posted on July 27, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

(Bernama) — The coral bleaching phenomenon which poses a threat to coral reefs in peninsular Malaysia does not affect the turtle feeding habitats, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu Marine Science Department lecturer Dr Juanita Joseph said today.

This is because green turtles eat seaweed while the hawksbill turtles feed on soft corals and crustaceans, she said.

“Currently, coral bleaching in several islands in the peninsula have not affected turtle-feeding areas,” she told Bernama, adding that it would only present a problem if the number of crustaceans in the area declined.

Local dailies reported last month that all islands off Terengganu, including Redang, where turtles feed, were critically affected by the condition.

However, the waters off Sabah were not hit by the phenomenon, especially the popular diving spots of Pulau Sipadan and Pulau Mabul in Semporna which are among Malaysia’s turtle feeding areas.

Dr Juanita said turtle feeding areas in Pulau Redang were also unaffected by the bleaching, and there had been an increase in turtle landings although their number was small.

She said the bleaching condition could be attributed to many factors such as pollution, but it could also be caused by increased water temperature which kills a type of algae called Zooxanthellae.

“The green pigment of coral reefs is actually Zooxanthellae. When the algae dies, the coral dies too and its colour changes to white.

“The coral reef ecosystem is a productive one and when the coral dies, all other organisms in the area will be affected, especially fish,” she said.

Dr Juanita said coral bleaching was a frequently occurring phenomenon but scientists had yet to figure out how to overcome the problem.

She said dead corals would usually recover but required a long period of time to return to its normal state.

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