Archive for August, 2010

UTM makes device that cuts pollution

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

-The Star-

JOHOR BARU: Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) has invented a device that it claims can help reduce smoke pollution generated from the burning of fuel.

UTM aeronautical engineering department head Dr Mohammad Nazri Mohd Ja’afar said the discovery was made through a year-long research aimed at findings ways to improve combustion and reduce gas emission.

He added the new improved retainers were able to reduce gas emission such as nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide by 35% and 38% respectively.

“The test result is very encouraging and we will send it to the state Department of Environment for approval,” he said during a press conference here yesterday.

Dr Mohammad Nazri acknowledged that many countries had produced technologies to cut emissions.

“Some governments will charge a carbon tax on any factory that produces high gas emissions.

“Such a move doesn’t actually help to reduce emissions because many of the factories are willing to pay any amount of money as long as they make profit,” he added.

Dr Mohammad Nazri hoped that Malaysian factories and power plants would use such retainers.

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Government keeping close tabs on volcano eruption

Posted on August 31, 2010. Filed under: Climate Change |

-The Star- PUTRAJAYA: The Government is closely monitoring the eruption of the Mt Sinabung volcano in North Sumatra, Indonesia, which has been spewing high clouds of smoke and ash that can potentially disrupt international aviation.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who chairs the Natural Disaster Management Committee, said they were keeping close tabs on the impact of the volcanic eruption.

“We cannot take it lightly as it can impact international flights and people,” he said yesterday after chairing the fifth National Water Resources Council meeting.

Muhyiddin also launched the National Climate Change policy aimed at helping the nation tackle climate change problems.

The policy would facilitate better management of resources and environmental conservation, integration of responses towards climate change and coordinated implementation to help reduce its negative impact.

In Petaling Jaya, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha said Sunday’s volcanic eruption in North Sumatra had not affected airline operations in Malaysia and Indonesia so far.

The ministry, he said, would be getting updates from the weather department in Indonesia.

A Malaysia Airlines spokesman said MAS flights to Medan were operating as scheduled.

Mt Sinabung’s eruption has forced the evacuation of 30,000 people.

A check with the Malaysian Meteorological Department showed that its unit at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport was monitoring the wind conditions.

“If the wind changes direction and blows from the south-west, then the effect of the volcanic eruption might drift to the northern states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Perak, and affect visibility and air quality there,” said a department spokesman.

As of 2pm yesterday, visibility was at an average 8km at the department’s stations in Bayan Lepas, Butterworth and Langkawi.

Visibility at the Prai station was about 7km.

The stations in Chuping, Alor Setar and Ipoh recorded good visibility at more than 10km.

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‘Put King Lizard Wong behind bars’

Posted on August 28, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

By Teoh El Sen

KUALA LUMPUR: Notorious animal smuggler “Lizard King” Anson Wong was arrested at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on Thursday while he was on transit from Penang to Jakarta.

Wong, nicknamed “ Pablo Escobar of the wildlife trade” after the Colombian drug lord, is said to be the biggest global animal dealer.

It is believed that Malaysia Airlines security staff, who had been alerted, detained him after a piece of his luggage was broken. Wong has been remanded until Tuesday.

Some 100 snakes were found in his luggage, including boa constrictors, two rhinoceros vipers and one matamata turtle.

Said to be one of the world’s most-wanted smugglers of wild animals, Wong was sentenced to 71 months in jail in the US in 2000 after he pleaded guilty to trafficking charges.

Animal rights groups have demanded the resignations of Natural Resources and Environment Minister Douglas Uggah, and Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) top leaders.

However, Perhilitan, now in charge of investigations, has not commented on the incident, but sources said it is attempting to track Wong’s network.

Malaysian Animal Rights Society president N Surendran blamed the ministry and Perhilitan for “allowing” Wong to continue his trade after he was jailed in the US.

“The minister… and all top level Perhilitan officers should resign en bloc,” Surendran said.

“This is the biggest embarrassment to our country for allowing the biggest wildlife trafficker on earth to trade freely,” he said.

“Malaysia has allowed him to use Penang as a base and although reports were lodged with the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, nothing was done, ” Surendran said, adding that while Wong was in prison, Perhilitan had allegedly renewed his licence to trade.

“He was allowed to continue trading when he came back. Besides, he was allowed to operate two private zoos which are nothing more than wildlife trafficking hubs,” he said.

Sting operation

He said while the US had spent a lot of efforts in the the sting operation, the Perhilitan deputy director-general Misliah Mohamad Basir still signed his licence.

“People high up in Perhilitan are protecting Wong. Now that he has been arrested, we want the fullest force of the law used against him. This man should be put behind bars, he is a danger to international wildlife,” Surendran said.

Petpositive president Anthony Thanasayan said he agreed that Douglas and Perhilitan officers should resign.

“Perhilitan is supposed to protect the animals. But why did it allow Wong to continue his animal trade after he was convicted? Perhilitan knew it was dealing with another ‘dangerous animal’ here,” he said.

“Perhilitan officials are just as guilty because they supported him instead of stopping him. They clearly thought they could get away with it. They are not fit to be in those positions, and we should clean Perhilitan up,” Anthony said.

He added that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had recently adopted a cat and pronounced that he was an animal lover, and so “it’s time all these politicians stop talking and show their love”.

Malaysian Animal Welfare Society president Shenaaz Khan also took a swipe at Perhilitan.

“Perhilitan is being suspiciously quiet about this. What it did is like letting a serial rapist work in an all-girls school,” she said.

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Seeing REDD in climate tool

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

– freemalaysiatoday.com- By Hilary Chiew

COMMENT In the last three weeks, Sarawak was abuzz with news of a particular climate change mitigation mechanism called REDD (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries).

First, a news article by Reuters informed that an Australian carbon trading company has signed a carbon offset deal with nine tribal leaders that would purportedly preserved more than 100,000ha of forests in the state.

It would be a 50-50 deal, according to the developer of the carbon offset scheme, Shift2Neutral. About 10,000 people from the 24 villages stand to be paid for keeping their forests intact for the next 20 years.

The firm said it will work with the tribes and a local NGO to help manage the forest, survey the area and access the carbon stored in the trees and soil.

Last week, the first carbon offset and forest conservation workshop was held in Kuching, the state capital, to familiarise the timber-related parties with carbon offset and REDD.

Key players in the commercial logging sector listened intently to speakers on how they can participate in REDD activities.

Director of Forestry, Sarawak, Len Talif Salleh said the state is interested in the implementation of REDD and discussion has already been held with the Sarawak-chapter of the Wildlife Conservation Society (a US-originated non-governmental organisation) to look into the potential of REDD in the Anap Muput Forest Management Unit.

Also, Sarawak would require capacity building, technical assistance and financial support for a number of enabling activities to participate in future REDD activities.

Ultimate saviour

Regarded as a vital part of the global fight against climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed to negotiate new policy approaches and positive incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).

REDD, which has since been expanded to include a more comprehensive approach and renamed REDD-plus, is envisioned as a forestry sector solution to carbon emissions from logging and forest- clearing activities that are responsible for nearly one-fifth of global emissions.

It has been touted as the “ultimate saviour” against the industrial logging scourge across the equatorial belt that had enriched a handful of timber tycoons and political elites at the expense of the environment and human rights violation of forest-dwelling communities.

However, environmental activists who had campaigned tirelessly against unsustainable industrial logging over the last quarter century found an added reason to support their cause – in the battle to save the world from the impacts of climate change, the embattled tropical rainforests could be saved.

Furthermore, the threat against the tropical rainforests has a relatively new enemy. In the last decade, degraded tropical forests were intensely targeted for conversion into oil palm plantation, including the carbon-rich peat swamp forests partly due to depleted timber stocks and the growing demand for palm oil, which is the cheapest vegetable oil in the world.

In response to the realisation that their forests are vital tools in combating a warming earth, a group of developing countries known as the Coalition of Rainforest Nations demanded that compensation for the carbon stored in their forests should form part of the agreement of the United Nations climate change deal that was supposed to be achieved last December at its 16th Conference of Parties in Copenhagen

The coalition includes Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Peru.

But as we all know, the devil is always, always, in the details.

Initially, REDD was designed as a mere mitigation tool void of land tenure consideration and human rights perspectives.

The indigenous peoples’ movement has criticised it for its lack of recognition of their rights over the land and the fear that any “value-adding” (in this case, carbon sequestration role of forests to climate change) to the resource would increase existing land conflicts between communities and drivers of deforestation such as industrial logging and large-scale plantation.

The International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) lobbied hard at the UNFCCC meetings to have the rights of indigenous peoples recognised and rewarded for they were and continue to be the communities that had fought to defend and manage their ancestral forests for centuries, which turned out to be a service to all humanity.

Financing REDD

While curbing deforestation has been accepted as one of the key solutions to halt climate change, to reverse the trend would need huge financing to preserve this precious resource. And it has proven to be the most contentious area in the negotiation. Should it be financed by public funds (from developed nations as part of their climate debt payment) or the carbon market?

Some indigenous peoples’ groups are against the commodification of carbon in the trees and soil as against their sacred view of the universe.

Parties to the UNFCCC are still divided over the source of funding and the type of activities (for example, reforestation that include monoculture timber plantation) that should be supported by REDD. Concerns over leakage (where one area is spared of the chainsaw only to have the loggers move into another area that is not covered by REDD) and permanence (where the period of REDD-protected forests expires) are also being deliberated at the talks.

One of the main criticisms by certain green groups against REDD is that it would ironically reward polluters (logging companies that had destroyed the forests in the first place and released the carbon into the atmosphere) that would now be compensated for not extracting timber for yet another round or convert the land into plantation.

They find it hard to swallow that instead of adopting the “polluters pay principle”, the reverse is happening.

Confusion in the media

As the negotiation continues, REDD and its potential in the carbon credit market has generated considerable excitement among the business and media sectors.

Along with it confusion arises. Many had been confused by the voluntary and mandatory carbon market. Under the UNFCCC, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol was developed to assist Annex I parties (developed countries that are supposed to reduce 5.2% of their collective emission level from the 1990 base year between the first commitment period of 2008-2012) to partially meet their reduction commitment.

In line with the principle of the UNFCCC, CDM promotes sustainable development in developing countries through finance and technology-transfer from rich nations.

Credits generated through CDM projects, such as capturing methane from palm oil mill effluents to power the boilers in a palm oil refinery, are traded in the mandatory market.

The voluntary market is literally a free market where companies developed carbon offset projects with some forms of verification and sell those “verified” credits at the marketplace to, say, someone who wants to compensate for his carbon footprints in his personal capacity.

However, media reports have often blurred the line between the two markets and worst, any forest-related mitigation project such as the one reported by Reuters mentioned earlier are associated with the UNFCCC’s REDD-plus mechanism that is NOT operationalised yet.

‘REDD’ herring

Critics of CDM say developed countries are enjoying the cheap options of offsetting their emissions while delaying the relatively more costly transition to low-carbon technologies that they have to take to curb emissions at home.

Many feel the aim of reducing emission has been perverted by the market mechanism approach that is more concerned about cost-effectiveness than promoting clean development technology.

On the local front, the interests in REDD from the timber/plantation sector in Sarawak will definitely invite criticisms. It is well known that logging practices in Sarawak are unsustainable and poorly regulated owing to the political patronage system that the entire industry has operated under since the beginning of commercial logging.

Environmental concerns aside, Sarawak’s treatment of its indigenous communities is possibly one of the most appalling in the world. Land conflicts stretching from Lundu in the west to Lawas in the east of the state now account for more than 150 cases that had been filed in the High Court of Sarawak.

Despite several landmark decisions that upheld the native customary rights (NCR) of Sarawak natives, the state remains indifferent.

As the chant of the IIPFCC’s activists in the various UNFCCC meetings – “No rights, no REDD” – rings in my mind’s ear, it would be near impossible for Sarawak to participate in any form of REDD scheme unless and until it commits to a total reform of its forestry and land rights practices.

And as it has always been, the much criticised and recalcitrant Sarawak logging industry is also proving to be a hindrance for Malaysia to benefit fully from the mechanism. The number (close to 50 and counting) of provisional leases called the Licence for Planted Forests that the state government had issued would mean that no forested areas in Sarawak would be spared the chainsaw, making Malaysia highly susceptible to the problem of leakage.

The state has often mischievously misled the public by regarding its plantation forests scheme as reforestation programme.

If Sarawak truly wants to help the global fight in climate change, it should cancelled all these licences, recognise NCR and implement genuine reforestation in highly degraded forests that would enhance its forest carbon stock. Only in that way, it will be able to redeem itself through REDD-plus.

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Nuke plant in Port Dickson?

Posted on August 24, 2010. Filed under: Pollution |

-Freemalaysiatoday.com- PORT DICKSON: The grapevine has it that the coastal town, once a bustling tourist destination but now in the throes of death, could be “nuked” by the government.

Talk is that Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Mohamad Hassan is seriously lobbying Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to site the country’s first nuclear power plant at the Bukit Kepong Lake here.

Telok Kemang MP Kamarul Baharin Abbas, who visited the lake recently, acknowledged the rumour but declined to comment on it

However, the PKR leader said he wanted to know why the Drainage and Irrigation department (JPS) was demolishing the “passageway” in the 50-year-old water catchment.

“I don’t want to speculate. But I have asked JPS to explain why it is demolishing the passageway which controls the dam and keeps the lake from overflowing and flooding the low lying areas.

“We want JPS to explain their rationale for demolishing the bund when the current rain spell is already causing floods in the low-lying oil palm estates,” he said.

“Once they explain, we will know for a fact what their real agenda is,” he said. adding that it was unlikely JPS was carrying out the demolition work for no reason.

“One thing is for sure, they must have a big agenda if they are demolishing a large dam such a this which has been around since merdeka,” he added.

Ideal location

Rumours of a nuclear plant in PD was first reported by blogger Singalautmetro, who is a veteran journalist.

In a posting, the blogger said Malaysian Nuclear Agency director-general Daud Mohamad’s statement that several locations, including those in Negri Sembilan and Perak, were being considered for the proposed nuclear plant further confirmed speculation about the Bukit Kepong lake.

He claimed that Tenaga Nasional Bhd had been given the responsibility of implementing the project. .

According to him, the lake was unique because it was shaped like a cauldron with a depth of 15 metres from its banks.

Its more than 10 kilometres reserve is capable of preparing at least 80 hectares as required for the nuclear plant. This coupled with the lake’s expansive reach of over 1,000 hectares made it suitable for the plant.

The Tuanku Jaffar power station situated nearby also had the right technical specifications needed to support a nuclear power plant.

Explaining further, the blogger claimed that the lake would eventually be as hot as the 1,000 MW power plant and capable of producing 14,000 to 18,000 MW of energy.

Najib is expected to announce the location of the country’s first nuclear power estimated to cost between RM6.5 billion to RM 9.75 billion in 2012. Construction of the power plant is scheduled to begin in 2015.

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Company to submit revised DEIA report

Posted on August 24, 2010. Filed under: Pollution |

– Bernama-KUALA LUMPUR: Tenaga Nasional Bhd’s (TNB) Lahad Datu Energy Sdn Bhd will submit a revised detailed environment impact assessment (DEIA) report to the Department of Environment (DOE) for its proposed 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Sinakut, Lahad Datu, Sabah.

In a statement yesterday, TNB said Lahad Datu Energy together with its consultants were reviewing areas of concern highlighted by the DOE when it rejected the environment assessment report submitted earlier.

The DOE had asked for a more detailed report on mitigation measures for the proposed plant and an EIA for transmission route, which is an additional requirement not required in the original terms of reference. – Bernama

Lahad Datu Energy will seek clarification on the level of detailed information required by DOE before submitting its revised DEIA report.

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Penang bans parks’ water activities

Posted on August 24, 2010. Filed under: Water resource |

-The Star- GEORGE TOWN: The state has banned water activities in three parks after two ponds at the Bukit Panchor State Park in Nibong Tebal tested positive for the leptospirosis bacteria.

Besides the Bukit Panchor State Park, state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh said other parks with ponds cordoned off since Saturday were the Taman Rimba forest reserve in Teluk Bahang and the Bukit Mertajam Forestry Park in Cherok Tok Kun.

Phee, who is State Health, Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman, said that water activities at the three areas were shut down after the disease claimed its second victim in Kedah the same day.

He said another three ponds in the Bukit Panchor State Park tested negative for the bacteria.

“The samples from all ponds in the three parks were sent a month ago to a laboratory in Sungai Buloh. So far, I have only received the water samples’ reports from Bukit Panchor,” he said in an interview.

However, Phee said there had been no cases of people contracting the bacteria.

“We have also issued an order to all national service camps in the state to stay away from water activities,” he added. It was reported yesterday that a 17-year-old-boy had become the second victim in Kedah to die from leptospirosis.

Symptoms of leptospirosis, which is present in rat urine, can range from flu-like illness to meningitis, kidney failure, jaundice and bleeding in the lungs.

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Floods force schools and shops in Sibu to close

Posted on August 24, 2010. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

-The Star- SIBU: The flood situation in Sibu worsened yesterday, forcing 18 primary schools and two secondary schools as well as hundreds of shops in the town to close.

Houses at low-lying areas, which included Jalan Tiong Hua, Jalan Bukit Assek, Jalan Tong Sang as well as Jalan Lanang, were badly affected, with some areas inundated by about three feet of water.

The water level was at 2.90m at 8am but it went up later in the morning and started to recede around noon.

An aerial view of Sibu yesterday. The water level rose in the morning due to a gush from the hinterland, and the ‘king tide’ could make things worse. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE / The Star

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, who went on an aerial tour of the flood-hit areas, told newsmen that the situation was expected to improve with fine weather forecast at the upper reaches of the Rajang River.

“We have set up 38 evacuation centres in Sibu, eight in Selangau and 54 in Kanowit.

“Only seven families in Song have been evacuated but they returned home after the situation improved,” he said, adding that the floods since last Saturday were due to incessant rain.

Meanwhile, the army was dispatched to a longhouse in Stabau, about 70km from here, after the flood operations room received an emergency call from its residents.

Sibu Resident Sim Kok Kee said the call was for the evacuation of schoolchildren as waters rose to 2m.

“The Welfare Department will assist by sending food there if the area is cut off by the floods,” he said.

School’s out: Pupils of SRK St Mary in Sibu wading through flood water on their way home yesterday after finding out that there would be no classes.

He pointed out that his office had vehicles on standby if the situation worsened.

He advised the public to remain vigilant and cautious when going into flood-hit areas.

Sim said the 24-hour operations room could be reached at 084-329-590 or by sending an SMS to 012-857-5747.

In Kuching, state Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism director Wan Ahmad Uzir Wan Sulaiman said the floods in Sibu would cause price hikes for some vegetables due to lower supply in the coming days.

“The floods in Sibu have destroyed vegetables in Sungai Bidot, the main farming area for that division. So we expect farmers and traders will increase the prices of vegetables in a day or two because of high demand and low supply,” he said.

He said his officers in Sibu already noted that some traders had increased the price of chillies from RM8 per kilo to RM10 yesterday.

“Such a situation is inevitable and there is little that the department can do except advise traders not to increase the prices too high,” he said.

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A boost for the 3Rs

Posted on August 22, 2010. Filed under: Waste |

-The Star- When his efforts to recycle were met with obstacles, one man went on to set up his own outfit to solve the problem. Another feels that while recycling is good, reducing and reusing are better for the environment.

WHEN he was a boy in the 90s, Muhammad Iqbal Baharum was already excited about recycling. He would diligently collect newspapers and wait for the “old-newspaper guy”. The money he got from selling the papers was used for ice cream and other snacks.

But it was when he was living in Britain for four years that he became truly involved in the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Living in Hertfordshire, Iqbal, a software engineer, explains that the rules for garbage disposal were very stringent there. “Trash was to be separated into organic, gardening and recyclable waste,” he explains.

Upon his return to Malaysia, Iqbal was hoping to carry on recycling, but he found the facilities and services quite “unfriendly” here.

Sorting them out: While aluminium cans can be easily dispensed with, items like old furniture (below) need more efforts at processing.

Apart from accepting aluminium cans and newspapers, which had a ready market, most recycling outfits did not want to take stuff like toys and plastic bags, he explains.

He was on the brink of giving up but then he had a Eureka moment: “Why don’t I just start my own?”

So in November 2009 he set up Recycle and Reward (RAR), an enterprise that takes in recyclable items, sorts them out and then decides where they go. RAR also offers collection services from people’s doorsteps.

“It makes all the difference,” says Iqbal, its managing director cum sales and marketing manager.

“The main aim is to increase the Malaysian recycling rate from the current five per cent to 40%,” he adds.

It works on a membership system which is free and those who are interested can register on their website, http://www.recycleandreward.my.

This is a basic account and members are required to drop off their recyclables at RAR’s collection centre in Seri Kembangan, Selangor.

Members who want to have their stuff collected will have to pay a one-time fee of RM10, which upgrades their account to Premium level. “This cost is easily recovered,” Iqbal says.

Members must have at least two burlap sacks or two black dustbin bags full of stuff for recycling and call the hotline 48 hours prior to the collection. The collection van makes its rounds from 9am to 6pm daily except on Fridays and public holidays.

“We simply cannot stop people from throwing things,” says Iqbal. “But at least we can stop the stuff from going to the landfill.”

According to him, the members hand over, on average, 10 tonnes of recyclables to RAR each month. These include electrical and electronic products, and paper, glass, plastic and metal things.

The RAR members don’t even need to sort out their trash.

“We don’t believe in that (the three-bin system for glass, plastic and paper),” says Iqbal. “If someone wants to throw an old armchair away, and it has wood and metal content, which bin does it go into? This kind of confusion can turn people away.”

Hence, RAR takes care of the sorting, which is done at the entrance of the collection centre in Seri Kembangan. There, a mound of recyclables mixed with real junk – peanut shells, cigarette butts and even diapers have been among them – are sorted out and put in their rightful “place” inside.

Determined: Iqbal set up a venture to take in stuff that can be recycled.

There have been some interesting finds, too, according to Iqbal. “The most outstanding item we’ve ever got is a stamp album with stamps from 1880 to 1950.” They’ve even received an old iron watering can and iron tub from the time of the Japanese occupation of Malaya in the 1940s!

The basic recyclables such as newspapers will be sold to the respective vendors while things like electrical items and furniture will be assessed for reuse. Those that can be repaired, and Iqbal has his “megatronic” engineer partner to look into this, will be used by them or given to friends.

The RAR has a reward system for their members. While it does not pay them directly, it has set up a redemption system in which members can earn Green Points. These points can be converted to cash (1 point = RM0.10) or goods that range from a gas cooker to a Sony Playstation 3. The calculation of points is based on a formula that takes in the current market price for recyclables.

“The highest tally belongs to a girl from a family of six. She has been recycling every week for six months and has now accumulated 3,000 points (worth RM300),” reveals Iqbal.

Currently, RAR is only operating in the Klang Valley. For more information on how to participate, visit their website at http://www.recycleandreward.my.

While Iqbal is championing recycling, father-of-five Mohamad Budin believes in the “reuse” principle. The founder of a non-profit organisation called Recycle Community Society of Selangor (RCOMM), he stresses the importance in differentiating between the two.

“Reuse is often confused with recycling but they are really quite different. Reuse denotes any activity that lengthens the life of an item while recycling involves transforming an item into a new raw material for use in a new product,” he explains.

He highlights several benefits of reusing, which includes keeping goods and materials out of the waste stream; reducing strain on natural resources such as fuel and forests; and reducing pollution.

Nearly everything we buy and consume can be reused or fashioned into new items, he says. For example, milk or juice cartons can be easily transformed into a bird feeder, pencil-case or sticky-notes container.

Reusable: These baskets, shown here by Mohamad Budin, could easily pass for rattan, but are actually made of old newspapers! The “skirting” around the jars are fashioned from old curtains.

This is not to say recycling is not as effective, however. Mohamad, who has been reaching out to communities via RCOMM since March 2008, reckons that landfills will be used more efficiently if recycling becomes a daily habit. “But the local recycling rate is still very low. For us to exceed the five per cent rate in the future, there must be political will,” he stresses.

“Recycling is a habit that cannot be enforced. Therefore, it is pertinent that people rediscover nature,” he says, adding that good habits will then form accordingly.

RCOMM is now in the midst of setting up a training office and a craft workshop before its official launch. For more information on RCOMM’s activities, follow its Facebook page.

Reduce and reuse

IT is easy to get carried away and buy more than you actually need, especially during festive occasions. When shopping for festive goods, and Raya is around the corner, remember that between the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), the first in the order – reducing – is most important.

Zuhaila Sedek, a writer, thinks people “waste so many things” during the festive season. Urging people to remember the core values of Hari Raya such as forgiveness and reunion, she gives a few tips on how to reduce and reuse. One way is to reuse home decor items and Raya money packets, she says.

“Also, instead of buying new baju kurung or baju melayu, the ones you currently have can be made to look new by adding some embellishments,” she says.

Personally, she only buys one new outfit a year and waits till the last day of Ramadan to purchase other goods because she can get them at a cheaper price.

Eco Knights founder Yasmin Rasyid urges people to “think twice before buying hampers” because there’s just too much “unnecessary packaging”. Additionally, these hampers usually contain a lot of imported products, which means they used a lot of energy to get here. “Support local producers,” she recommends.

Jasmin Melan, a PR consultant, suggests carpooling when visiting friends and relatives; and reducing the amount of cookies. “There are cookies in every house; it’s not necessary to stock up on so many,” she says.

For everyday tips, many websites provide pointers on how to practise cautious consumerism. For example, make a habit of creating shopping lists and avoiding malls when you’re hungry to prevent overbuying. Abide by the 30-day rule – wait for a month before purchasing to eliminate impulse buying.

Also, replace disposable products such as razors, batteries and storage containers with those that are long lasting, re-chargeable and reuseable.

Checking out the legitimate operations

BROWSING the racks at a flea market, you spot a familiar dress. Taking a closer look, you realise that it is the one you donated to “charity” a few months before! “How did it end up here?” you wonder.

According to Seri Sinar Charity Organisation president Datuk Eadon Ching, this is not an implausible scenario as there could be unscrupulous vendors throughout Malaysia who are taking advantage of people’s goodwill. They make the public believe that the items given to them will be recycled or reused by less fortunate individuals, and run illegitimate collection drives to get the items for free, he says.

Goods to cash: Ching checks out some of the stuff sent to his centre. Some might end up being sold to raise cash, he says.

But they could also be in the jumble sale for the simple reason that the organisations, especially charities, need to convert the goods into cash, he adds.

Of the former, Ching says many of the operators are petty traders. “They know that people are more aware of environmental issues and they exploit it.”

Unfortunately, he adds, “there aren’t any regulations or acts that can deal with this effectively.”

But surely there are some red flags that the public can look out for?

Yes, says Ching. One is to check whether the operators of the business are registered as NGOs or private companies.

“Typically, NGOs are known as ‘association’, ‘organisation’ or ‘society’ and are registered with the Registrar of Societies (ROS).

“Private companies, however, are registered with the ROC (Companies Commission of Malaysia) and names contain words such as ‘trading’, ‘enterprise’ and tellingly, ‘Sdn Bhd’,” he explains.

Also, take note of whether they have a website. Responsible organisations run websites with updated content that display recent events and are transparent about their operations.

“On our website, http://www.recyclecharity.org, we list the various agencies that we’re affiliated with, the Housing and Local Government Ministry being one. Plus, we’re transparent about how we use our proceeds,” he adds.

One more thing, Ching advises, is to observe if these “collectors” are using office or mobile numbers. People should be wary if it is the latter.

Lastly, ask questions, he says. “Based on how they answer, you could also tell if they are genuine. If they don’t answer or give a satisfactory response, you know that something’s fishy.”

Ching admits that his organisation conducts charity sales to convert some of the goods into cash.

Formed in 2003, Seri Sinar is a non-governmental organisation that aims to educate the public on the charitable benefits of recycling. To date, they have set up 200 collection bins and 26 mobile collection centres around the Klang Valley.

They also offer pick-up services for bulk items and electronic waste.

“The fact is most charity homes don’t need more second-hand goods. They need money,” Ching says.

This is a fact that is also acknowledged by Recycle and Reward’s Iqbal, who is also planning to launch a charity programme. With it, members can donate their points to a nominated charity. These points will then be converted to cash, which “they need more than anything else”.

Therefore, while Seri Sinar tries to clear its storage area of reusable items by sending the reusables to charity homes, rural areas or nearby developing countries like Cambodia, the rest could end up in the market. Thus, don’t be surprised if you see your old dress in a jumble sale.

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Gempa bumi lemah di Lahad Datu, Sabah

Posted on August 22, 2010. Filed under: Ecology |

(Bernama)KUALA LUMPUR, 22 Ogos — Satu gempa bumi lemah berskala 4.0 Richter telah berlaku di 19 km dari utara Lahad Datu, Sabah, pada pukul 3.43 pagi ini, menurut Jabatan Meteorologi Malaysia.

Keadaan tersebut boleh menyebabkan kemungkinan gegaran lemah dirasai di sekitar kawasan Lahad Datu, menurut jabatan itu dalam kenyataan hari ini.

Jabatan itu sedang memantau perkembangan tersebut, kata kenyataan berkenaan.

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