Archive for November, 2010

Expedition to assess richness of Malaysian coral reefs

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

AN international team of marine biologists has started a 20-day expedition to assess the health of the marine environment in part of the Coral Triangle, the world’s centre of marine biodiversity.

Experts from Malaysia, the Netherlands and the United States will participate in the Semporna Marine Ecological Expedition (SMEE) from 29 November to 19 December 2010 within the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion in the waters off Semporna, Malaysia, a global priority conservation area.

The expedition can be followed on the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity (NCB) website, Real time updates on new findings as well as images and short videos will be posted until preliminary expedition results are announced at a press conference in Kota Kinabalu on 20 December.

According to WWF, there is an immediate need to document the amount of coral and fish diversity in all of Malaysia’s reefs to clarify how they function within the Coral Triangle region, which extends across the tropical marine waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.

Similar studies have been conducted across the territorial waters of many of the nations located in the Coral Triangle region, yet few have looked at Malaysia’s 7680km2 Semporna Priority Conservation Area.

Semporna is unusual because of its rich mix of reefs, representing 5 major reef types. This unique blend of habitat types and ecosystems means that many rare species are found in the area, some of which also inhabit Indonesia’s nearby Berau region.  

The expedition will assess the health of Semporna’s marine environment by examining its fish, coral and invertebrate populations with a modified version of the internationally standardized Reef Check methodology. This includes profiling at two different depths to take a “snapshot” of overall reef health and looking for the best ways to enhance conservation and outreach efforts to better protect Semporna’s rich marine resources.

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Cyberjaya At The Forefront Of Green Technology

Posted on November 30, 2010. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

(Bernama)– When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak introduced the Green Technology as one of the new economic drivers for the nation, Cyberjaya was given the honour of being the pioneer green city.

Ir Hafidz Hashim, the Managing Director of Cyberview Sdn Bhd, the landowner and developer of Malaysia’s premier cyber city, noted that in line with the newfound status, the iGREET (Information on Green Technology) monthly seminar series was introduced by the company

“iGREET is the perfect platform for our stakeholders to share ideas on how to take advantage of the green infrastructure and holistic ecosystem Cyberjaya has to offer. iGREET is also a great opportunity for attendees to generate business leads among developers and existing tenants in Cyberjaya,” he said.

The seminars held at the Tasik Cyberjaya Clubhouse aim to introduce green technology possibilities to Cyberjaya’s developers and stakeholders.

“IGREET series is not only a result of our new status as a pioneer Green City as designated by the Government, but also as our own initiative to champion ecological responsibilities as Malaysia’s leading cyber city and MSC Malaysia hub,” added Ir Hafidz.


The recent third iGREET seminar, revealed that city councils stand to save up to nearly RM2.5 million annually in utility bills per 300 street lamps with the use of integrated power monitoring solutions.

Guest speaker Sumit Goel of KLG Systel Ltd, technology partner of Lucid Energy Sdn Bhd, pointed out that the ConnectGaia intelligent power management system used for Mumbai’s streetlamps had helped in optimising power consumption.

“Active management of power supply can be done remotely, and can significantly improve the cost of residential, commercial, and metropolitan infrastructure. For instance, switching on alternate streetlamps off-peak night traffic hours immediately halves power consumption,” said Goel.

The iGREET series previously covered topics including grey water collection, and treatment and reuse, energy-efficient LED lighting solutions, and organic waste management for power generation solutions and the Green Building Index (GBI).

The session also featured K.C. Low, vice president of Schneider Electric’s IT business in Malaysia and Thailand who demonstrated APC’s energy efficient data centre power and cooling management systems.

APC’s presentation highlighted how more than 50 per cent of conventional data centre power consumption go inefficiently to provide power and cooling instead of actual data load, with APC’s scalable solutions increasing efficiency up to 95 per cent.

APC solutions are currently deployed at Basis Bay, a leading IT outsourcing services provider and data centre in Cyberjaya servicing more than 300 local and international clients.


Meanwhile, Augustine Koh of Green Purchasing Network Malaysia gave an overview of Thailand’s innovative and highly successful Wongpanit Recycling System, a potential model for Cyberjaya as a Green City pioneer.

Yuso Yamada of Yasui Architects and Engineers also demonstrated the feasibility of retrofitting existing buildings in Cyberjaya to achieve at least a GBI Silver status.

Participants also made a site visit to the Shell Service Centre, the first building in Cyberjaya to be pre-certified with Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold status. A presentation on its green-driven design and construction was delivered by Jeffery Ling, director of architectural firm Architects61.

The seminar series so far has seen enthusiastic attendance by major stakeholders, developers and tenants in Cyberjaya.

He said as a cyber city on the cutting-edge of innovation and technology, Cyberjaya is poised to play host to commercial, residential, business and institutional developments built around sustainable technologies that would strengthen investor and tenant sentiments towards Cyberview’s four pillars – a place to live, study, work and play.

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Roadmap to cutting emissions

Posted on November 29, 2010. Filed under: Environmental Economics |

-The Star-

Govt pledges reduction in emissions intensity of GDP up to 40%

The Star will be featuring a series of articles in conjunction with the StarBiz-ICRM Corporate Responsibility Awards. The awards is the result of a partnership between The Star and Institute of Corporate Responsibility Malaysia, supported by the Securities Commission and Bursa Malaysia Bhd. Its working partners are PricewaterhouseCoopers and Securities Industry Development Corp, while the official sponsor is Canon Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd.

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak‘s pledge to reduce carbon emission intensity of gross domestic product (GDP) up to 40% by 2020 shows how serious Malaysia is in tackling the issue.

His commitment has set the wheels in motion with the establishment of a short-term roadmap to guide the voluntary reduction in emissions intensity of GDP by up to 40% based on 2005 levels by 2020, conditional on technology transfer and financing from developed countries.

This roadmap addresses the possible activities in three key sectors energy efficiency, renewable energy and solid waste management to achieve the target.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas said although there were many other emitting sectors, the focus was on the three areas as they were considered low hanging fruits or low implementation cost.

Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas … ‘The private sector has a very big role to play to help the country achieve the 40% target.’

We can reduce some nine million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent annually for the energy efficiency sector by 2020.

In the renewable energy sector, we are confident we can lower carbon emissions by 11 million tonnes and solid waste management by 25 million tonnes, he told StarBiz.

The total reductions will make up some 45 million tonnes versus the 38 million tonnes required annually to achieve the 40% target.

The short-term roadmap has been approved by the Cabinet last year, Douglas said.

Currently, under renewable energy, the oil palm sector alone is responsible for reducing 19 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy efficiency measures currently account for about 4.5 million tonnes and tree plantings from April to July of about five million trees will account for another 0.5 million tonnes by 2020.

This brings the current accounting to about 24 million tonnes or 64% of the 38 million tonnes required.

However, carbon emission reductions that have been sold as carbon credits are not included in the calculations.

According to Douglas, the carbon emission reduction was achieved via the use of oil palm husk fibre or mesocarp for renewable energy as well as having energy efficient buildings such as the Green Technology Corp building under the efficient energy sector, among others.

We are also looking at a detailed roadmap covering all sectors in the long term. We will start on the roadmap for 2020 onwards next year. The detailed, long-term roadmap is anticipated by the end of 2012, Douglas said.

He added that there would be an inception report out in December to compile and assess the achievements in terms of carbon emission reduction in the energy efficiency, renewable energy and solid waste management sectors and also to highlight the broad range of actions going forward.

The private sector has a very big role to play to help the country achieve the 40% target.

It will have to acquire new technology, build up human resources to manage this technology and to source for private financing.

The ministry will continue to engage all parties so that they are aware of the Government’s policies, roadmap and direction, he said.

In addition, the National Policy on Climate Change which took two years to formulate was approved by the Cabinet at the end of last year and launched this year.

Douglas said the document would be a guideline for all Malaysians to play their part in tackling issues on climate change.

It is a very comprehensive policy. It addresses general policy guidelines with 43 indicative actions, he added.

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Malaysian company offers expertise for city landfill

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

Cebu Daily News--A Malaysian company expressed interest in developing a landfill site that would convert solid wastes into energy in Cebu City.

Councilor Nida Cabrera said the proposal from Berjaya Corp. Berhad came about during her visit to a landfill site in Malaysia where she attended the International Workshop on Gender and Environment.

Cabrera said the Malaysian landfill site uses new technology that converts the methane gas from wastes into energy.

She said the landfill is within the prescribed confines stated in the international laws for landfills.

A previous waste-to-energy project in Inayawan, championed by former mayor and now Rep. Tomas Osmeña didn’t materialize due to technical problems.

Cebu City has been hard pressed to look for another landfill site since the volume of garbage in Inayawan already reached its maximum limit several years ago.

Fire outbreaks occured during the summer months at the Inayawan landfill site due to the buildup of methane gas caused by overflowing garbage.

Cabrera said the Malaysian landfill project can be pursued in partnership with the Cebu City government.

She said the Malaysian firm wants the city government to provide a 20 hectare site for the landfill.

The firm will submit a design and will seek to secure an Environmental Compliance Certificate.

The Berjaya Corp. Berhad will earn through tipping fees from those availing of the landfill site.

The Malaysian firm earned several awards from engineering and secured an ISO certification for their landfill site in Malaysia.

On the other hand, Cabrera said she presented Cebu City’s Gender and Development (GAD) budget and program during the International Workshop on Gender and Environment.

The programs focused on livelihood, and seminars on children and women’s rights.

She said women’s groups in cooperation with the City Council’s environment committee will present their ecycled handicraft at the Shangri-la Mactan next month. Correspondent Jemarie Jane P. Augusto

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Towards a green nation and economy

Posted on November 27, 2010. Filed under: Energy |

Secretary-General Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry

In the pursuit of sustainable development, policymakers must find a way to strike a balance between economic efficiency and environmental protection.THE global community is confronted with challenges related to the environment and climate change. As a result, many countries are promoting sustainable development by investing in green technology in the form of cleaner low-carbon transport and energy systems, “smart” electricity grids, energy efficiency, renewable energy as well as in green research and development.

Green technology signifies a global paradigm shift in which economic aspiration combines with resource productivity and conservation to spearhead sustainable development.

Under a Cabinet reshuffle in April 2009, the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry (Kettha) was given the mandate to promote sustainable development through the adoption of green technologies in the various economic sectors of the country.

In pushing for a low-carbon economy, the Government launched the National Green Technology Policy on July 24, 2009, which serves as the basis for all Malaysians to enjoy an improved quality of life, by ensuring that the objectives of our national development policies will continue to be balanced with environmental considerations.

The Government also hopes to create a new avenue of growth for the country from green technology, in line with the New Economic Model that was unveiled recently.

The country’s vision for a low-carbon growth trajectory will be driven by four main pillars – energy, economy, environment and society.

To strengthen the platform for our green agenda, the National Green Technology Council was established to spearhead green technology application in the country. This council is chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and supported by a steering committee and five working groups on industry, research and innovation, human capital, promotion and public awareness and transportation.

The Green Technology Policy also outlines five strategic thrusts towards implementing green technologies in the country (for details, go to

In the transition to a low-carbon economy, the key issue for our policymakers is how to strike a balance between economic efficiency and environmental protection as the driver for economic growth and environmental sustainability. This needs to take into consideration the importance of promoting the notion of the environment and eco-efficiency as a business opportunity, rather than a cost item.

The following are examples of the initiatives undertaken by the ministry to address the challenges of climate change and reduce our carbon footprint:

Energy efficiency

The Malaysian Industrial Energy Efficiency Improvement Programme represents one of the main efforts undertaken to improve energy efficiency in the industrial sector. Since 2001, fiscal incentives had been introduced by the Government to promote efficient use of energy such as pioneer status, investment tax allowance, duty import exemption and sales tax exemption.

The ministry was now in the midst of finalising the Energy Efficiency Master Plan with clear goals and targets in the industrial, building and residential sectors, so as to coordinate and implement energy efficiency and conservation programmes in a systematic and holistic manner.

Renewable energy

The Government approved the Renewable Energy Policy and Action Plan in April 2010. This policy is aimed at promoting long-term sustainability by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels for electricity generation and at the same time stimulate a new growth industry for the country.

To encourage renewable energy generation in the country, the Government will be implementing the Feed-in Tariff Mechanism which allows electricity produced from such sources like biomass, biogas, mini-hydro and solar to be sold to power utilities at a fixed premium price and for a specific duration.

Green buildings

The Green Building Index (GBI) is a rating tool to grade environment-friendly buildings and the Government is providing fiscal incentives to buildings which are GBI-certified.

Owners of GBI-certified buildings are entitled to income tax exemptions, equivalent to the additional capital expenditure, to green their building. Buyers of green buildings from developers will also be exempted from stamp duty equivalent to the additional cost incurred to green their building.

Sustainable transport

To facilitate the use of electric vehicles (EV) in the country, the Government is in the process of preparing the EV Infrastructure Roadmap, which includes a fleet test programme for electric vehicles. The implementation of this fleet test will be the benchmark in developing a strategic plan and framework as well as identification of entities that will benefit the electric vehicle industry, in areas of services and new business opportunities.

Green Technology Roadmap

Under the Green Technology Roadmap, a baseline study is currently being conducted to ascertain the overall green technology applications in six sectors, namely, energy, transport, building, water and waste management, manufacturing industries and ICT applications.

Green Technology Financing Scheme

A RM1.5bil soft loan scheme called the Green Technology Financing Scheme (GTFS) was launched by the Government early this year to encourage the participation of companies and entrepreneurs in green technology. The Government bears 2% of the interest rate charged and provides a guarantee of 60% on the financing amount, with the remaining 40% being taken by banking institutions.

Green townships in Putrajaya and Cyberjaya

The ministry, together with the Malaysian Green Technology Corporation (MGTC), is developing a green township framework, a green township rating system based on the Common Carbon Metric (CCM) and carbon

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Malaysia: A Coal Plant in Paradise

Posted on November 27, 2010. Filed under: Pollution |

There are worse places to be than in the eco-paradise of Sabah, a state on the northeast tip of Malaysian Borneo. To one side is the Coral Triangle, home to the world’s richest ocean diversity; to the other is the Heart of Borneo, a 22-million-hectare rain forest. In the middle is a vast swath of 1,100 palm plantations. Every year hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Sabah to explore its marvels of biodiversity, hiking elephant paths, spotting shy orangutans and scuba diving with hammerhead sharks.

It’s hard to imagine a worse place for a brand new 300 MW coal-fired power plant than here. But it will be a real challenge for Sabah to get by otherwise. And there, in a Southern Pacific garden spot, are all the world’s eco-tensions writ small. (See pictures of transforming a coal refinery in South Africa.)

Malaysia has taken clear steps to make environmental health a national priority. In the fall of 2009, Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged at the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen that his country, already a Kyoto Protocol signatory, would reduce its carbon emissions by 40% by 2020. It is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia with renewable energy standards, despite the fact that it has reliable stores of conventional fuels; its oil, gas and energy sectors accounted for 10% of the country’s GDP in 2009.

But Malaysia is also a land of pressing energy needs, and Sabah tells that story better than most places. Officials anticipate a 7.7% annual energy demand increase through 2020, which Sabah Electricity, the state power company, has proposed meeting by adding seven new energy facilities to the 17 already in existence. Most are fueled by natural gas, followed by hydropower and diesel. One of those new facilities, promised by Razak just months before his pledge in Copenhagen, is slated for the Sabah palm plantation region. And this one will be fired by coal — Sabah’s first such plant.

Twice before in the last three years, the local electricity utility, a subsidiary of Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), which owns 80% of Malaysia’s power generation, had lobbied to build a coal-fired plant. Both times the plans were shot down by the federal Department of Environment (DOE) and local opposition.

This latest plant, however, is different. Not only is it slated for federally owned land, it also has the backing of the prime minister. Sabah’s environmental groups formed a coalition to fight the plant, but they kept hearing the same thing over and over again: Ini Najib mau. Najib wants this.

Still, what Najib wants is not necessarily what the rest of his government wants, and in August, the DOE once again stepped in, rejecting a detailed environmental impact assessment for the plant. TNB is expected to submit a revised statement early next year and when the company does, environmentalists fear the jig could be up; this time a coal plant may actually get built. (See “The End of Cheap Coal?”)

It doesn’t have to be this way, environmentalists say. Some 60% of Malaysia is rain forest, the vast majority of it found in Sabah and its neighbor state, Sarawak. Though renewables currently account for only 1% of the country’s energy production, mostly from hydropower, Sabah’s abundant sunshine, geothermal sources, extensive network of strong rivers and a long coastline give it the potential to make Malaysia a regional leader in clean energy.

These resources are underdeveloped, however, and until the renewables sector can get itself ginned up, the threat of a coal-fired plant looms. One stopgap for Sabah would be to build the power plants it needs but fuel them with palm oil production waste. Sabah currently produces about 30% of Malaysia’s palm oil, which combined with Indonesia’s, constitutes 90% of the world’s palm oil exports. A palm waste biomass plant could readily meet the 300-MW target Razak promised, according to one recent energy analysis.

Of course, palm plantations — and their waste — do their own serious environmental damage. In Southeast Asia, slash-and-burn land clearing has destroyed vast forest regions to make way for monocrops like palms, a practice that has been strongly implicated in global warming. That hardly makes this region a good place to do more burning. Still, even greens concede that palm burning is a step up from coal, if only because it provides something to do with the 70 million tons of palm production waste the country generates each year, most of which is dumped in mill ponds or illegally burned in open pits.

Despite these problems, Malaysia still heads into the 2010 climate talks in Cancun on Nov. 29 as one of the world’s better-intentioned environmental citizens. But it remains to be seen how these good impulses will play out in Sabah’s fragile and beautiful ecosystem.

Read more:,8599,2031862,00.html#ixzz17jXB6xuf

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A plastic test of maturity

Posted on November 25, 2010. Filed under: Waste |

FEW Malaysians are aware that Hongkong now requires retail outlets to charge 50 cents (20 sen) for a plastic bag and in many places in the UK, consumers fork out at least 5 pence (25 sen) for one.

In several towns in India people have been told to use cloth bags for shopping. In 2004, the Indian Railways started promoting use of environmentally-friendly clay cups for drinks sold at stations to replace containers made of non-biodegradable plastic and polystyrene.

These are but a few examples of communities around the world that are moving fast to remove or reduce the scourge of plastic bags in their environments, and are making significant strides in changing the attitudes of people in taking for granted non-biodegradable materials.

Yet, in Malaysia, a state government’s move to ban free plastic bags (people can still have them for 20 sen each; the money goes to charity) has met with heavy opposition, not surprisingly enough, mostly from plastic manufacturers.

From January, Penang is imposing a complete ban on giving of free plastic bags at hypermarkets and supermarkets, with plans to extend the ruling to include smaller retail outlets and, very likely, even hawkers. It is a move the state has admitted will likely pose a political challenge, if it turns out to be unpopular.

And the plastic manufacturers are leading the charge in being stridently critical. As it is, the Selangor government and the federal authorities are also following suit to impose restrictions on plastic bags.

The manufacturers insist their productions have been hit following Penang’s “No Plastic Bag” campaign, which is now limited to three days a week. The state has already imposed a ban on polystyrene at government functions and municipal council food courts. It has also announced a ban on the use of polystyrene for all licensed eateries with enforcement to begin in January.

It is encouraging manufacturers and distributors to come up with biodegradable containers, like food-grade paper boxes and containers made of organic husks.

The Malaysian Plastic Manufacturers Association had as early as last year delivered a memorandum urging the state to reconsider the campaign. It maintained that plastic can be recycled with proper planning and implementation.

The manufacturers have since cited, among other things, studies that supposedly point to pollution rising in countries that have banned plastic bags. They insist that deaths of marine creatures from plastic, something that is widely publicised, are caused by the fishing industry which uses nylon nets and leaves behind plastic debris in the seas, and not by plastic bags.

To be fair, the manufacturers’ main concern is not environmental but economics. One can, however, empathise with the new business dilemma they now face.

Consider, for example, that almost 90% of plastic bag factories in the northern region cater for the local market. And on the average, they are now seeing production plummeting by 30% with a few being affected by as much as 75%.

But the state too has its concerns, which are not in the least bit unwarranted. Studies have shown that plastics make up 15%-17% of Penang’s wastes. Every year, plastic materials clog up public drains and canals causing flash floods during heavy rains.

The recycling rate for plastic, a highly non-biodegradable material, is 3%. And as many as 25.2 million plastic bags, or 2.5 million pieces a month, were given away in 2008 in six major groups of supermarkets and hypermarkets. If one were to add that sum to the millions of unaccounted for bags distributed by retailers, hawkers and other traders, the state faces a massive problem in waste management.

So this plastic dilemma precipitated by Penang’s ban will not test the government’s political will. It will, more importantly, be a test of the maturity of our people. It will show whether Malaysians can be as conscientious and educated in changing their habits as other communities around the world are doing.

Himanshu is theSun’s Penang bureau chief. Comments:

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Malaysia to find niche in biotech industry

Posted on November 24, 2010. Filed under: Environmental Science |

Borneo Post-

KOTA KINABALU: Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said that Sabah has yet to acculturate and improvise current development of the biotech industry and while the proposed strategies and plans have been incorporated into Sabah Development Corridor (SDC), the need to gear up in developing the industry in the state must be stressed.

Maximus further pointed out that Malaysia needs to find its own niche in the biotech rat-race stressing that other countries have made large investments in the biotechnology industry, and many have found their niche.

Brazil is now recognised for its advancement in biofuel, Japan for industrial fermentation and Korea for industrial bioprocesses.

He said the country’s strong agricultural foundation in commodity crops such as palm oil presents an advantage to develop environmental-friendly technologies and the abundant biomass and waste from palm oil and other commodity crops could be leveraged to provide a sustainable and economical source of feedstock for the production of biofuel.

“It also could be turned into ‘brown gold’, an organic fertiliser, or to be chemically or enzymatically refined to produce other bio-chemical derivatives,” Maximus suggested in his keynote address at the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) seminar on Investment Opportunities in Sabah Biotech Industry here yesterday.

His speech was delivered by the chief operating officer of Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation Sdn Bhd (BiotechCorp) Dr Wan Abdul Rahaman Wan Yaacob.

The event was organised by Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (Sedia) in collaboration with Mosti.

“We need to be literate in biotech in order to leverage on platform technologies to hasten commercialisation initiatives and create a niche as a tropical biotech hub and Sabah could also leverage on the existing biotech initiatives and conservation work to draw research and commercialisation in the state,” Maximus said.

He further stated that since the inception of the National Biotechnology Policy on April 6, 2005, a total of 349 biotech companies were identified in Malaysia.

From 2005 to 2009, the industry recorded a total investment of US$1.3 billion, equivalent to RM4.5 billion.

57.8 per cent of the companies were funded by the government while the remainder were funded by the private sector initiatives.

Maximus also pledged to continue government investments in this industry, while at the same time strive to increase collaborations.

These include the public-private sector collaborations, domestic and regional collaborations, procurement of transactions, procurement of sales and distribution channels for our country’s biotechnology innovation, products, technologies and services.

He also believed that an invisible ‘social contract on biotechnology’ was needed between all stakeholders to act as a catalyst towards building a sustainable biotechnology industry.

Also present were Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Peter Pang En Yin, and president of Sedia Datuk Dr Mohd Yaakub Johari.

Meanwhile, Director of Life Science Industry of Mida Jaswant Singh said the pharmaceutical industry could enjoy reinvestment allowance of 60 per cent on qualifying capital expenditure for 15 years.

In addition, there is also reinvestment allowance of 60 per cent on qualifying capital expenditure for 15 years, as well as investment tax allowance of 70 per cent to 100 per cent on qualifying capital expenditure incurred for a period of five to 10 years.

“The allowance can be offset against 70 per cent to 100 per cent of the statutory income for each year of assessment,” Jaswant said while pointing out that the pharmaceutical industry was identified as one of the new growth areas for development and promotion under the Third Industrial Master Plan (2006-2020).

“Under the National Key Economic Area (NKEA) (Healthcare Services), the pharmaceuticals and medical devices industries have been identified as one of the targeted sectors to be further promoted and developed,” he said.

Jaswant continued that the tax incentives were given to manufacture of pharmaceutical and related products, biotechnology, development and production of cell cultures, biomaterials, manufacture of medical, surgical, dental, or veterinary devices or equipment, design, development and manufacture of medical equipment, medical implant or devices and scientific equipment, and testing laboratories for medical devices, just to name a few.

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Rainwater harvesting will help avert water crisis

Posted on November 24, 2010. Filed under: Water resource | Weng Lian

Malaysia is blessed with the abundant rainfall feeding our rivers and water catchments.

Peninsular Malaysia alone, receives an average of 2400mm rainfall annually while Sabah and Sarawak receives 2360mm and 3830mm of annual rainfall respectively.

Unfortunately unsustainable land use and development, increasing and unsustainable water consumption and increasing levels of pollution in our country, have made access to clean and safe water supply a tremendous challenge to overcome.

Rapid development, urbanisation, industrialisation and agricultural development aggravates the situation.

Access to clean and safe water supply could be due to several reasons and among them are:

1. lack of rain, erratic /unpredictable weather patterns

2. lack of catchments due to poor management of land development

3. increased pollution

4. unsustainable use – for example using treated water for non-potable purposes

Malaysians are a wasteful lot in many ways. A survey by the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) in 2006 indicates that although almost 90 percent recognise the importance of recycling, only 5 percent actually recycle.

About 95 percent are not aware of the energy efficiency label. Another survey by Fomca on water consumption indicates that while almost 80 percent of those surveyed are well aware of the water problems in Malaysia, the majority of the respondents are not likely to conserve water within the next three years.

One way of realising about 26 percent of our water consumption for potable use is by using alternative supply of water for toilets – namely for flushing. A study of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) states that 26 percent of household water is used for toilet flushing.

Studies in Malaysia and many other countries have shown that harvesting rainwater or using grey water meets this objective, thus releasing precious treated water for potable use.

A lot of research has been done on rainwater harvesting and many guidelines have been developed such as the Urban Stormwater Management Manual for Malaysia (2001) and also the Guidelines for Installing a Rainwater Collection and Utilisation System (1999).

Normally, rainwater is collected directly through roofs and also other purpose built catchments.

Archeological evidence shown that capturing of rainwater dates back as far as 6000 years ago.

But technologies in water treatment and supply systems has resulted in this age old but sustainable way of using water ignored or forgotten.

Based on research and studies done, rainwater harvesting can effectively reduce the water bill by 20-30 percent in some cases up to 60 percent.

Imagine the amount of money and water which can be saved if the whole country implements this.

Instead of using rainwater, we are using treated water to wash cars, flush toilets, water plants and also for irrigation. This is such a waste when some countries such as in Africa, people are struggling to get a mouthful of clean water.

Decades of unsustainable development has lead to what experts term as a humanitarian crisis due to global warming and climate change.

Erratic weather results in unpredictable rainfall pattern and Malaysia has experienced unexpected prolonged droughts recently in Sarawak and Sabah.

This has caused water stress in these states.

Indeed a water crisis is predicted in Selangor in a few years and it could be forced to buy raw water from neighboring states.

This could be averted if more potable water was freed from non-potable use.

But in Malaysia, there are several factors posing obstacles for implementation and development of rainwater harvesting system. The first factor is with the copious amount of rainfall, people think that Malaysia has rich water resources.

Second, the frequent flooding gives impression that it is unnecessary to harvest rainfall.

Third, a single approach in managing water supply i.e. Water Demand Management instead of Integrated Water Demand Management.

Fourth, low water tariffs make it uneconomical to install rainwater mechanisms.

Fifth, lack of incentives to include rainwater harvesting in building design. Last but not least, lack of mandatory regulation to enforce rainwater harvesting system for both commercial and domestic buildings.

With these obstacles removed, rainwater harvesting would save consumers and the water supply service providers a lot of money and resources.

But rainwater harvesting system is not the answer to our water woes. Preventing pollution of water sources and catchments are of utmost importance to protect our water supply for current and future generations.


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Protecting native flora and fauna

Posted on November 23, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-

Botanists are mapping the health of our native plants and the results so far are grim.

THE Shorea kuantanensis is no more. All that remains of it is a couple of faded, dried leaves and buds, taped to a piece of cardboard and stored in one of thousands of boxes filling the shelves of the vast Kepong Herbarium at the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM).

We will never know how high the tree grows. Or the shade of green of its leaves. Or the colour of its blooms. We can only guess how its seedlings look like. The species was lost to science and mankind after the only area where it grew, the Bukit Goh forest reserve near Kuantan, Pahang, was cleared and planted over with oil palm.

Three other Peninsular Malaysia plants share the same fate as S. kuantanensis. The fern Oreogrammitis crispatula has not been seen in Bukit Larut, Perak, since 1952. Its cousin, Oreogrammitis kunstleri, was last collected from Gunung Ledang, Johor, in 1880. The Begonia eromischa disappeared after its forest home in Penang was turned into a farm.

If we don’t start protecting our native flora, all that remains in future may well be just pressed specimens in herbariums. – LOW LAY PHON / The Star

Now, we only know all these four plants from pressed specimens in the herbarium. With over half of Peninsular Malaysia’s original forests now replaced by townships, industrial sites, farms and estates, our wild native flora has certainly taken a beating.

The latest stock-take of our plant kingdom shows just how bad things are: of the 580 species and subspecies looked at so far, almost half face some degree of threat. The results are merely scratching the surface. With over 7,700 species left to study, more grim news might come.

The data is the culmination of the first five years of project Safeguarding the Plant Diversity of Peninsular Malaysia, undertaken by FRIM to update knowledge on our flora. It is our most ambitious project on plant biodiversity to date, and marks our first attempt to document, in detail, how our plants are faring in the wild.

“Previous work had only looked at the description and distribution of species. This project goes one step further to include their conservation status (such as whether the species is endangered),” says botanist Dr Saw Leng Guan, who heads the project. Saw is director of the Tropical Forest Biodiversity Centre at FRIM.

The effort is much needed as there are gaps in our understanding of native plants. Although Peninsular Malaysia has a long history of botanical collection, with naturalists and botanists gathering and documenting plant specimens since the 1800s, much of the information has not been updated for years.

Lost forever: All that’s left of Shorea kuantanensis is the pressed specimens (the page on extreme right) being held by botanist Dr Saw Leng Guan. Now considered extinct, the tree species is known from only the Bukit Goh forest reserve near Kuantan, an area that has been cultivated with oil palm.

Our earliest floristic account was the six-volume The Flora Of The Malay Peninsula by Henry Ridley, published between 1922 and 1925. Over the years, attempts to revise the knowledge have been scattered, limited or confined to plant families of economic importance (such as timber trees) or of personal interest to scientists (such as ferns, orchids and begonias). As such, we have plant groups, such as lianas, which have not been reviewed since Ridley’s time.

The FRIM project has so far resulted in three publications, with more to come: two volumes of Flora Of Peninsular Malaysia (one on seed plants and one on ferns and leucophytes) and one volume of the Malaysian Plant Red List (on dipterocarp trees). The Flora Of Peninsular Malaysia compilations contain the most up-to-date information on 580 species, covering taxonomic descriptions, botanical drawings, distributions, ecology, and conservation status.

The updated information will provide baseline information that is essential for the management and conservation of Peninsular Malaysia’s botanical treasure trove. Aside from the four extinct species, FRIM researchers documented 262 species (45.2%) as threatened, out of which 79 are critically endangered, 88 are endangered and 95, vulnerable. They found that restricted and declining distribution, due to loss of natural habitats, is the greatest threat to plants. A reduction in population size and small numbers of mature individuals are the other causes.

Aside from vetting herbarium specimens, FRIM researchers have gone on the ground to collect and document plants under the Safeguarding the Plant Diversity of Peninsular Malaysia project.

The Malaysian Plant Red List is a brief version of the Flora as its focus is on the conservation status of plants. The first volume focuses on dipterocarpaceae, an important timber group and the dominant family in lowland forests. Aside from the extinct S. kuantanensis, the Red List revealed 15 dipterocarps to be critically endangered and 35, endangered. Of the critically endangered species, six are peninsula endemics.

“Dipterocarps are the skeleton of the forest from where other plants grow. They form the canopy of the forest and if removed, other plantlife will be affected. By doing this (the Red List), we will know the response of the forest to threats,” says Saw.

Plant scrutiny

To revise the scientific knowledge on our plants, the researchers start by first vetting the 300,000 dried specimens – some dating back 100 years, and the oldest one is dated 1819! – in the Kepong Herbarium. From there, the distributions of the species are plotted on a map and then collated with the extent of forest cover; this narrows down the range of plants in our present day.

If the habitat of a species is gone, that species is likely to be gone, too. From there, the researchers determine the level of threat faced by the species, whether critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable, based on the criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Cross-referencing is done with collections and information from herbariums in Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and the Netherlands, as well as with agencies such as the Forestry Department.

“It is impossible to go to the ground to look for all the plants as this will take too long. But for some 40 highly endangered plants, including the rare ones and those feared to be extinct, we went out to the field to do population counts,” says Saw.

In their pursuit to document local flora, the researchers found both good and bad news. One good news is the discovery of Dryobalanops beccarii in Peninsular Malaysia. The plant was previously found only in Borneo. The bad news is that one population of the critically endangered Vatica yeechongii in Setul forest reserve in Negri Sembilan has been wiped out by building construction. The only other population of the species, described only in 2002, in Sungai Lalang forest reserve in Selangor, is safe – but it has all of 10 trees.

“We have lost much of our forests, so the range of distribution for most species has declined. That’s why we have such a high number of threatened species,” explains Saw.

Malaysia has 15,000 plants species; Peninsular Malaysia hosts 8,300 species while Sabah and Sarawak, 12,000.

Saw estimates that revising all of the species found in the peninsula will take at least 20 years. The Flora Of Peninsular Malaysia features two series to cover all our plants. Series I, on Ferns and Lycophytes, will have another four to five volumes. Series II is on Seed Plants and 20 volumes are expected. Future publications of the Malaysian Plant Red List will be on begonias and palms.

To accomplish all this, funds are sorely needed. The initial RM7mil provided by the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry covered only the first phase from 2005 to 2010. Saw says funding for botanical inventories usually comes up short despite the importance of such research. “By identifying what species are threatened, we can then do something about it. Very often, we act in ignorance. People do not have the right information to make the right decisions. The key is generating the data to give the right information.”

He cites the example of Hopea subalata or merawan kanching, an endemic that grows only in Kanching forest reserve in Selayang, Selangor. When FRIM botanists heard that a new road, the Rawang bypass, would cut through the only known site where the trees grow, they immediately appealed to the Forestry Department and the state government. The road was subsequently realigned.

In a similar case, the Forestry Department set aside 63ha within Jerangau forest reserve in Terengganu as a “genetic resource area”, protecting it from loggers, after the critically endangered Dipterocarpus sarawakensis (keruing layang) was found there. This may well be the last population of the species in Peninsular Malaysia as the other population in Sungai Dadong could no longer be located.

Yet another positive conservation example is that of the critically endangered Dipterocarpus semivestitus (keruing padi). Historical records show that the species grows only in two places: central Kalimantan and Perak. The species was feared to be all but lost as the sites in Perak, in the freshwater swamps of Parit, Sungai Rotan and Sungai Tinggi, have been taken over by tin mining.

In 2006, a FRIM researcher found D. semivestitus in a patch of freshwater swamp in the Universiti Teknologi Mara campus in Seri Iskandar, Perak. Unfortunately, the site was to be cleared for new buildings. After consultation, the university authorities agreed to make changes to their expansion plans. Although some trees were sacrificed, 53 stands remain. FRIM is working with the university to preserve the swamp as the trees survive on fluctuations of the water table.

“This is likely the last population of D. semivestitus in the world as the central Kalimantan population is most likely gone as the area has been planted with oil palm. So it is fortunate that the university was responsive to our suggestions,” says Saw.

But there is also bad news. The limestone hill where the endangered begonia Senyumia minutiflora grows is earmarked for quarrying by YTL Cement. The hyper-endemic species is restricted to the two adjacent limestone hills of Gunung Senyum and Gunung Jebak Puyuh in Pahang. Only 60 plants have been seen so far. Saw says several letters appealing for conservation of the plant drew no response from YTL and the state government.

Protection plan

To best protect threatened plants, Saw says we need to pinpoint important plant areas (IPAs), which are sites rich in plant diversity and endemic species, and protect them. IPAs for dipterocarps and palms include the Kledang Saiong Range in Perak, north-west Negri Sembilan-East Selangor, Terengganu, as well as central and east Johor.

It is high time the Government provided legal protection for our plants. Right now, plants are not shielded under any legislation. Only those that happen to grow in protected areas such as state or national parks or wildlife reserves, are safeguarded.

“Critically endangered species should be listed in an Act and automatically protected. With such a legal instrument, if an endangered species is found, the land owner or developer will be required by law to protect it. Now, protection is just based on goodwill.”

We also need to move into spe-cies recovery and restoration of the most threatened species. Conser-vation actions include monitoring the populations to determine their health; developing conservation measures to remove the threats; initiating protection and recovery programmes; and initiating ex-situ conservation programmes to aid recovery (such as artificial breeding and genetic conservation).

“The Government has to take more serious action to protect our species. Once a plant is extinct, it’s gone forever. There’s no going back,” stresses Saw.

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