Archive for August, 2011

Three states identified as risk-prone areas for landslides

Posted on August 22, 2011. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

-The Star-

KUALA LUMPUR: Selangor, Sabah and Penang have been identified as risk-prone areas for landslides.

Housing and Local Government Datuk Chor Chee Heung said this was concluded after receiving 111 reports from 111 local councils out of 145 councils who were ordered to conduct surveys and submit reports of landslide risks to buildings on or near hillslopes under their jurisdiction.

“We have identified 2,000 houses that are in high risk areas,” he said after launching the Ops Raya 2011 at the Sungai Besi Toll here Monday.

He, however, refused to reveal the exact number of houses or buildings located at or near areas prone to landslide in the three states mentioned.

Chor said a report on this was submitted to the Cabinet last week.

He added the remaining councils that did not submit their reports as there were no landslide threats in those areas.

“The landslide risks were listed in three categories; serious, not so serious and light,” he said.

It was reported on May 31 that Chor announced a Cabinet directive that the surveys must be completed within a month, following a tragedy in Hulu Langat where an orphanage was hit by a landslide, killing 16 people.

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Energy-saving devices allowed

Posted on August 22, 2011. Filed under: Energy |

-The Star-
PETALING JAYA: Energy saving devices can be used as long as they do not tamper with the readings of electricity meters, says Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB.)

Its customer service and marketing department general manager Nirinder Singh Johl said it was legal to use such products but said the items must be certified by Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia or the Malaysia Energy Commission.

“It is up to the customers to use such products but most importantly they must not tamper with the electricity readings and changing the actual electricity consumption,” he said.

He said although there were electrical saving products in the market, TNB had never certified any of them.

“We would like to stress that TNB has never certified or approved any types of electrical saving products in the market,” he insisted.

He advised customers who wanted to save electricity to do so by operating electrical appliances efficiently and maintain the equipment properly.

“There are other ways to save electricity but we have no problems with customers who decide to use electricity saving devices or high-end electronic appliances,” said Nirin­­-der.

A source, whose company distributes energy saving devices, had said its products had been certified by Sirim and fully complied with Malaysia Standard.

“It is a legitimate product and it is safe to be used in every household,” the source said.

However, a check revealed that the product was not listed in the approved electrical saver equipment on the Malaysia Energy Commission website.

It was reported that power thieves are employing elaborate measures and using high-tech equipments to siphon electricity worth hundreds of millions of ringgit from TNB.

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EU firms keen to bring green technology to Malaysia despite crisis

Posted on August 20, 2011. Filed under: Energy |

-The Star-

KUALA LUMPUR: Despite being plagued by sovereign debt crisis, European companies are forging ahead with green technology business opportunities in Malaysia.

European-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EUMCCI) chairman David Jones said that European companies were keen on working with local companies, seeing the potential in the relatively young green industry here because of the favourable regulatory framework.

“The companies are not at all affected by the crisis. There is a strong interest to come into Malaysia and we are also surprised at the response,” he said at a briefing yesterday.

He added that Malaysia was European Union’s (EU) second biggest trading partner within Asean, with bilateral trade in goods reaching 31.9 billion euros in 2010.

From left: Ambassador and head of the EU delegation to Malaysia Vincent Piket, David Jones and Siemens president and CEO Prakash Chandran at the briefing.

“With the introduction of new green policies by the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry, there is a good chance that we can strengthen bilateral trade in terms of systems, products and technology transfers,” Jones said.

The interest was reflected in the participation of European companies at the International GreenTech and Eco Products Exhibition and Conference Malaysia (IGEM).

There will be about 40 companies from nine European countries exhibiting in the IGEM this year, making EU the single-largest exhibitor.

There were 35 exhibitors from EU when the event was first held last year.

“As the euro decreases in value, clearly companies will become more competitive. They see Malaysia as a potential growth market and they want to participate in that growth,” he said.

When asked whether Malaysia was a stepping stone for the EU to tap into the green technology sector in Asean, Jones said: “If that does happen, then Malaysia really should take the leadership in green technology and become the gateway to the rest of Asean, rather than let it be another country”.

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Penans to Masing: We are not thieves

Posted on August 18, 2011. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

Free Malaysia Today

Penan landowners in Batu Niah are both shocked and angry at State Land Minister James Masing’s insensitivity.

MIRI: Hundreds of affronted Penan native customary rights (NCR) landowners, who have been accused of stealing oil palm fresh fruit bunches (ffb) from four major government-linked oil palm plantations, have lodged a police report objecting to the allegation.

The Penan community in Kampung Ugos, Jambatan Suai, in Baru Niah have taken offence to accusations levelled against them by State Land Development Minister James Masing.

Penan chief Ugos Sugon, who lodged the police report on behalf of his people at the Batu Niah police station on Aug 12, said Masing had no right to call them thieves.

“We are not thieves… we are not happy at being accused of stealing from our own land. We have been waiting for our dividends for a very long time.

“In February 2009, after waiting 13 years we received a cash cheque of RM500,000 to be divided among us.

“The 500 of us in Kampung Ugos are to share the RM500,000… after 13 years. It is not right,” he said.

Ugos and his people had, in 1999, agreed to jointly develop their NCR land with the Land Custody Development Authority (LCDA) and its band of private investors.

However, the “deal”, according to the villagers, was somewhat unfair to them.

Many claimed that they had not even seen the agreement.

Cheating LCDA

The villagers believe the joint-venture (JV) project involving their NCR lands has made millions for LCDA and the private investors “in view of the very good oil palm price for many years”.

They feel the LCDA and its partners were shortchanging them.

The villagers were paid RM500 dividend every year. Many have expressed their unhappiness at the quantum.

Villager Jadam Ekem said they agreed to allow LCDA to develop their NCR land under a JV agreement because they hoped that their community would progress like other communities in the state.

He claimed that although the agency had paid them RM500,000, the payout was not documented properly and the purpose of the payment not noted.

They claimed allegations of stealing surfaced when they voiced out their unhappiness.

Since last year the plantation management has reportedly accused the Penans of stealing fruit bunches and selling them off on their own.

According to Masing, the situation had become worse since the recent state election on April 16.

‘Stealing’ natives

Masing had reportedly said, last week, that illegal harvesting of oil palm fruits had cost LCD and its JV partners some RM33.6 million in losses.

Worst hit was the 1,855ha plantation belonging to SPB Penan Jambatan Suai Sdn Bhd in Suai, Miri, which has reported RM21.2 million in losses and the IOI Pelita Plantation Sdn Bhd plantation in Tinjar, Baram. The latter lost RM9.8 million.

Responding to the losses, Masing lashed out at the Penan community, saying: “Stealing is stealing, no matter how you (landowners) try to justify it. You don’t steal from your friend.”

During a press conference organised by Sarawak Natives Customary Rights Land Network (Tahabas), Ugos said the villagers were willing to meet with Masing over the issue and that he must apologise for calling them thieves.

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Fong to head green energy authority

Posted on August 16, 2011. Filed under: Energy |

-The Star-

PUTRAJAYA: MCA presidential council member Tan Sri Dr Fong Chan Onn has been appointed chairman of the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (Seda).

In a statement, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin said Seda’s members would include those from the Economic Planning Unit, the Prime Minister’s Department and his ministry.

Three other appointed members from the industry are Datuk Kok Soo Chon, Dr Pola Singh and Datuk Mohd Salleh Mahmud.

Seda is the governing body that would manage the feed-in-tariff (FiT) mechanism for renewable energy (RE) in the country.

Seda will also manage and award licences for renewable energy players for the production of RE.

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Feed-in-tariff scheme launch on Dec 1

Posted on August 16, 2011. Filed under: Energy |

-The Star-

PUTRAJAYA: The 1% feed-in-tariff (FiT) for the development of renewable energy will now be launched on Dec 1 instead of Sept 1.

In a statement, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin stated that the ministry was working with the Attorney-General’s Chambers to finalise the legal instruments under the Renewable Energy Act 2011.

The renewable resources eligible for the FiT are biogas, small hydros and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

FiT is a mechanism that prioritises electricity generated from indigenous renewable energy resources to be purchased by power utility firms at a fixed premium price for a specific duration.

The FiT scheme has been proven successful in accelerating renewable energy deployment, reducing carbon emissions and creating jobs in many countries, the statement said.

Chin said a sound and resilient regulatory framework was crucial to ensure that the FiT system operated smoothly.

In April, Parliament passed the Renewable Energy Act 2010 and Sustainable Energy Development Authority (Seda) Bill. The latter will oversee the implementation of the Act and manage the FiT mechanism.

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Mixed views on redevelopment of landfills

Posted on August 16, 2011. Filed under: Waste |

-The Star-

Old landfills have found new uses as development sites but not everyone agrees to that.

THE old Kelana Jaya garbage dump in Selangor will soon cease to exist. The last tract of the landfill, the dumping ground for trash thrown out by folks in Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya and Shah Alam from 1990 and 1996, is being dug up to make way for a commercial-residential project.

Since 2002, the once-sprawling refuse tip located off the road leading to the Subang airport in Selangor (an area which is now part of Ara Damansara) has been slowly paved over with link houses, apartments, low-cost flats and shops.

Soon, Pacific Place, a project comprising a mall, shops and 15-storey apartments, will come up on what is left of the dumpsite.

Last tract of old landfill: A commercial-residential project called Pacific Place is coming up on what was once the Kelana Jaya dump in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. The adjacent Dana 1 commercial centre was also built atop the dump. Much of the old rubbish has been excavated but a thick layer of buried waste can still be seen at the construction site.

Earthworks has commenced, with a huge pit carved out of the old open dump for piling works. Mounds of black, excavated landfill waste can be seen on the site; these are full of plastic bags buried at least 15 years ago (yes, they do not decay) and tyres.

As urban sprawl closes in on city outskirts, rubbish tips which once sit on remote corners far from human settlements have suddenly become sought-after prime land. But is it all right to put up major infrastructure on dumpsites? The Department of National Solid Waste Management thinks not.

“We don’t allow redevelopment of landfills. They should only be for light development such as recreation parks, green lungs or a small sport centre. That’s all we allow under our guidelines,” asserts director-general Datuk Dr Nadzri Yahaya.

The department has received several proposals for development on dumpsites and even offers to buy over the land but it has turned them all down.

The risks of allowing buildings and human habitation on dumping grounds are high: these dumps can leak foul leachate as well as combustible and explosive gases for years as waste slowly decays. And as decomposition gradually shrinks the waste volume, the land will sink.

“If you build houses on landfills, it might be all right the first three to four years but after that, the land will start to sink and you get methane releases,” says Nadzri.

Even for sanitary landfills, which are engineered with anti-pollution features, post-closure plans have to be carefully thought out. “Their future uses are decided right from the design and construction stages,” says Zamri Abdul Rahman, head of environment division at Worldwide Holdings which operates two sanitary landfills in Selangor.

“Most sanitary landfills in Malaysia are planned for green lungs following closure. In the initial years after the landfill closes, it can be used as a park. Twenty years after closure, and depending on its design and layout, we can do a study to see if it is possible to put low-rise buildings such as stadiums and two-storey homes,” says Zamri.

Decaying rubbish, excavated from the old Kelana Jaya dump, is disposed of in shallow pits at this illegal dump in Kota Warisan, Sepang. Nearby are link houses, oil palm estates and mining ponds.

He, too, asserts that landfills are not suitable for high-rises. “Piling work might damage landfill pipes and release trapped gases, and the piles might be corroded by leachate and gases.”

Sitting on a dump

In the past, the absence of laws forbidding structures on disused open dumps has led to residential estates, commercial sites and factories coming up on such lands. And there are examples that demonstrate the foolishness of building atop garbage dumps. Cracks have developed in homes at one such site in Ipoh and in Taman Kota Laksamana in Malacca as well as in low-cost flats in Bukit Kecil in Kuala Terengganu. Land subsidence of up to 2m caused the watchtower of the Fire Services Department in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur, to collapse in the late 1990s and left huge gaps between the ground and the foundation of the firemen’s apartments.

Nadzri says it might be possible to build over a landfill if all the buried waste was removed. But this rarely happens as excavating huge mountains of old rubbish and properly disposing it, will incur high costs.

A 2004 filepix of the Kelana Idaman housing project which sits on the Kelana Jaya dump. Buried waste was not totally removed. When Star2 checked the site in 2004, landfill waste was seen all over the project site.

This has been the bitter experience of home-owners at Kelana Idaman, a neighbourhood near the Pacific Place site which was built atop the Kelana Jaya dump. Only the upper layers of decaying garbage were removed for constructing link houses and shops on 4.8ha of the landfill between 2002 and 2004, eight years after the dump closed. So when residents dug their properties for gardens and home extensions, they unearthed decaying trash in the ground instead of soil.

“Their homes sank and metal fixtures developed green rust (attributed to reaction between hydrogen sulphide and copper),” says Nadzri of the complaints he received.

In 2006, a Universiti Malaya study commissioned by Petaling Jaya Municipal Council detected mercury and arsenic contamination in the soil in Kelana Idaman. As such, residents were advised against growing edible plants.

Waste management scientist Dr P. Agamuthu who led the study, found no immediate danger from gases at that time as levels were low – less than 1% of methane in the air and 1ppm of hydrogen sulphide. (If above 5%, methane is explosive).

Agamuthu, too, is against high-density projects such as high-rises and commercial centres on dumps. “Closed landfills are best used as parks and golf courses and in some countries, for low-rise industrial buildings.”

Waste that has been dug up from the old Kelana Jaya dump was seen in early July to be illegally dumped into this pond at Jalan SS7/4 in Kelana Jaya.

However, if the waste is dug up, he says construction will be possible. But there must be a detailed study on the residue, possible pollution and gas emissions.

He says that in that earlier study, he had recommended the removal of waste from the rest of the Kelana Jaya dump (the present site of Pacific Place) since other buildings were already crowding in.

Leaving the dump as it is might pose more of a threat as gases might migrate to the surrounding homes and shops, he says.

He adds that a geologist in the study had concluded that it was possible to excavate the dump as the waste layer was not deep and it would be safe for construction.

Agamuthu stresses that the excavated waste must go to a sanitary landfill as it is likely to be contaminated since hazardous stuff like fluorescent lights, batteries, expired medicines, electronic waste and chemical-laced containers (for chemicals, pesticides and paints) often end up in refuse tips.

He estimates that 3% of the 30,000 tonnes that Malaysians discard each day is hazardous.

Which raises the question: Where is all the old rubbish excavated from the Kelana Jaya dump going? Certainly not to any of the three sanitary landfills found in Selangor.

Zamri, who is also general manager of Worldwide Landfills which operates the Jeram landfill in Kuala Selangor and Tanjung 12 landfill in Kuala Langat, says neither facility has received old landfill waste from the Kelana Jaya dump. Nadzri says the same of Bukit Tagar landfill in Hulu Selangor.

Star2 tailed lorries from the Pacific Place site on July 6 and Aug 2. On the first occasion, the lorry dumped the landfill dirt into a pond behind SJK (Tamil) Seaport and bungalows in Jalan SS7/4, Kelana Jaya. On the second occasion, the lorry tipped the waste into huge pits near link houses in Kota Warisan, Sepang.

These are not the first wanton disposal of waste from the Kelana Jaya dump. In 2004, when the landfill was dug up for Dana 1, a commercial centre beside Pacific Place, lorry-loads of excavated waste were heaped near homes in Subang new village.

Non-existent landfills

With general sentiments being against buildings on old landfills, how did projects on the Kelana Jaya dumpsite get approved? How did a garbage dump get carved up and the soiled land, sold to different developers?

Nadzri says the development applications did not reach his department as that landfill is out of his purview. Pending enforcement of the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Act 2007 (scheduled for September after numerous postponements), old landfills still come under local authorities.

Furthermore, the Kelana Jaya dump was never gazetted as a landfill. So on land-use planning maps, it is not necessarily declared as tapak pelupusan sampah or “garbage disposal site”. And since it is not legally a landfill, the approving authorities might not treat it as one when weighing development proposals and when dishing out approval conditions.

Nadzri admits that many old, ungazetted landfills face the same issue. “If the local authority allows development, there is not much we can do.”

And in yet another oversight in our anti-pollution laws, environmental impact assessments are required only for construction of new sanitary landfills and not when old dumps are reused for development – although logically the latter should pose even more hazards.

But Nadzri is hopeful that his department will have a say on matters once the Act is in place. It will have some 12 supporting regulations covering landfill design, operations and closure, as well as licensing of waste contractors.

While these might spell better management of our trash, there is one setback – the laws will not apply to the Opposition-held states of Selangor and Penang, which have opted out of the Federal Government’s waste management scheme.

So will both state governments enact trash rules that are comparable with the Federal’s? Will local authorities ensure that impact studies are done before old landfills are redeveloped and the excavated waste, totally removed and properly disposed? Will they scrutinise the development to ensure that rules are not flouted, and public and environmental safety are upheld?

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Mining old garbage dumps

Posted on August 16, 2011. Filed under: Waste |

-The Star-

LANDFILLS are said to be the next gold mine. Prospectors are keen to mine old garbage dumps for valuable recyclables such as metals, plastics and rubber. These had ended up in dumps as waste separation and recycling were not the norm in the past, plus there was no recycling technology for some wastes back then.

In landfill mining, old rubbish heaps are dug up and recyclables are retrieved. Depending on the type of technology used, the remaining waste can be processed to tap energy or composted.

Several proposals on landfill mining have reached the Department of National Solid Waste Management but it has not approved any as the companies had not submitted the detailed studies required.

“We want the full study as they must convince us that it is safe and worthwhile to dig out the waste,” says director-general Datuk Dr Nadzri Yahaya. “In one proposal (for a landfill in Kuala Lumpur), the waste is 200m high and 300m deep. What will be the cost of digging out and disposing of that huge volume of waste? How will they do it? And where are they going to send the (excavated) waste? As the owner of Bukit Tagar landfill, we can refuse to accept the (excavated) waste as it will shorten the lifespan of the landfill.”

Waste extraction: Heaps of old rubbish, unearthed from the Kelana Jaya dump which was closed in 1996. Through landfill mining, valuable materials such as metal scraps, plastics and rubber can be retrieved from old dumps.

Landfill mining has to be done with care. Aside from foul stench, digging up waste buried for years can be dangerous for workers, points out Zamri Abdul Rahman, general manager of Worldwide Landfills.

“We do not know what hazardous substances lie below. (With the excavation) Landfill gases are released in a short time and can be flammable. The waste should be removed in a procedural manner, cell by cell.

“There must also be a study on the volume of waste, the age and types, as well as surveys on the chemical characteristics of leachate and gas emissions before the landfill is dug up.”

And after all the valuable recyclables have been fished out, whatever that remains has to be safely discarded. “This must go to a sanitary landfill because it is still waste, no matter what. Even if the organics have decomposed, there will still be heavy metals. Fifteen years (the age of Kelana Jaya dump) is unlikely for waste to become inert … 30 years, maybe.”

Besides, it is not enough to just remove the buried waste. Zamri says the surrounding soil must be extracted, too, as it can be contaminated by landfill leachate and gases.

With so many necessary precautions, the cost of landfill mining can run high. Research by Yale University finds that with current technology and prices, the activity is generally not economically viable. The benefits such as revenue from sale of recovered materials generally did not outweigh the costs.

In the West, landfill mining is carried out partly because it frees up much-needed landfill space, thus lengthening their lifespan and avoiding the need to find land to build new dumps. Sometimes, landfill mining is done to remediate poorly designed dumps by enabling installation of protective measures such as liners as well as leachate and gas collection pipes.

In Malaysia, however, landfill mining appears to mask a more lucrative motive – to get the land for development. If done right, this might be acceptable. But so far, there has been no proper landfill mining – it is more like digging out of old rubbish and then dumping that somewhere, anywhere. Tan Cheng Li

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What developers do for green concepts

Posted on August 14, 2011. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

-NST-

IT was just a month ago that I attended the Green Building Forum jointly organised by Malaysia Green Building Confederation and Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia.

One of the things which struck me was the figures presented by Bovis Lend Lease project manager Thirukumaran Jallendran – that buildings are responsible for 40 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, 40 per cent for solid waste generation and that buildings use one-third of the resources. These are startling figures.

On the bright side, a growing number of developers in the country are doing their best to build in greener ways.

Among them, Sunway City Bhd (SunCity) continues to solidify its position as a green developer committed to incorporating ecologically friendly designs and innovations into its developments.

“Our focus is on building homes and developments with technologies that can provide energy and water savings, which result in developments that are in harmony with nature,” said Ho Hon Sang, managing director, property development, Malaysia.

“We believe that will translate to environmentally friendly developments where families can truly enjoy a sustainable and well-balanced lifestyle.”

He added that the value of going green is reflected in the group’s commitment to incorporating the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) philosophy into its projects.

“We are fully aware that homebuyers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their choice of properties including key criteria such as comprehensive security features, a contemporary and eco-friendly design as well as lush green surroundings.

“As such, we will continue to infuse the LOHAS philosophy in our future projects to enrich the lives of our customers.”

Its Sunway Challis Damansara comprising garden townhouses in Selangor, conceptualised as a green development at its inception in 2005, is the first landed residential development in Malaysia to receive the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) of Singapore’s Green Mark Certified Award, in 2009.

The development emphasised at the outset having largely passive green features in the design and adopting self-cooling strategies such as cross-ventilation and elements including ventilated roof space, insulated roof, cavity-wall on the western facade and generous overhang.

Additionally, the windows are large to allow in maximum natural daylight and balconies are deep for sun-shading.

Meanwhile, Ken Holdings Bhd executive director Sam Tan said the primary reason for it going green is for the comfort and wellbeing of the owners of its developments such as Ken Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur and Ken Rimba in Shah Alam, Selangor.

“We strive to improve our homes’ engineering to create tangible benefits for the owners in terms of savings on electricity, water and maintenance bills in addition to having great comfort in their homes,” said Tan.

Some of the green features in multi-award winning Ken Bangsar include sound-proof laminated Low-E glass panels in each unit to cut off heat and sound, offer exceptional safety and 100 per cent UV protection; Bio- Fine low volatile organic compounds paint; “wind tunnel” to funnel breeze via a corridor to cool the lobby; and sun-shading.

Its Ken Rimba is the country’s first green township to receive the BCA Green Mark Gold (provisional) award for the Ken Rimba Legian component, which is also Green Building Index certified, and the BCA Green Mark certified (provisional) for the commercial centre.

The Legian features homes with two water harvesting tanks, one located at the front and the other at the back.

Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB), one of the green developers of commercial properties in the country, believes that walking the sustainability path will sustain its integrity as a responsible developer and maintain its corporate reputation as a strong and long term promoter of green buildings.

It said its value to go green also includes supporting the government’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions by up to 40 per cent by year 2020 and promoting lower utility and maintenance costs as well as better indoor air quality and working environment for tenants.

According to MRCB, the green features in its developments are producing positive results including 40 per cent savings with water efficient fittings in Lot G and 50 per cent savings in 348 Sentral; 36 per cent savings with energy efficient lighting; and other savings such as from efficient landscape irrigation, and low emitting and fuel efficient vehicles as alternative transportation.

Other eco-friendly features incorporated in its developments are district cooling system, rainwater harvesting system, integrated LED facade feature lighting which is efficient and has low light pollution levels, and daylight harvesting systems.

Basics of greenwashing

IN Australia, it was recently reported that tonnes of plywood from a mill in Malaysia associated with serious breaches of sustainable logging practices in the past two years are being used in one of Sydney’s “greenest” new developments, No 1 Central Park on Broadway.

It was also reported that the wood was not certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council or the Program for the Enforcement of Forest Certification, organisations which verify whether a logging operation can be regarded as sustainable.

Its developer Fraser Property said the company understood that the timber used complied with the Green Building Council of Australia’s requirements for 5 Green Star certification but if that proves otherwise, it would instruct the construction company Watpac to address the issue.

Asked to comment, Bovis Lend Lease project manager Thirukumaran Jallendran, who is also a board member of Malaysia Green Building Confederation (MGBC), said the scenario in Sydney can be seen as a “chain of custody certification issue” which involves tracking the originality of the wood products from the forest to the consumer.

He said a parallel can be drawn in Malaysia where some developers or projects are more interested in the pointchasing exercise with regards to a certain Green Building rating rather than the intent behind going green.

He added that they ignore the basic requirements of a green building and focus solely on the “tangible” pursuits that assure them attractive return of investments.

Asked if the Sydney project is greenwashing, he opined that the developer was not doing it intentionally and the occurrence was probably due to an oversight or lack of follow-up on the construction.

According to him, there are many greenwashing occurences ranging from corporations which are big sponsors of environmental non-governmental organisations which operate unsustainably to those which claimed high recycled content in their products.

There are also those which tend to deceive the public by portraying to be “eco-friendly” but their products may contain genetically modified produce or may come with huge environmental footprints.

He believes that coal, for example, can be never be a green product nor clean since the process involves mining and extraction of resources from deep within the ground and then burning it to release carbon dioxide.

“New technologies and processes can take place to reduce pollution from coalfired power plants but to call it green or clean will be stretching it.”

Locally, he said the development and use of green building rating tools such as the Green Building Index (GBI) and publication of the Green Pages Malaysia directory by MGBC are steps in the evolution of the green building concept and provide a common language for establishing what’s green and greenwash.

Meanwhile, developers such as Sunway City Bhd said they should not mislead the public by claiming their developments are certified green when these are not, adding it is their duty to obtain the certifications by adhering to the stringent rules and procedures required by the authorities.

Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Mohamed Razeek Hussain said, “It is unethical for developers to be involved in greenwashing as that will affect their reputation and integrity.

We believe green initiatives are the way forward to address environmental issues and benefit all stakeholders.” Boon Che Wee, Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia president, who also chairs the GBI, said, “A common suspicion of green washing is when corporations emphasise what they would need to comply by law as their key sustainability initiatives. GBI, as with most green building ratings, is voluntary by nature and owners of certified green buildings are not inhibited in promoting their achievements.”

Boon added that another example of usual green washing is when corporations over-focus on one complementary aspect of their green efforts to overshadow and hopefully distract attention from other reasonable sustainable strategies that they could have.

Since GBI and generally all green building ratings are holistic in nature, it would mean that it is near impossible for any buildings to be rated satisfactorily by compliance with only one aspect of green building, he said.

According to him, to avoid green washing, there have been discussions on prerequisites for the applicants to apply for green building rating to demonstrate their commitments in their corporate practices.

However, such prerequisites will only take place in GBI when the local industry is more familiar and ready. For now, in the GBI industrial ratings for both new constructions and existing buildings, assessment has actually extended to include production processes.

Importance of disclosure

REQUESTS for corporate disclosure on sustainability issues in Asia are on the rise but many companies find that they have not been collecting necessary data across their business operations, and this is also a challenge in the property development sector, according to Helen Roeth, director of research at csr-asia.com, provider of information, training and research on sustainable business practices in the region.

She said measuring a set of key performance indicators has become increasingly important for the region’s property developers, adding that effective systems are needed to measure and track environmental performance.

However, Roeth said few developers seem to actually effectively measure their environmental performance, pointing to findings by Asian Sustainability Rating, a regional benchmarking tool developed by Responsible Research and CSR Asia.

Of the 42 property companies analysed for benchmarking purpose, only 31 per cent publish a quality sustainability report.

Citing Hong Kong, she said companies seeking to list on the Hang Seng Sustainability Index need to show the ways they manage the environmental impact of their business operations.

And according to a CSR-Asia weekly newsletter in 2010, companies in Asean produce sustainability reports to “gain competitive edge when attracting and retaining capital, dealing with global clients and managing relationships with governments¿.

In Malaysia, developer Ken Holdings Bhd, one of the carbon neutral companies, publishes a sustainability report to inform its shareholders, buyers and the public of its green efforts, said executive director Sam Tan.

He said such a practice is not mandatory in the country but is encouraged.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd, in its Sustainability Report 2009, highlighted its contributions to sustainable developments and the effects of the company’s actions had on its customers, shareholders, employees, business partners, society and the environment.

The CSR-Asia weekly newsletter in 2010 reported that Malaysia has the highest number of reporters with 49 companies involved in a variety of diversified interests producing 97 sustainability reports in the past eight years.

Those with interests in the property arena include YTL Corp Bhd and UEM Environment Sdn Bhd, a member of UEM Group.

Six core categories under the GBI Township Tool

THE Green Building Index (GBI) Township Tool is a comprehensive environmental rating system designed by Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM) and Association of Consulting Engineers Malaysia for sustainable townships. These tools are adopted to minimise the impact of the environment by adopting the best practices in terms of energy and water efficiency for a sustainable development.

Developers should comply with these six core categories that were developed to address townships as places that are well planned, designed, safe and secure and to enhance the surrounding environment, thus providing residents with high quality life.

CLIMATE, ENERGY AND WATER

(To balance the ongoing production and consumption of energy and water)

– Heat island design principles

– Efficient street and park lighting

– On-site energy generation

– Renewable energy

– Reduced water use

– Reduction in water use by wastewater treatment

ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECOLOGY

(To respect the surrounding environment and native ecological systems)

– Biodiversity conservation

– Land reuse

– Ecology

– Flood management and avoidance

– Wetland and water body conservation

– Agricultural lands preserve

– Hill slope development

– Sustainable storm water design and management

– Proximity to existing infrastructure

– Services infrastructure provision

– Light pollution

COMMUNITY PLANNING AND DESIGN

(Designed and planned for the benefit of the community)

– Green spaces

– Compact development

– Amenities for communities

– Provision for universal accessibility

– Secure design

– Health in design

– Recycling facilities

– Community diversity

– Affordable housing

– Community thrust

– Governance

TRANSPORTATION AND CONNECTIVITY

(To provide well connected places that have a broad range of transportation options)

– Green transport master plan

– Availability and frequency of public transport

– Facilities for public transportation

– Pedestrian networks

– Cycling networks

– Alternative transport options

BUILDING AND RESOURCES

(To have a lower impact on building resources by applying the far from less principle)

– Low impact material (infrastructure)

– Low impact material (building or structures)

– Regional material

– Quality in construction

– Construction waste management

– Site sedimentation and pollution control

– Sustainable construction practice

– GBI certified building

BUSINESS AND INNOVATION

(To tailor the response to local needs in creating business and employment while incorporating

innovative solutions)

– Business

– Innovation

– GBI innovation

( END )

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SAM: Act before more landslides hit

Posted on August 13, 2011. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

THE Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is saddened by the recent landslide in Kampung Sungai Ruil, Cameron Highlands, which claimed seven lives.While the cause of the landslide that hit the Orang Asli settlement is being investigated by the authorities, there is speculation that land clearing and earthworks near the settlement for a township development could have contributed to the disaster.

CAP had in fact alerted the authorities, in a letter dated May 26, to the massive earthworks for the development project after receiving complaints from irate tourists and locals.

The Department of Environment had ordered the contractor to carry out slope stabilisation and mitigation works as the area was exposed and had potential to erode.

We feel that the necessary action was deficient. If the authorities had closely monitored the surroundings of Kampung Sungai Ruil, detected the early signs of slope failure and impending hazard, could the disaster have been avoided?

There have been more than 600 deaths due to landslides since 1973. Who is culpable for these deaths? In many instances Mother Nature has been blamed, leaving the real perpetrators to get off scot free.

Taking into cognizance the serious geological hazards that have caused fatalities, injuries, damage and evacuation, the Government created the National Slope Master Plan (NSMP) 2009-2023 which among other objectives, is to reduce the risks even before landslides occur.

The NSMP states that in Malaysia, from 1973 to 2007, some 440 landslides were reported. In addition there are thousands more “unreported” minor slope failures and landslides. Total economic losses resulting from landslides are estimated to be in excess of RM3bil over the past 35 years.

The Government has a slope master plan, detailed, comprehensive and effective framework of policies, strategies and action plans to reduce risks from landslides on slopes nationwide, but are these action plans being effectively and efficiently implemented?

Many of us have observed barren hills, exposed slopes due to earthworks, development and landslides while driving along major roads and highways in the country.

We wonder whether that particular exposed slope would be the next disaster in waiting. We wonder whether the responsible authorities have also observed those landslide prone areas, and if action is being taken. Then when disaster strikes, we know that essential action has not been taken.

The devastating impact of rampant development on hills, highlands and forests will continue if the Government allows it. Nature has its limits and the consequences of the degradation usually fall heaviest on poor communities and indigenous people.

Without integrating environmental implications, economic development will exhaust its natural basis.

The Government, business and consumers have to start acting responsibly for our own sake and for the sake of our future generations before the momentum of irreversible changes overwhelm us.

S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS,
President, Consumers’ Association of Penang.

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