KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 – A coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Sayangi Alam, has welcomed the call made by Malaysia’s King Sultan Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah on Monday to the government to prioritise the protection of environment in the face of challenges posed by climate change.
His Majesty in his address had also called on the government to ensure that 50 percent of the land in the country be retained under forest cover.
In a statement issued Monday, Sayangi Alam or Love the Environment, which consists of environmental and civil and political organisations like Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam, ABIM, Greenpeace, KUASA, Otai Reformis 1998 and Gerak ’98, said it was very happy and grateful to His Majesty for acknowledging the concerns it had raised in a memorandum delivered to the King’s representative at the palace earlier in January this year.
“We hope that those in the government, political parties and MPs on both sides of the Parliament will wake up and heed what has been decreed by His Majesty The King immediately.”
In the January memorandum, the coalition had sought the King’s intervention for immediate actions to be taken to slow down, mitigate the effects and prepare the country to face global warming and its follow-up climate change effects on Malaysians.
Among others, the coalition sought for an immediate issuance of long term moratorium on logging throughout the country, to join 38 countries that have already declared climate emergency and to make all the mountain ranges in Malaysia like the Titiwangsa Range to be protected for future generations.
In the statement Monday, following the Royal address at the opening of 14th Parliament, the coalition said immediate, drastic and realistic actions must be taken to see goals achieved to protect the people of the country.
“Malaysia is ill equipped to manage the current and upcoming challenges that is being and will be relentlessly thrown by effects of climate change. We have been witnessing it clearly especially from Dec 2021 until now. This will not end unless people, the government machinery and the politicians change.
“These disasters cannot be swept under the carpet as a “ once in a 100 years “ disaster as it has been promoted as such before after the Dec 2021 flooding.
“We have registered deaths directly contributed by disaster generated from climate change, we have seen family, friends and loved ones become climate change refugees right here in Malaysia,” it said, adding that there had been weaknesses in the systems and incompetency over the years.
Sayangi Alam said the Malaysian people, volunteers and civil societies were ready to work towards protecting the natural environment of the country and hence the government and politicians should be ready to do the same.
Meanwhile, activist Abdul Razak, Secretary of Otai Reformasi, said he was happy with the King’s decree but added that a moratorium on logging would have a more significant impact on carbon emissions control plans.
He also said there was a continued lack of transparency in areas where developments have been taking place quietly and behind barricades that do not allow activists to enter to monitor or check on some areas.
“The fact is the country has exported RM23 billion worth of timber. What this really means is the felling of millions of trees in the country. There are also evidences of trees, logs and loosened soils destroying the Kampung houses and this needs to be addressed.”
A way must be also found to allow NGOs to monitor the work of timber companies to ensure that reforestation is really taking place as claimed by some companies.
“For now there is no way we can monitor these activities as there is no transparency and we cannot enter these areas,” he said, adding that the recent floods including in Kelantan had shown the effects of logging.
Naturalist and CEO of Ecomy, Andrew Sebastian said he was also thankful and appreciative of the King’s decree towards protecting the country’s environment.
“We want to go beyond to say that the country should have at least more than half of the land protected, (in forest cover) with 50 percent being the minimum level,” he said.
Towards this, the federal and state governments to immediately start working together to firstly put in place the mechanism to reimburse state governments to avoid forestation.
“I believe there are already proposals for the federal government to compensate states for not logging or to phase out logging.
“For Kelantan and Pahang, this will be urgent.”
The federal and state government also have to seriously mobilise themselves to address climate change especially the security and safety of the public and local communities living near rivers and other risk areas.
“The 50 percent or more of land areas to be protected must also be contiguous or have corridors connecting this area. Otherwise it will not make sense as wildlife and plants, wildlife mostly cannot sustain themselves if they live in islands or pockets of forests.
“In line with the Agong’s decree, we have to protect our river reserves, water catchments and water sheds and better plan to avoid disasters, man-made or otherwise.
“Most important, we must also remember Covid-19 and other diseases mankind has faced have connection to wildlife. We must protect ourselves, protect natural ecosystems for us to be sustainable in the future.
“We are way behind in terms of protecting our forests. Logging and plantation expansion especially have gone full gear ahead. We see large areas and very active logging activities going on all around us today. This has to be put into context and phased out and better managed.
“Logging as income for the country should be limited to forest plantations areas outside of the protected or natural forested areas. Areas that have been left abandoned, or have been taken down outside of protected and forest reserves, can be converted into forest plantations with strict adherence to land protocols and use.
“Areas with natural forest cover should be left alone.”
Andrew said all the states have the option of promoting ecotourism with the natural resources they are blessed with.
“One of the best things states can do for long term sustainability will be to promote ecotourism.
“Sustainable travel and ecotourism can be developed further as these states have beautiful ecotourism products to promote to the world.” he said.