Not all doom and gloom

Almost at a daily basis, we are inundated by news of mass deforestation, general environmental degradation, climate change-related disasters, and so on. The faint-hearted environmentalist may just take the route of avoiding reading the news altogether.

However, if you have been following Malaysian news within the past week or so, there have been some rather encouraging developments. I’ve listed some of them down, plus some extras below on some exciting projects to look forward to in the not-so-distant future.

Mandatory for Malaysians to separate their waste next year    

Although this has been an ongoing effort for a while, beginning September 2015, the government will be implementing mandatory waste separation at source in stages for all Malaysian households. A 2+1 collection schedule will be implemented, which is domestic waste twice a week, and recyclables once a week. At the moment this scheme has already been implemented at Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Pahang, Johor, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Perlis and Kedah, from September this year.

Rubbish truck (Source: Malaysian Insider)

Rubbish truck (Source: Malaysian Insider)

Mandatory separation of waste at source is great for several reasons. An obvious one is that it will ease waste management and recycling. A less obvious one is that when people are forced to sort through their own waste, they become more conscious in their consumption habits. I have observed this through my research on community recycling, where the volunteer recyclers tend to be more mindful about their household’s waste generation. Malaysians generate an overwhelming amount of waste (33,000 tonnes per day in 2013). Forcing ourselves to face and sort through our own garbage will hopefully generate some introspection on needless consumption.

The removal of petrol and diesel subsidies by Dec 1

From December 1 2014, petrol and diesel subsidies will be removed, with RON95 petrol and diesel following the footsteps of RON97 petrol, which is priced according to a managed float system that is not subsidised by the government.

Having petrol subsidies is akin to burning money. A populist gesture that not only contributes to the fiscal deficit of the country, it also has wider environmental consequences. Cheap petrol for decades has led to overcrowded roads and higher carbon emissions; there is no incentive to conserve this precious resource. With the removal of fuel subsidies, tax payers’ money can be channeled to other worthy causes, such as green technology or capacity building for the bottom 40% of the country. This is also an opportune timing for such a move, as global crude oil prices have fallen so much that the removal of the peg on prices actually made it cheaper for Malaysian consumers in the short term (from RM2.30 to RM2.27 for RON95).

The PM’s renewed commitment to sustainable growth and climate action

The PM’s pledge in 2009 to to reduce carbon emissions intensity by 40% by 2020 has brought about rapid growth in the country’s green economy. In the same year, the National Green Technology Policy was rolled out, and we’ve since moved quite a bit with the Renewable Energy Act (2011), Green Technology Financing Scheme, and initiatives on electric vehicles. This demonstrates the importance of political will in making things happen.

[jwplayer mediaid=”18270″]

This is why the PM’s recent speech (see above video) in the Energy for Tomorrow conference organised by International New York Times is welcomed. Also mentioned was Malaysia’s commitment in pushing ASEAN towards sustainable development, as Malaysia will chair ASEAN in 2015. Here are the excerpts from parts of his speech:

“As next year’s Asean chair, Malaysia will be the advocate for sustainable growth and climate action. Next year, Malaysia will play its part. We are optimistic about securing cleaner energy for tomorrow.”

“I believe that a fast-developing nation such as ours will have an important role to play. We can demonstrate that sustainable development is not an indulgence, but a precursor for success.”

This speech comes after the positive news that China and the USA jointly announced a climate deal, hence leaving Australia in the dust. With PM Najib being positive about sustainable development at the regional level, our work on mainstreaming sustainable development will hopefully go smoother in the next year.

Bonus: Soon to come

There are some other projects in the pipeline that I personally look forward to. First is the Klang Valley MRT project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2016/2017, but is apparently slightly ahead of schedule. By December of 2016 some parts of the MRT project will be up and running, and by July 2017 the underground and southern segments will be completed. As the car-less crowd (myself included) struggle to get to places that are inaccessible by public transport, the MRT will ease mobility; and the KL roads clogged with traffic will hopefully convince more car owners to commute with public transport.

MRT in construction

MRT in construction (Source: Malaysian Insider, click for more pictures)

The second project is the River of Life, projected to be completed by 2020. It’s one of the Entry Point Projects under the government’s Economic Transformation Programme, which aims to rehabilitate the Klang River into a “heritage and commercial centre”. In many cities across the world, governments have transformed polluted rivers into beautiful waterfronts that people can enjoy. Malacca for instance is a local example, with the heavily polluted Malacca River now rehabilitated and attracting 1.2 million visitors last year for its Malacca River Cruise.

For the River of Life project, there are three parts:

  • River Cleaning – A 110km stretch of Klang River will be cleaned to raise the water standard to recreational standards.
  • River Beautification – The economic viability of the area will be improved, specifically a 10.7km tract along the Klang and Gombak river corridors, and beautification plans will revolve around landmarks such as Dataran Merdeka, Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad and Masjid Jamek. The areas involved in the River Beautification phase cover 11 precincts.
  • Land Development – Areas adjoining the river corridor will be developed under a master plan to spur economic investment.
Envisioning the River of Life (Source: GreaterKLKV.gov.my)

Envisioning the River of Life (Source: GreaterKLKV.gov.my)

Among other goals and objectives, the project seeks to transform the river from a barrier to a connector, to rehabilitate the river’s ecology, and to increase the social, cultural and economic value of the river (see PDF for further details).

Also anticipated is the High Speed Railway between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore due to be ready by 2020, which will not only reduce the carbon emissions from flying and also cut down travel time. This will make a big difference to people who frequently commute between the two cities, such as Malaysian students studying in Singapore and business people. I personally do not travel much to Singapore nowadays, but if it only takes 2.5 hours to get there (see estimated travel time below) I would not mind making more frequent trips!

hsr

Source: (The Star Online)

All in all, a good list of things to be happy about!

Sometimes we forget that changes do not happen overnight, especially major changes in policy. All the above initiatives took time and effort to plan and to drive, and will more likely than not suffer hiccups in implementation. Those concerned about the environment worry for good reasons. However, it is also important to acknowledge positive policy changes when they happen – if only to tide us over dark moments when efforts seem futile.

Picture of happy kids: Source unknown

Welcome to MESYM!
Connecting the green dots

MESYM.com is a crowd-sourced platform and a living database for environmental movements in Malaysia. There are many good actions being done out there. Our goal is to bring them together. We connect the green dots.