#TheYearThatWas: Distressing environmental issues in Malaysia in 2014

  • Living
  • Monday, 29 Dec 2014

It has been a year marked by widespread deforestation, unpredictable weather, wildlife poaching and potentially destructive development schemes.

Rife with species

Half of Gunung Kanthan in Ipoh, Perak, has been quarried by Lafarge Malaysia but the untouched part is still a treasure-trove of endemic and new-to-science species. Recent discoveries include two species of plants, a tree, a gecko and a tiny snail. Nature lovers and scientists want what’s left of the limestone hill to be preserved instead of blasted.

Wise up about water

In late January, taps went dry in Hulu Langat and Kuala Langat in Selangor because of high ammonia levels – possibly from sewage pollution or fertiliser runoffs – in a river tapped for water supply. In March, millions in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur had running taps only every two days as reservoirs were drying up. 

Lessons from the crisis? We have to use water prudently and  stop fouling our rivers. It is also time to consider other water sources, such as recycled wastewater and rainwater.

Not-so-delectable caviar 

The controversial sturgeon fish farming project just outside of Taman Negara in Pahang was put on hold as it had proceed without a detailed environmental impact assessment. Fearing that the introduction of an exotic species will harm native fish life and affect their income from ecotourism, the locals have objected to the project by Felda Investment Corp and MMC Hassed Co Ltd of South Korea. 

Imports of live sturgeons are prohibited by Fisheries Departments.

Camerons in calamity

Devastating floods and a mudslide swept away homes, killing five and displacing hundreds in Bertam Valley and Ringlet in Cameron Highlands on Nov 5, in the latest disaster to hit the mountainous region. 

Accusations of corruption, said to cause widespread illegal land-clearing and land mismanagement, prompted state authorities to promise action.

From forest to farm

Rubber trees, planted for both latex and timber, are replacing forests. In September, it was highlighted that 30,000ha of Lesong Forest Reserve in Kuala Rompin, Pahang, have been cleared for planting latex timber clones. The reason? It was degraded forest, stated Pahang Forestry Department.

The changing climate

The World Meteorological Organisation says the world is getting warmer and the higher temperatures are already exacting a toll this year, with heavy rainfall and flooding in some countries, and extreme drought in others.

Locally, the four mini-twisters which tore through rural Kedah and the one which ripped up roofs in Klang, Selangor, might well portend the weather extremities to come.

Smothered by sand

Land reclamation for the 2,000ha mixed development Forest City project off Gelang Patah, Johor, has buried portions of the seagrass meadows of Merambong Shoal, which is home to threatened animals such as dugongs, turtles and seahorses. 

Construction work has stopped for now as no detailed environmental impact assessment was conducted.

Feasting on the wild

Poaching of wildlife remains rampant and people’s taste for wild meat, insatiable. In June, over 1,000 Asian box tortoises bound for restaurants in Thailand were seized. Last month, a former police constable was caught trying to smuggle 43 pangolins into Thailand. He had previously spent a year in jail for smuggling 18 pangolins in 2012. 

The most worrisome seizure was that of a sun bear, four barn owls and a common palm civet from a car at the Air Hitam toll plaza on the SKVE highway in October. Subsequently, a check of the driver’s house in Seremban unveiled a stash of a leopard cat, 20 barn owls, two flying lemurs and a porcupine.

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