NGOs call for higher budget to fund conservation projects

Pulau Merambong is a tiny uninhabited island located off the coast of Johor which gets cleaned up every other month. — Photos courtesy of Kelab Alami

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are urging the Federal Government to prioritise environmental conservation for Budget 2024.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) president Vincent Chow said allocations for environmental projects in previous national budgets had been insufficient.

“We want the government to give its full commitment to protecting the country’s environment,” he said.

Chow said federal and state governments should not dismiss the importance of protecting Malaysia’s rich biodiversity for the existing population and also future generations.

He proposed that the amount given under Budget 2024 must be specific, according to environmental protection needs.

A mattress, among items found on the shore at Pulau Merambong.A mattress, among items found on the shore at Pulau Merambong.

“Many studies have been conducted and money spent over the years but no improvement has been made,” lamented Chow.

He cited Sungai Skudai rehabilitation and rejuvenation studies in Johor, which had been done many times but with no progress made until today.

“Taxpayers have a right to know where their money went and in this case, Johor government is answerable,” he added.

Chow also wants Putrajaya to look at deforestation which has impacted the population of the Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni), named after notable British tiger conservationist Peter Jackson.

The tiger, which inhabits the southern and central parts of the peninsula, has been classified as critically endangered by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 2015.

Chow wants the Federal Government to look at deforestation in the country.Chow wants the Federal Government to look at deforestation in the country.

The IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity and a powerful tool to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation and policy change.

“There are only about 200 Malayan tigers in the wild in Malaysia and efforts must be made to increase its population,” he said, adding that in Johor, the tiger could be found in Endau-Rompin National Park.

Chow said MNS had collaborated with Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) for years on a tiger conservation project and the department deserved a bigger allocation under Budget 2024.

Echoing the sentiment, Kelab Alami principal advisor Dr Serina Rahman said the government should give allocations to environmental NGOs with proven track records.

“Give the money directly to the NGOs which can produce results on the ground,” she said.

Serina, who is also National University of Singapore South-East Asian Studies department lecturer, said most NGOs were facing financial constraints.

“Donations received are used for activities and programmes to reach out to target groups, including local communities and schoolchildren, but money is hard to come by,” she added.

Serina says funds should be given to environmental NGOs with a proven track record.Serina says funds should be given to environmental NGOs with a proven track record.

Serina said Kelab Alami needed about RM15,000 monthly to pay 10 employees – four managing the club, three assistants at Pasar Nelayan Pendekar Laut and three interns.

“We need RM15,000 to conduct a clean-up of Pulau Merambong, which is organised every two months and involves 15 fishermen from Gelang Patah and 40 volunteers in 11 boats,” she said.

Serina said participants collected about 200kg of marine debris, including a refrigerator and mattress, from a recent island clean-up.

The uninhabited tiny island located about 13.93 nautical miles or 25.8km from Mukim Tanjung Kupang, Gelang Patah is sandwiched between Malaysia and Singapore.

Kelab Alami has been studying and documenting this island since 2008 as it is an area frequented by Orang Seletar and Gelang Patah fishermen.

Budget 2024 will be tabled in Parliament on Friday, Oct 13. — By ZAZALI MUSA

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