Concerns over costs

I REFER to your report Planting Trees to Mark 25th Year (StarMetro, Oct 8).

While I applaud environmental initiatives like planting trees, reducing the use of plastic bags and collecting waste items for recycling, I must express serious concerns over the environmental costs of flying in volunteers from Japan to plant trees in Malaysia.

Relying on the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s and CO2 Balance’s carbon emission calculators, I have determined that a return trip for just one person from Tokyo to KLIA would generate an estimated 2.51 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

This calculation is in accordance with the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2008 Guidelines to Greenhouse Gas Conversion Factors. Multiplied by 500 volunteers, this would amount to 1,255 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Let us take into cognisance the fact that mature trees offset far greater amounts of CO2 than young trees.

A tree will only begin to be effective in absorbing carbon in its tenth year. A 25-year-old tree will be able to absorb approximately 0.0011 tonnes of CO2 a year. Over 25 years, we would need 36 trees to offset one tonne of CO2.

A concession would have to be made for the fact that the majority of the trees planted at the Malaysia-Japan Friendship Forest are actually hibiscus and small shrubs, not indigenous rainforest trees, but the principle of benefit of the doubt will be applied in this circumstance.

Instead of sponsoring air travel for its volunteers from Japan, , a more viable alternative would be to engage the assistance of the expatriate Japanese community in Malaysia, sponsor and mobilise wholly local volunteers, utilise technologies such as video conferencing or make video recordings of the event to be viewed by Japanese counterparts.

Environmental responsibility entails long-term commitment, creativity and an intelligent assessment of all the social, economic and environmental aspects of a project, on the part of the project proponents.


Petaling Jaya

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