PM hailed for championing environment

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 22 Jan 2005

Jottings from Paris by WONG CHUN WAI

THE first sign that greets Malaysia Airlines passengers arriving in Paris from Kuala Lumpur is a poster in French appealing for humanitarian funds for tsunami victims.  

There is a desk, with leaflets and other information, for airport users who want to find out more about the tragedy.  

By next week, it would have been a month since the incident took place but it has continued to be a major news item in the media across the globe.  

The French, like many people in the world, have called for a greater appreciation of the environment.  

The Asian edition of the International Herald Tribune, which is edited in Paris, ran an article about the need to preserve the coral reefs and mangrove forests, citing them as barriers against natural disasters like the tsunami.  

The writer, Isabelle Louis, who is director of the Asia Pacific programme for the WWF International, said corals acted as natural shock absorbers and a buffer against coastal erosion.  

But more interestingly, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was singled out for his efforts to keep Malaysia’s mangroves intact and untouched by development.  

What the writer omitted was the Prime Minister’s order to state governments to keep down the number of permits given for logging in a move to save our forests. 

The recognition of Abdullah’s role as a leader who cares for the environment is interesting, as he is only known in the West for his image and reputation as a moderate Islamic leader and a man trying to clean up corruption.  

Next week, Abdullah will be among a handful of leaders who have taken the trouble to fly all the way to Paris to attend the “International Conference on Biodiversity: Science and Governance” on the ongoing global effort to curb the loss of biodiversity. 

Abdullah arrives in Paris tomorrow for the one-day conference on Monday. He will meet French President Jacques Chirac on the sidelines to discuss bilateral issues among others. 

Besides Chirac, the only big guns coming are United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan and Madagascar president Marc Ravalomanana, according to the updates on the meeting website.  

It’s a shame really because the success of the conference depends on the combined efforts of nations around the world.  

Biodiversity simply means the variety of all living things, the different plants, species diversity and the ecosystem.  

The responsibility to protect the biological diversity lies with individual countries. 

The conference will focus on changes in biodiversity and the social impact of these changes particularly in agriculture, fishery and forestry. 

As several French newsmen discussed the coverage of the tsunami with me, I told them the biodiversity conference may have attracted little attention a year ago, but things have changed after the Dec 26 disaster.  

It’s time more of the world's leaders wake up to the fact that Mother Nature is angry and that we better listen. 

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