PETALING JAYA: The authorities should transform urban enclaves into "sponge cities" to prevent flash floods, says Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM).
SAM president Meenakshi Raman said to create sponge cities, the number of fields and parks should be increased and pavements and roads must be permeable so water could absorb into the ground.
"The rainwater can also be collected in large storage tanks underground for later use, as done in other countries.
"These green measures and infrastructure will cost money, but investing in them would be money well spent and there are international funds available for such measures," she said in a statement in conjunction with Earth Day on Wednesday (April 22).
Meenakshi added that it was high time the authorities looked into rethinking development paradigm to avert future crises aggravated by environmental mismanagement.
She also said the authorities must commit to transformative policies and do away with the existing irrational production systems and consumption patterns.
She said this following the Environment and Water Ministry's revelation that the Malaysian Air Pollutant Index level had dropped 14% denoting a “clean index”, and readings recorded at 28% out of the 29 automatic water monitoring stations showed a real-time improvement in water quality due to the Movement Control Order since March 18.
"Policies hinging on genuine sustainable development that meet the economic, environmental and social imperatives should be formulated.
"Among steps need to be taken are sourcing renewable energy, replacing polluting technologies with environmentally sound technologies, protecting the marine environment and wetlands, conserving fauna and flora biodiversity, and replacing chemical-based agriculture with sustainable farming," she said.
Meenakshi added that the government needs to urgently tackle issues related to forest and soil conservation, river management, flood prevention and mitigation, and in ensuring enough water supply, in an integrated manner.
"The conversion of forests, especially on hills, for either logging, plantations or other commercial projects, should be stopped or drastically reduced as it has gone too far.
"The authorities should look into rehabilitating damaged hillsides and forests, conserving watersheds, and building green infrastructure, to prevent floods apart from conserving, saving and storing water.
"Measures should also be taken to effectively check toxic waste pollution," she said adding that the Sungai Kim Kim toxic waste pollution episode should serve as a grim reminder of the dangers posed to public health.
Meenakshi said the Environmental Protection Act should be amended to plug loopholes, including weaknesses in the environmental impact assessment legislation.
She said policies should be environmental-centric to avert future calamities that could have a catastrophic impact on the economy and public health.
SAM also took a swipe at the Penang government for proceeding with the controversial Penang Transport Master Plan and the Penang South Reclamation project that would irreversibly destroy invaluable fishery resources and marine biodiversity.
"Sadly, even as we are witnessing a global economic downturn, we are still seeing the promotion of business-as-usual approaches, such as the continuation of such expensive mega-projects.
"Such a business-as-usual approach has to change," she said.
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