Setting down roots for a sustainable future in Penang

PETALING JAYA: Penang is well poised to plant well over half a million trees over the next few years as part of its efforts to create a healthy and sustainable environment, while ensuring human well-being and biodiversity conservation.

Its ambition received yet another boost with its embrace of the Penang Nature-Based Climate Adaptation Programme (NBCAP), an initiative mooted by Think City in 2019, and is now touted as Malaysia’s first ever NBCAP tailored for its unique tropical conditions.

NBCAPs are premised upon solutions that aim to protect, sustainably manage, or restore natural ecosystems, while also addressing wider societal challenges such as climate change, health, food security, and disaster risk reduction, and at the same time, provide well-being and biodiversity benefits.

For example, a common problem is the flooding in coastal areas that occurs as a result of storm surges against a backdrop of rising sea levels that take place in the vicinity of areas that are highly impermeable, such as paved or concrete areas, a feature commonly found in cities such as George Town.

This challenge, traditionally tackled with infrastructure such as drains and ever larger drains, or river dredging, can also be addressed by actions that take advantage of ecosystem services such as tree planting all over, especially in coastal areas.

Think City drove this urban adaptation programme to leverage nature-based solutions by collaborating with the Penang Island City Council (MBPP), the Irrigation and Drainage Department (DID), and UN-Habitat, with the support of the Penang state government and the then Environment and Water Ministry (now known as the Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Ministry).

In 2022, this NBCAP successfully secured US$10mil (RM42mil) in funding from the World Bank’s Adaptation Fund for implementation of initiative in line with the Penang’s aspiration to be a family-focused green and smart state that inspires the nation by 2030.

Penang NBCAP was further solidified with the signing ceremony for further cooperation between Think City and UN-Habitat at Putrajaya yesterday, witnessed by Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister, as well as Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

Think City was represented by its managing director Hamdan Abdul Majeed, while Dr Neil Khor, who is special advisor to UN-Habitat’s executive director, signed on behalf of UN-Habitat.

Nik Nazmi said it is time to work towards a more sustainable future.

Hamdan added Think City will leverage on its expertise in nature-based solutions to combat the effects of climate change.

Elsewhere, when Island A of the Penang South Reclamation is ready, Penang’s tree count will be boosted by another 200,000 carefully selected trees to promote biodiversity and coastal protection, while enriching the marine ecosystem.

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