A day to celebrate the diversity of life

  • Letters
  • Thursday, 22 May 2014

TODAY, May 22, is the international day for biodiversity and there is a huge range of activates around the globe, including Malaysia, to celebrate the occasion.

Biodiversity a term which seems scientifically complex which is true, but in simple terms, it is the amazing variety of life on earth and the diverse habitats. We humans form part of this complex yet fragile web of life.

Malaysia is one of the 12 richest country in terms of biodiversity. Our biodiversity is crucial in not only in providing us with food, medicine, fibre and other products but also perform the very vital service to sustain life on earth by providing fresh water and air, regulating weather, pollination, soil formation and other important ecosystem services.

In fact, for us in Malaysia our culture and lifestyle has been woven by our rich biodiversity. Just look at the cultural expressions found in our communities. The dance, art form as well as traditional games and music have derived inspirations from our rich biodiversity.

Hence, as we plough through to be a developed country, we must balance this development to ensure our biodiversity is also safe guarded. This call of balancing development with biodiversity and environment is not new, but the prognosis is that the balance is tilted towards development.

In this regard, just like any other country, we too are facing an unprecedented loss of biodiversity. It may be difficult to imagine this as we sit in the comfort of our home and office located in a concrete jungle ecosystem.

A loss of a species, or decline in some majestic mega fauna ,like the charismatic Malayan Tiger, we may presume have no impact on us as we can’t “see” them. But the recent water crisis is a clear indication of the issue we are facing. Now we hear people grumbling in kopitiams about how we should better manage our water catchment areas and why it is important to keep the forest intact.

Perplexed with this daunting problem, some state governments were looking at technological solutions. These so called technological interventions are not only expensive but also the efficacy is shortlived.

If we manage our biodiversity, the catchment areas and also non-revenue water wisely, we could have mitigated the recent and future water crisis as we are after all living in an area geographically referred to as tropical rainforest where rain is abundant.

Given this, it is heartening to know that actions are in place. The mention in the budget for the creation of a conservation trust fund and later at the Biodiversity Council for establishing a national centre for biodiversity is much welcomed. This is because we need to invest in biodiversity to ensure our development agenda is sustainable.

This becomes even more important as the nation has embarked on the Bioeconomy Transformation Programme (BTP) to leverage on the nations rich biodiversity for generating wealth to furnace the socioeconomic development as envisioned through the New Economic Model.

While the BTP seems to be a promising tool, we must always remember that for Malaysia “bioeconomy” in its most basic definition, is not new. Malaysia has always been a country that has benefited from our rich biodiversity base.

Right from the early Hindu civilisations, the great Malacca Empire, the colonised years right up to present times our biodiversity (including the introduced commodities) have been a major contributing factor for our success in terms of economic growth.

Hence, as Malaysia is rich in biodiversity, it is time we look at new models for measuring our development. The recent session on “Beyond GDP” organised in Kuala Lumpur by the Prime Minister’s Science Advisor office is extremely encouraging as our ecological footprints are getting larger. It is about time we look at the parameters of environment and social alongside the dominant economic measurements to measure development and progress.

In this regard, Malaysia is well-poised to be a leader in this area to ensure that the overall wellbeing of the rakyat is looked into as we eventually transform to be a developed country while ensuring sustainability and sustainable development forms the basis of this status that we are aiming for.

While ensuring all the policy and implementations measures will support this call, it is also important for all Malaysians to internalise the appreciation of our rich biodiversity and act in a manner that minimises harm to biodiversity.

The Malaysian Government had aptly said that our biodiversity is our life, heritage and future. So let’s celebrate the diversity of life today and every day, and care for it, as biodiversity is, after all, our life too.



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