Initiatives to build green communities

THE development of green and resilient cities has been highlighted in Chapter 8 of the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP), “Advancing Green Growth for Sustainability and Resilience”, with three priority areas, namely:

> Implementing a low-carbon, clean and resilient development;

> Managing natural resources efficiently to safeguard natural capital; and

> Strengthening the enabling environment for effective governance.

This is complemented by Chapter 6 of the 12MP document on “Developing Sustainable Cities” with strategies to prioritise green and resilient urban development as well as building a sustainable urban society.

In “sustainable development language”, these strategies can be interpreted to include aspects of resilience to climate change and associated climate shocks, diseases, and crime.

Green initiatives take many forms and are generally “high-tech and costly” affairs, but there are also cost-effective green practices that can be pursued through conventional community-based efforts.

Indeed, community-based organisations (CBOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) have played an important role in developing green and resilient cities.

Many successful green practices are community-driven, the process of which will improve or create social cohesion.

Social cohesion and connections within a community have been shown to be important for a number of wellness factors, including resilience. This is also in line with actions in Local Agenda 21 (LA21), encompassing awareness raising, capacity building, community participation and the formation of partnerships, which are also addressed in the 12MP. Low-technology cost-effective green practices that are community-driven include:

(i) Improving walkability through continuous and barrier-free walkways (low-carbon practices): Promote the idea of “walkanomics” whereby property in walkable communities are more attractive and have higher economic value. Cycling and continuous cycling paths, rainwater harvesting, and use of solar panels can all be done at an individual and community level. Using public transport (thus reducing car use) supports decarbonisation and greening strategies.

(ii) Community gardening: Aimed at achieving local food security, this would also lead to carbon reduction, living a healthy lifestyle, fostering of social cohesion, and sharing of community information, thus enhancing community surveillance.

(iii) Recycling and upcycling programmes: There have been numerous commitments by the government as well as CBOs to these programmes. Upcycling is not only creative, innovative and green but can also generate money for low-income groups.

(iv) Community mapping, which can be scaled up for community resilience. Involving the local community is one of the best approaches for the prevention or mitigation of disasters. Mapping enables a community to recognise its own resources and capacities, and connect the issues, problems or risks (health hazards and climate-induced risks) with specific locations.

It is especially relevant in disaster preparedness planning, which involves the identification of evacuation routes but has not received much traction locally. Community mapping should be promoted in vulnerable areas in both urban and rural settings. This is in line with the concept of the neighbourhood emergency preparedness programme (green and resilient).

(v) Encourage the reduction of consumption to move from a consumer-driven society to a green society with a more efficient solid waste management system in place to reduce carbon emissions, more efficient water management and household water use, low to zero emissions from factories and industrial areas, and protection of sensitive environments.

TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE , Chairman Alliance For Safe Community

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