Facebook Twitter Google Plus Vimeo Youtube Feed Feedburner

ROS LBoard 1

A plea for more money for conservation

 | October 3, 2011

Conservationists and environmentalists want higher allocations under Budget 2012 to address growing concerns in their sector.

PETALING JAYA: With just four days left on the countdown to Budget 2012, conservationists and environmentalists are keeping their fingers crossed that next year’s allocations will reflect a deeper consideration for heritage and the environment.

Last year’s budget, while noteworthy for its inclusion of both areas, has now been deemed insufficient in its purview and RM1.9 billion allocation to finance environmental preservation projects.

A giant among those projects was the River of Life (RoL) programme and the greening of Kuala Lumpur.

Identified as a Entry Point Project (EPP) under the Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley National Key Economic Areas (NKEA), the RoL sought to increase the land value as well as transform the Klang and Gombak Rivers into a vibrant waterfront by 2020.

But one year on and the Centre of Environment, Technology and Development (Cetdem) concluded that there has been no noticeable change whatsoever in the state of the Klang river.

“It is still polluted,” said Cetdem chairperson, Gurmit Singh. “The Klang river will never be clean if pollutants are not stopped from entering it along its entire stretch.”

“The upcoming budget must include tangible measures be put in place to monitor the enforcement of environmental regulations throughout the country.”

It’s not just the Klang river that has peeved Gurmit. The stark absence of a reliable and affordable public transportation system that could put an end to carbon emissions is another culprit on his list of environmental saboteurs.

He pointed out that apart from Penang and the Klang Valley the rest of the country is still struggling with the deprivation of such a system, hence the climbing sales of private vehicles and the continuous belching of thick black smoke by buses.

“Budget 2012 must also include adequate funding for measures to adapt to climate change as well as for mitigation in the energy sector,” Gurmit added.

Cetdem’s assessment of the current budget may have been mild but the Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) has a bigger bone to pick with the government for its favouritism in budget allocation for conservation.

George Town needs more funding

In the past year RM20 million was granted to the George Town World Heritage Site for building restoration and heritage preservation.

According to PHT’s Honorary Secretary, Clement Liang, the funds were well spent but too sparse for a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 4,7000 buildings and dying traditional trades.

“Malacca received RM30 million last year even though Georgetown has double its heritage sites,” Liang said. “Budget 2012 should grant Penang at least RM100 million for conservation which is nothing compared to the money being spent on the new palace.”

“We’re seeing an influx of tourists to Penang and Georgetown is seeing high hotel occupancy so it is worthwhile pumping more money into the state to boost the national economy.”

Liang explained that the Georgetown World Heritage Incorporate’s struggle with a shortage of funds and manpower has forced the already stretched NGOs to monitor heritage sites on its behalf.

“Old buildings are crumbling with neglect but there is no sense of urgency from the federal government to intervene,” he lamented. “It just doesn’t have a culture of maintenance and its stingy allocation indicates half-hearted efforts to keep Penang’s heritage alive.”

Liang also suggested tax rebates for NGOs and individuals who are working to improve the original structure of these buildings.

The bulk of funds is being spent on sprucing up the buildings facade but in order to adhere to UNESCO’s standards the building’s original structure must also be preserved.

“Original pieces can be expensive and tax rebates would go a long way in lightening the financial burden as well as encouraging more conservation work,” Liang said.

PHT is not alone in its howl over pitiful funding. Over in East Malaysia the Sabah Environment Protection Association has warned that another pittance in funding will worsen the already grave situation there.

Environmentally illiterate and insensitive

Its president, Wong Tack, expressed frustration over years of hearing the same tired excuse for the lack of enforcement where environmental protection is concerned.

“It’s always due to lack of funds, manpower and resources,” he said. “The Environmental Protection Department receives no funding and there is only a smattering of officers with no backup resources.”

“Sabah has less than five Environmental Impact Assessment officers and applications are blindly pushed through to reduce the backlog. This is how timber companies are able to carry out legal logging activities here.”

Wong’s wishlist for Budget 2012 includes funding for NGO training, public educational programmes  and an environmental boot camp for parliamentarians before they take office.

“So much is spent on National Service when the real war is between man and nature,” he said. “Even worse are our leaders who are environmentally illiterate and insensitive.”

“Each receives a substantial amount every year for environmental programmes in their constituencies but is that money being used to restore the damaged river system and mangrove forests? Both areas are under severe threat and Budget 2012 needs recognise that with a hefty allocation.”

Wong’s call for education funds is echoed by geoscientist and eco-tourist, Associate Professor Kadderi Md Desa, of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

More money for alternative resources

Pointing out the infancy of eco-tourism in Malaysia compared to developed nations, he emphasised the need for such funding to promote public awareness.

Kadderi however noted that the government is moving in the right direction based on the recent launch of the National Landscape Plan and a grant for his own project on alternative evaluation of natural resources.

“This is indicative of the government’s growing concern for this sector,” he said. “It’s aware that environmental awareness is crucial for Malaysia to be on par with developed nations and I’m sure that Budget 2012 will reflect that.”

“But I’d still like to see more allocations for research in the exploration of alternative resources and in the education of scientists of their role in eco-tourism.”

“The industry is a knowledge-based one and their scientific expertise would be highly valuable in the creation of new methods of evaluating natural resources.”

[Photos sourced from the Internet]


Comments

Readers are required to have a valid Facebook account to comment on this story. We welcome your opinions to allow a healthy debate. We want our readers to be responsible while commenting and to consider how their views could be received by others. Please be polite and do not use swear words or crude or sexual language or defamatory words. FMT also holds the right to remove comments that violate the letter or spirit of the general commenting rules.

The views expressed in the contents are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of FMT.

Comments