KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 25 — All political parties contesting the upcoming general elections need to outline a clear plan of action to ensure the preservation and sustainability of the country’s environment, environmental group Pelindung Khazanah Alam (Peka) said.
Its president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said this is essential to ensure the continuation of environmental protection programmes and to hold parties accountable for their treatment of the environment.
“Deforestation, loss of wildlife and biodiversity, water security are all on the minds of Malaysians, as much as or even more so than other issues, especially for those living in areas with a degraded environment.
“We want to see a clear action plan, real commitment to stopping a range of activities which are harming our country’s ecosystem,” she told Malay Mail in a recent phone interview.
Sabrina said she wanted to see politicians speak up on behalf of Mother Earth in their campaigns, instead of trying to bury the issue.
Shariffa Sabrina also said that the public wishes for MPs who would look out for their constituents, and not rubberstamp development projects without second thought.
“Much has been said about declaring assets and for politicians to be honest in their finances, but we want whoever forms the government to be honest on the environment.
“We want leaders who will balance development with reservation, not those who will destroy our natural heritage for some quick money,” she said.
She added that since Malaysia is promoting ecotourism, it would have nothing to show for if development projects were approved without proper public consultation or honest Environmental Impact Assessments.
“Environmental protection never seems to be on anyone’s mind until we get hit whether by landslides, water shortages, pollution or the haze.
“It may seem less sensational, but if we do not have green minded-politicians, all other issues will amount to nothing as the air and water quality drop and the price of food shoots up,” she said.
Among the challenges the country faces are deforestation, loss of endangered species, pollution especially of waterways and land reclamation.
Politicians on both sides have come under fire from environmental groups over several high profile projects which they claim have either caused or will result in irreversible harm.
Infrastructure projects have also raised eyebrows with opponents of the Bakun Dam, Pan-Borneo Highway and East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) being criticised for destroying irreplaceable tracts of forest, leading to a loss of wildlife habitat and water-catchment areas.
Peka had previously warned of an “environmental catastrophe” should the ECRL be built according to its current specifications, which cut through the Peninsula’s Central Forest Spine, cutting through 12 forest reserves and 27 rives, potentially disrupting water supplies.
But the effects of other developments have already been felt.
The Penang land reclamation in Permatang Damar Laut has been criticised by both the federal government and fishermen and others dependant on the resource rich area have said it would wipe out their livelihoods but this has not stopped the DAP-led state government from pushing ahead.
Extensive bauxite mining caused widespread degradation of the oil palm plantations in Felda Bukit Goh, Kuantan Port and other areas, turning the sea red from runoff from the mines and holding areas, leading to a public backlash and eventual moratorium which is still in place.