NEW YORK, Sept 26 — Malaysia is undertaking various steps to ensure sustainable development, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The prime minister conceded, however, that it was not easy to balance economic growth with sustainability.
“We have to keep the environment clean but as the population grows the amount of waste increases and we have to spend more money to treat it,” he said at the Sustainable Development Goal Summit Leaders Dialogue 6 entitled “The 2020-2030 Vision” at the United Nations General Assembly here.
Dr Mahathir also said non-biodegradable waste posed a big danger to the environment.
“Plastic does not degenerate or dissolve. Burning plastic releases noxious gas that is dangerous to health and the environment.
“We can’t throw plastic into the sea as now we are discovering that turtles are dying from eating plastic,” he added, hoping new ways would be found to handle plastic waste.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia was also committed to maintaining its forest levels at above 50 per cent.
“We now have 53 per cent to 55 per cent of land covered by natural forest,” he added.
Dr Mahathir said although land would inevitably be needed for development and forests cleared for housing, Malaysia was looking at high-rise buildings as a better option to landed property.
“Malaysia is building more high-rise buildings so that on a per square metre basis, there will be more people living and sustain themselves.
“The tallest building we are constructing is 118 floors which will enable the country to provide housing for its people and at the same time reduce the need to clear more forests for housing.
“Malaysia is also adopting modern farming, where we are growing crops not only on land but also on tiers of buildings.
“I am told that in some countries, vegetables are being grown on 70-storey high buildings,” he added.
Dr Mahathir said to reduce air pollution, the country was also working at having more hybrid and electric cars rather than petrol-driven vehicles.
He reiterated that Malaysia would not opt for nuclear power generation as it does not have the expertise to dispose of radioactive waste.
“In all our plans, we take into consideration the need for sustainable development.
“To a certain extent, we have already achieved this. But we need to do a lot more before we complete all the 17 areas that we have to focus on in order to reach the goal of our development being sustainable,” he added.