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Letter to Editor
3rd June 2021


World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated every 5th June. This year's World Environment Day focuses on ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ and mark the beginning of United Nations’ Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030).

According to reports extracted by United Nations:
I.    Around $10 trillion in global GDP could be lost by 2050 if ecosystem services continue to decline,
II.    Land degradation could reduce global food productivity by 12%, causing food prices to soar by up to 30% by 2040,
III.    Up to 700 million people are predicted to migrate because of land degradation and climate change by 2050,
IV.    The decline in soil fertility in maize fields costs US farmers an estimated half a billion dollars per year in extra fertilizer, and
V.    Ecosystem degradation can increase contact between humans and wildlife and has been linked to outbreaks of diseases.

There have been numerous reports point out negative impacts of human activities and environment degradation are due to change in land use. Do Malaysia and other nations in the world take a serious and broad picture about nature and how it works? Many new solutions for environmental problems are posing newer and more severe environmental problems in coming future. These extreme solutions are being pushed by various vested interest groups and their respective nations.


The present danger to our world is not only climate change but the over-utilisation of our natural resources as well as pollution. Thus, it is not feasible and sustainable to develop extreme solutions that are measured by using “global warming” ruler. It is equally puzzling that world leaders are also blindly supporting this extreme measures to portray their “green” agenda. Thus, lobbying and inability to grasp the real picture is going to cause more damage to the ecosystem by 2040. Is the world ready to be recalibrated if it wants to restore the ecosystem?

Nuclear is seen as global warming friendly technology. In April this year, Japan announced that it will release 1.25 million tons of treated wastewater which is contaminated by Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean unilaterally. However, the unknown danger from exposure to radioactivity to aquatic life from the large amount of treated wastewater is creating fear and resistance.

Many of these extreme solutions also involve gigantic scale in mining to meet all the “climate” proof technologies. Does mining destroy ecosystem or protect ecosystem? Seabed mining for Lithium, Copper and Zinc is already underway and this will directly impact the marine ecosystem and livelihood of countries that harvest from the sea.

Thus, United Nations drive towards extreme “global warming” solutions are contradicting their call for restoring the ecosystem. Do they realise this?


Land use change is the biggest problem for natural ecosystem. Densely populated areas, resource intensive industries and large scale monocrop plantations are some components that will utilise what used to be a virgin forest. Monocrop plantations are not really climate and environment friendly. Type of crop poses varying degree of impact. We need to stop clearing forest and optimise what we already have. The populations divide between urban and rural areas are creating huge resource mismatch and unnecessary wastage on infrastructure as well as consumption pattern with huge difference.

We need to start to utilise our waste as our resource. AWER has been repeatedly pushing the Life Cycle Assessment method to create a more sustainable lifestyle as well as economic sector. It is doable but the policies and policy makers are focusing on “game changer” strategy to amplify small things by not doing real nation building in a sustainable way. Efficient use of resources and its derived products must be a lifestyle. For example, the success of AWER pushing mandatory 5 star labeling and Minimum Energy Performance Standard (MEPS) for electrical products is a great achievement that needs constant upgrading to stay relevant.

Construction, demolition and the property sector need to be revisited. What should be a government’s policy, for few people to own too many properties or for all citizens to own a property? Construction also consumes resources and in some cases, demolition wastes are already being recycled. 10 years ago, there are houses built in Japan which is made from recycled materials and these houses can be recycled again.

If our policies set sky as the limit, this earth is not sufficient to fulfill our greed. Thus, more inane leaders like Donald Trump will emerge to mine the space. Without reorganising our policies and priorities, we will not move successfully to a sustainable future for all.

Rethink to Restore

Malaysia needs to revisit its policies and set right priorities. Are we willing to follow extreme solutions that will destroy the ecosystem? Start with education. In our experience, a lot of negative impacts of renewable resources are not clearly mentioned in text books. There was also a time when children were brainwashed with a “nuclear is good and manageable” template published to prepare Malaysia to build its first nuclear power plant. Education is neutral thus all positive and negative attributes to a technology must be clearly explained so that the future generation will be able to make its choices as informed citizens and not blinded souls.

Tree planting public relation activities has been ongoing for some years. Undisturbed edges of forest will expand if it is allowed. Thus, reintroduce indigenous species of flora and fauna if we want to restore the ecosystem. There should not be any random and blind actions. It has to be coordinated so that we can assist the nature to convalesce in the right direction. Our parks, housing estates and business zones should also be embarking on similar indigenous species agenda.

Restoring the ecosystem needs another major component, pollution reversal. It is undisputed that increase in population density and economic activities increases the pollution loading to our environment and specifically our rivers. Current wastewater discharge standard by Department of Environment will not be able to reduce water pollution problem. This is because the carrying capacities of rivers are limited and reduces further during dry season. Pollution loading based wastewater discharge standard must be implemented to begin pollution reversal. In the longer run this will assist in ensuring existing water catchments at the upstream are protected. This pollution reversal method will also create new water catchments in midstream and downstream of the rivers while ensuring the support needed to restore our ecosystem.

Sustainable solutions are not for the rich only. These solutions must be supportive of indigenous capacity and capability for every nation. We hope Malaysian government agencies have a clear set of policies to drive sustainability paradigm shift as we see the contradicting United Nations policies based on extreme solutions may cause more harm to our environment and leave a bigger mess for the future generations. Thus, it is our responsibility to ensure we are not duped by lobbying and blinded decisions.

Piarapakaran S.
Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER)

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