Why are our environment custodians so ineffective?

SM Mohamed Idris

Modified 21 May 2013, 10:04 am

Highlands and hills plundered, virgin jungles ravaged. Judging from the unceasing reports, the government machinery to stop these illegal clearing of jungles and hill slopes is clearly not functioning effectively.

In Penang, clearing of a hill near Bukit Gambier which is visible even from the Penang Bridge, appears to have not caught the eye of the authorities soon enough to stop this obvious massacre of the hill top.

Likewise in Cameron Highlands, despite complaints being lodged, the matter seems to be unheeded, until it is highlighted in the newspapers.

Now, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, G Palanivel, has announced that a special task force will be set up to tackle the widespread ravage of Cameron Highlands.

We sincerely hope that this task force is able to stop this blatant disregard for the law and nature. But then again the effectiveness of the task force remains to be seen.

What has happened to the various committees that were set up in the past to look into the issue of development on hills and highlands? What are the custodians of our environment doing?

The ecosystems in the hills and highlands are fragile. The extent of the damage to the environment is not just associated with the loss of biodiversity, habitats, species, water resource and quality, but also people, their livelihoods and wellbeing.

Decades of tragedies has yet to lead to effective action to prevent illegal activities and unsuitable development on hillsides. In some cases the legal framework is filled with loopholes, while in other circumstances enforcement is too weak.

Despite attempts by the federal authorities to issue guidelines on highland development and taking efforts towards better monitoring, only state governments have the real power. And the record shows that not much has changed in hillside development practices.

Our natural resources and quality of life will continue to degrade with a weak governance system.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia calls on the authorities to take stringent action against the culprits who ravage our Mother Nature. The action taken should serve as a lesson so that it is not repeated by others.

And we hope that the new minister of natural resources and environment will ensure that our natural resources and environment are truly protected and conserved.

SM MOHAMED IDRIS is president of Sahabat Alam Malaysia.

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