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In recent years, we have noticed that the construction industry has successfully developed ‘ghost towns’ namely in areas like Bukit Beruntung, Nilai and even in Puchong. Although these are planned developments, many have been left to decay.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in 2001, the country’s forest cover was 60.8 percent and this value would have reduced drastically with the development process in Malaysia. This valuable resource is instead used to develop housing and industrial estates.

Fomca’s major concerns in developing forest land are the loss of natural habitat for flora and fauna, a high flood occurrence in lowlands, the loss of water catchment areas and other environmental disasters related to forest land clearing

While we compromise on this to meet population growth, we still have ‘ghost towns’ around us. These are areas which we had planned to develop together with local town planning. Why would there be a situation where these areas have now become ‘ghost towns’?

Such developments, as we pointed out, do not only cause a loss to Malaysians in terms of forest depletion, they also use a lot of raw materials such as concrete and timber. This involves a lot of natural resources which are eventually wasted.

Over-development in certain areas like Puchong will also have its negative impact and will eventually create small ‘ghost towns’ that will give rise to more social problems. We need a holistic approach to development on need basis.

We are aware that there are many more ‘ghost towns’ in Malaysia. Fomca would like to urge the housing and local government ministry, the Economic Planning Unit, natural resources and environment ministry and related agencies to form a task force to study these ‘ghost towns’.

This task force should carry out the following to do a root cause analysis - evaluate the impact of these ‘ghost towns’ on the environment, create a database of developers responsible, estimate cost of materials wasted in construction and finally prepare a report for public to identify such areas and developers.

This report should also study the overall impact of the creation of these ‘ghost towns’ and recommend action plans to prevent this from reoccurring.

Malaysia will be stepping into the league of developed nations and it is important for us to remain focused and prudent in planning as well as expenditure.

Developments that waste our resources should be stopped. All developments should be in terms of the sustainable development concept that was agreed by all leaders at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro back in 1992.

The only truth we need to remember is that depleting our natural resources will set severe limitations to our development.

The writer is president, Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca).

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