Malaysia: Include environmental needs in GE14 agendas, politicians urged

andrew sia The Star 11 Apr 18;

A coalition of 20 NGOs is appealing to politicians to include environmental issues in their political agendas.

They also revealed their survey that 69% of those who plan to vote will consider the environment as one of the factors in their decisions.

Of the 1,603 online survey respondents, more than 86% are concerned with pollution of rivers and seas while 84% are concerned with deforestation/illegal logging.

Over 80% are equally concerned with the following:

- rubbish not properly managed/recycled
- loss of park/forests/beaches/natural areas to development
- climate change/global warming /extreme weather

On another question, 95% of the respondents say they are either "concerned or very concerned" about the natural environment in general.

84% are interested to know more about political parties' environmental aspirations for the nation.

The group of 20 NGOs, which work on eco issues, jointly held press conferences across Malaysia on Wednesday (April 11) for this appeal, contained in an Open Letter to all politicians.

“These high numbers indicate serious concerns among the voting public about environmental issues, and also signify questions about the nation’s development path," underlined Cynthia Ong, the Executive Chair of Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) Spiral.

"We seek deep commitment and sincerity from our political leadership that these issues will be placed high on their agenda.”
WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO, Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma hoped that politicians from all political parties and independent candidates will recognise the environmental aspirations of the people, particularly the youth.

“We appeal to all politicians to tell the voters how you will work towards realising those aspirations for the benefit of the people.

"More specifically, what will you do (for the environment) in the first 100 days, if you are elected to form the government?

He added that Malaysia must aim for sustainable development, to balance economic growth without compromising our natural capital (environmental assets, social systems, cultural resources).

"Only then can we ensure higher standards of living for current and future generations,” Sharma added.

The Open Letter underlined, "As we all know, humans cannot survive without nature. While development is meant to increase our standards of living and grow our economy, unsustainable development destroys the environment that provides services we take for granted such as our clean air, fresh water, food, and protection against extreme weather.

"Without proper protection of nature, the risks of flash flood, air pollution, landslides, shortage of water supply, and expanding urban heat islands will increase.

"We have already seen some of these happening and the frequency and intensity will get worse.
Next on the list of concerns in the survey are

- illegal hunting and selling of endangered animals (75%)

- air pollution from vehicles, factories/open burning (72%)

- forest fires/haze (69%)

- over fishing and decreased fish catch every year (61%)

The President of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Henry Goh added, “For sustainable development to take place, it is essential that the general public is consulted and their views are taken into consideration.”
He added that the online survey was done after an earlier open letter urging all political parties to prioritise the environment in their manifestos.

The survey results will enable the public to let politicians know which environmental matters they are concerned about, he said.

The online survey on environmental concerns was carried out between February and March this year.

The NGOs that signed the open letter are Biji-biji Initiative, Civil Society Organisations for Sustainable Development Goals (CSO-SDG) Alliance, Ecocentric Transitions, EcoKnights, Environmental Protection Society Malaysia (EPSM), Friends of Sarawak Museum (FoSM), Hunger Hurts Malaysia, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) Spiral, Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), #PowerShiftMsia, Reef Check Malaysia, Sabah Women's Action Resource Group (SAWO), Sabah Environmental Trust, Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society, Sarawak Eco-Warriors, Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (PROHAM), Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES), Wetlands International Malaysia and WWF-Malaysia.

The open letter is available in English, Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil.

Of the respondents, 36% are in the age group of 21-30 years, 38.6% (aged 31-45), 18% (aged 46-60) and 4% (above 61).

It was announced during the press conference today that the Sarawak Eco-Warriors, a newly-formed NGO consisting of enthusiastic youths and students from Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), as well as Hunger Hurts Malaysia, an NGO that believes in poverty-free Malaysia, are also going to support the open letter, topping the list to 20 NGOs that have signed the Open Letter.

The online survey is still open for responses and can be accessed at www.bit.ly/GE14envSv.

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