All posts by Yao Hua Law

Explainer: El Niño and Southeast Asia

Weather happens because nature seeks stability. Excess heat, moisture or pressure in one place will move to fill gaps elsewhere. Imagine pouring water into a pool: the water level will rise instantly at one end before it flows to the lower ends of the pool.

What holds true for a pool also holds true for the oceans. At the Pacific Ocean, heat, winds and moisture interact in a major climate phenomenon called the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO alternates among three phases, of which El Niño is the warm phase. 

(Image: This year, sea surface temperature in the eastern Pacific Ocean has been warming up more than average. | Image by European Space Agency)


What’s in store, El Niño?

El Nino reliably warms up Malaysia but its impact on rainfall is more nuanced and spotty. Still, as global warming drives more extreme weather events, experts foresee El Niño causing more droughts too.

LAST MONTH must have felt like a furnace for many people across the world. Hundreds of millions suffered heatwaves in India, Europe and the United States. Dozens died. Since 1850, humans have waged world wars and landed rovers on Mars, but we have never stifled in a warmer month than July 2023.

July also marked the return of a natural climate phenomenon called El Niño. Last observed in 2019, El Niño tends to lead to warmer and drier months in tropical Asia. Scientists expect this El Niño to last through March 2024. 

(Photo: At its Weather Operation Centre in Selangor, the Malaysian Meteorological Department constantly monitors the country’s weather using satellite and radar data. | Pic by YH Law)



YP Olio 有限公司最近从联邦环境局获得允准在8498公顷的地块上清除森林并种植油棕。



该项目对马来西亚油棕业的声誉有什么影响? 对于彭亨州政府和发展商来说,最适当的选择又是什么?





Apa nilainya musnah hutan dan habitat harimau demi kelapa sawit?

Syarikat YP Olio Sdn Bhd baru menerima kelulusan daripada Jabatan Alam Sekitar untuk menebang kawasan hutan 8,498 ha untuk dijadikan ladang kelapa sawit.

Tapak itu terletak dalam kompleks hutan Chini-Bera, Pahang, sebuah hutan asli yang cukup kaya dengan kepelbagaian biologi dan nilai-nilai ekologi. Terdapat juga dua kampung Orang Asli dalam tapak projek yang menuntut kawasan itu sebagai tanah adat mereka.

Siasatan Macaranga mendapati bahawa projek ini membawa manfaat besar kepada pihak pemaju, manakala pihak kerajaan dan masyarakat menanggung kos yang tinggi. Tambahan pula, kemusnahan hutan itu akan menjejas populasi harimau Malaya yang sudahpun hampir pupus.

Apakah kesan projek tersebut ke atas reputasi kemampanan industri kelapa sawit di Malaysia? Apakah pilihan paling wajar bagi pihak kerajaan Pahang dan pemaju?

Bahagian 1: Menebang Hutan Demi Kelapa Sawit Yang Takkan Terjual

Bahagian 2: Biarpun Sudah Berjanji, Habitat Harimau di Pahang Tetap Dimusnahkan

Bahagian 3: Orang Asli Menolak Tawaran Rumah Baharu Untuk Hutan

Orang Asli Reject New Houses for Forests

After guarding a blockade against loggers for 16 months, a group of Orang Asli in Pahang is bringing their fight to the courts. The Kampung Mesau villagers have just filed a summons against the Pahang government and a developer for violating their customary rights. Part 3 of 3.

This story is produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network.

[Versi Bahasa Malaysia] [即将发布:中文版]

RICE COOKS in a soot-covered pot behind Rani Jilal. The 72-year-old man sits on bare ground in his hut. He is a senior member of the Temoq Orang Asli of Kampung Mesau in the Chini-Bera forests, Pahang.

Behind Rani, the boiling rice spills out of the pot into the wood fire. He ignores the sizzle. He is talking about his fear that his kin would be chased off the land they claim as their customary right. He has seen how swiftly developers can tear their world apart.

(Photo: The villagers of Kampung Mesau in Pahang built a blockade to save their forests from loggers. After 16 months of sleeping by the blockade, they have brought their fight to the High Court. | Pic by YH Law)


Destroying Tiger Habitat in Pahang Despite Promises

Another tiger and elephant habitat in Pahang has been approved to be turned into an oil palm plantation. But if the developer and state government wish to spare the forest, there are profitable alternatives. Part 2 of 3.

This story is produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network.

[Versi Bahasa Malaysia] [即将发布:中文版]

A PROPOSED 8,498 ha oil palm project in Pahang occupies a key location in Peninsular Malaysia’s wildlife habitats and forest landscape. The project site sits in the centre of the Chini-Bera forest complex, according to the Master Plan for Ecological Linkages Central Forest Spine (2022).

That complex connects the Greater Taman Negara forest complex in the north with the Endau-Rompin Sedili forest complex in the south. The Central Forest Spine (CFS) Masterplan aims to establish wildlife corridors called “linkages” between these complexes that would allow animals like tigers to move and breed across the landscape.

(Photo: A tiger pawprint found in the vicinity of the Bukit Ibam forests (background) being cleared for timber and oil palm plantation. | Pawprint photo courtesy of Mohjoey mojoey (Facebook), satellite image by Planet Labs Inc)


Cutting the Chini-Bera Forests for Oil Palm that Can’t Sell

YP Olio Sdn Bhd has just received approval from the Department of Environment to turn a sprawling forest in Pahang into oil palm. But evidence suggests the plantation will fail to get mandatory certification and license. So, why cut the forest? Part 1 of 3.

This story is produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network.

[Versi Bahasa Malaysia] [中文版]

FOR MUCH of 2020 and 2021, loggers cleared huge tracts of forest on private land in southeastern Pahang. The site used to be part of a forest reserve in the Chini-Bera forest complex. Now, silty logging roads wind across the shrubby landscape.

The logging had stopped at a fork in a main logging road since June 2021. Perhaps the loggers were deterred by the wooden blockade erected there by the local Orang Asli. Perhaps the landowner, YP Olio Sdn Bhd, was waiting for authorities’ approval of its environmental impact assessment (EIA) report.

(Photo: In Pahang, logging on YP Olio Sdn Bhd’s 8,498 ha land stops at a blockade set up by Orang Asli. | Pic by YH Law)