The Pandemic and Our Growing Disconnection from Nature

Forced to stay home from the Movement Control Order, Tan Win Sim reflects on his – and our – deteriorating connection with nature.

A WISPY layer of dust has settled on my binoculars. Much to my dismay, I cannot recall the last time I went out for a stroll down untrodden paths while enjoying the gentle breeze and listening to the cheerful tweets of forest birds.

The Melaka Botanical Garden, just a stone’s throw from my hometown in Jasin, has always been one of my favourite birding spots.

While the Garden’s bird diversity pales in comparison to that of Panti Bird Sanctuary or Endau Rompin National Park, it is still a bird haven in the sprawling urban landscape of Melaka.

(Photo: A Grey-bellied Bulbul taking a dip in a relatively undisturbed forest in Johor. Such a clear stream is almost impossible to find in the Malaysian urban landscape. Pic by Tan Win Sim)

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NGOs Dangerously Stuck In The Rut

Drawing from her environmental experience in three sectors, Ginny SL Ng is concerned that environmental NGOs are not future-proofing themselves.

SO, THE year 2020 has been a blast, hasn’t it? There has been much said and written about the impact of the epidemic and the new normal, and the many communities and sectors that have suffered due to an economy built heavily on travel and consumption.

Unfortunately, one of the sectors that may continue to face such challenges after the pandemic is the non-profit or civil society sector.

(Photo: Being territorial is fine for tigers; less so for NGOs. Pic by Ginny SL Ng)

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Forest-use: The Public Wants A Say

#FORESTFILES: PART 4

Juggling between development and environmental conservation is difficult when it comes to forest-use. But there are ways to be more inclusive. This is Part 4 of Forest Files.

MALAYSIA has had decades of continuous economic and population growth since independence.

In 2019, the country achieved a gross domestic production (GDP) of about RM1.5 trillion, more than a hundred-times the GDP in the 1960s. The population almost quadrupled over the same period.

However, before Malaysia industrialised in the 1980s, it exploited its natural resources, including its most accessible at that time: primary forests, some of the oldest in the world.

(Public participation allows citizens affected by forest-use change to voice out; pictured at the North Kuala Langat Forest Reserve degazettement townhall are [clockwise from top] Kg OA Pulau Kempas’s Tonjoi Bin Pipis and Batin Raman Pahat, and Kg OA Busut Baru’s Rosnah Anak Senin. Pics by Shakila Zen/KUASA)

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Revenue and Power Drive Forest Area Changes

#FORESTFILES: PART 3

To understand forest-use dynamics in Peninsular Malaysia, one must know how state governments – the sole authority on land use – perceive forests. This is Part 3 of Forest Files.

IN AUGUST 2019, when then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched a forestry exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, he took the audience down memory lane.

“At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, as the Prime Minister of Malaysia back then, I made a pledge that Malaysia is committed to maintain at least 50 percent of our land mass under forest cover,” said Mahathir.

(Photo: Logs, like these harvested from a permanent reserve forest in Johor, are an important source of revenue for many state governments. Pic by YH Law.)

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Excision – The Main Threat to Forests in Peninsular Malaysia

#FORESTFILES: PART 2

Decades ago, rampant logging looked set to decimate forests in Malaysia. That is no longer the case but a less familiar force is driving forest change – one over which state governments have full control. This is Part 2 of the Forest Files series.

THE 1970s were the golden age of logging in Peninsular Malaysia, veteran loggers told Macaranga.

Then the federal government came up with the National Forestry Policy in 1978 and the National Forestry Act in 1984 to promote sustainable forestry in the country.

(Photo: A new road snakes through a permanent reserve forest bloc in Johor which was last logged in the 1970s. Composite pic by YH Law.)

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Forest Loss: Under Whose Watch?

How much forest loss is too much? And are the drivers of this loss the same as in the past? In Forest Files, Macaranga examines the dynamics and mechanics of forest-use changes in Malaysia. Our four-part In-Depth series focuses on Peninsular Malaysia, where more forests were lost in the last 30 years than in East Malaysia.

In Part 1, we look at how much forest we actually have, forest-use policies, and forestry decision-makers. In Part 2, we consider a key driver of forest loss – excision from permanent reserve forests. Part 3 asks what drives decision-makers and we end with Part 4 on how citizens could influence forest-use.

(Photo: A bird’s eye view of the protected primary hill and lowland rainforest of the Royal Belum State Park, 2003. Pic by SK Chong/Sasyaz Holdings)

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Discoveries Support Urgent Protection for Batu Caves

[First posted: 2 December, 2020]

Scientists make new findings, not necessarily all good, in the iconic Batu Caves, confirming its status as a natural treasure.

FOR THE millions of tourists who thronged Batu Caves in pre-Covid-19 times, and even for the residents who live nearby, the limestone hill is known only for its colourful Hindu temple and the Thaipusam festival.

Overshadowed is the hill’s scientific importance. Batu Caves is actually the best-studied limestone hill in Southeast Asia with many valuable natural history characteristics which are threatened.

In fact, is there even anything of scientific value left to conserve? The answer is a resounding “yes” according to a recent scientific expedition.

(Photo: Collecting Epithema parvibracteatum, endemic to Batu Caves and critically endangered; Ruth Kiew is second from left; Nur Atiqah Abd Rahman is on the left. Pic by SL Wong)

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How to Fit a 15-storey Hotel in Fraser’s Hill

Planners are drafting a new plan for Fraser’s Hill, an environmentally sensitive area. How should development proceed there?

FRASER’S Hill will get a new development concept plan soon. The Raub District Council, which oversees development in Fraser’s Hill, Pahang, has appointed town planner Iktisas Planners to come up with the plan. 

The consultant told Macaranga they aim to finish the concept plan in November, and declined to comment more.

The new concept plan adds a new dimension to recent events that have focused discussion on how Fraser’s Hill, an environmentally sensitive area, should be developed.

In particular, some residents and concerned citizens are opposing the building of a hotel there which has been approved by the Council.

(Photo: The iconic clock tower greets visitors to Fraser’s Hill, a destination popular for its cool weather, nature and colonial-style buildings. Pic by : Pashmina Binwani)

Continue reading How to Fit a 15-storey Hotel in Fraser’s Hill

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