Bat Researchers in Batu Caves - Pic by SL Wong

Taking Stock

THE ENVIRONMENTAL sectors of Malaysia, like the rest of the country, have been shaken by two major events: the Covid-19 crisis and a new government who has yet to set direction.

From activists and scientists to indigenous communities and tour operators, the sectors have and continue to experience uncertainty in the foreseeable future.

In the face of this double challenge, Macaranga is taking stock of environmental sectors in Malaysia in the next few months. We consider the impacts on their operations and plans for the year and their responses to these impacts.

Restricted movements

Malaysia recorded its first Covid-19 infection on January 25, 2020 and has imposed a movement control order since March 18. The order has succeeded in slowing disease spread.

However, until a vaccine is widely available, movement restrictions are expected to be continually employed to control the disease.

These restrictions and their effect on the economy and other areas already have wide-ranging effects on environmental communities.

Field research has stalled. Donations have shrunk and tourism ringgit evaporated. Indigenous communities hit by hunger might have no choice but to extract more from their natural environment.

Government direction

At the same time, on February 29, political realignments saw the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition government replace the one that was elected two years ago. While battling the pandemic, PN has established new Ministries and reshuffled government agencies. But it has yet to come up with a manifesto.

Will the institutional and legal reforms already in place continue? What about reforms that are in the pipeline? Which policies will change? How will environmental sectors be affected by new economic priorities? And how many NGOs will remain standing?

Join us in our Taking Stock series.

Photo: Researchers such as these bat scientists are figuring out how to continue field work when movement is restricted. (Credit: SL Wong)