Bat Researchers in Batu Caves - Pic by SL Wong

Taking Stock

(Updated 19 November 2020)

THE ENVIRONMENTAL sectors of Malaysia, like the rest of the country, were shaken in March 2020 by two major events: the Covid-19 crisis and a new government which seized power.

Over 6 months till October, Macaranga took stock of how 5 of these sectors were doing. The Insight reports looked at impacts as well as solutions and particularly whether there were opportunities to ‘build back better’.

The context

Malaysia recorded its first Covid-19 infection on January 25, 2020 and has imposed movement control orders of various strictness since March 18. The orders have largely succeeded in slowing disease spread.

However, these restrictions and their effect on the economy and other areas have wide-ranging effects on environmental communities.

Field research has stalled. Donations have shrunk and tourism ringgit evaporated. Indigenous communities, the poorest and most remote of Malaysians, are at greater risk of contracting diseases and need to boost food security.

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 with a minute majority, it continues to be unstable.

Direction is unclear in terms of policies, what more institutional and legal reforms put in place by the previous government. In the face of this, environmental sectors are being overshadowed by politicking and new health and economic priorities.

Our Taking Stock series kept the spotlight on these sectors.

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