Three Stories on Land and Water

TANAH AIR, the word for homeland in Malay, literally means ‘land’ and ‘water’. We are bound to both in so many ways: as a nation and citizens, through the actual and imaginative, the collective and the personal.

But the reality is, tanah and air are governed by states. In these times of calamities, turbulence and change, is our governance good enough? Whose interests do decisions serve? What is working, what, not?

In 3 stories, this Special Project looks at how governance in Malaysia is impacting humans and nature, as well as the related concerns and actions. Ultimately, we ask: are our solutions real?

Climate

We look at our (literal) rice bowl, the staple grain that feeds all walks and stripes of Malaysians. Land and water provide us with food. But our actions in unbalancing the climate are jeopardising the ability of humans and the earth to continue that. Rising temperatures and extreme weather exacerbate structural weaknesses in food supply alongside Covid-19, the war in Ukraine, political instability and global inflation.

Ecosystems

We zoom in on what happens to coastal ecosystems when states reclaim our coasts. These habitats are often overshadowed by the way unsustainable deforestation is destroying Malaysia’s inland ecology. But coastal ecosystems are mosaics of land and water that stabilise coastlines, are home to marvellous life great and small, feed us and nurture our souls. What are the benefits and costs of reclamation to these ecosystems?

Pollution

We examine waste through the lens of our smallest land mass: islands. We are good at creating and producing using land and water but can our land and water absorb all we leave behind? For what we discard is both monumental and microscopic, entangled in nature and all that we build, overlaying grounds and waters, seeping beneath, entering our bodies. This can defy the imagination and the capacity of humans and nature to carry on.

About the project

We designed this Macaranga #TanahAir Special Project to kick off with training and follow up with mentorship as our writers worked through the stories and produced accompanying visuals.

To choose the issues, we dug deep into our knowledge and experience, as well as asked experts who know: academics, scientists, policy makers. Naturally, the issues are many, and all urgent, but out of that, we settled on 3 cross-cutting issues that are pertinent for these times.

But we also want to know what you think. Do answer the quiz at the top of each article and at the end, tell us what you would do if you were in the seat of power.

The stories are produced in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese.

[Project photo: Lee Kwai Han]

Series Producer: SL Wong

Editors: Law Yao Hua and Masjalizah Hamzah

Writers: Lee Kwai Han, Ashley Yeong and Ushar Daniele

Translators: Adriana Nordin Manan, and Mun Yee San & team

The Macaranga #TanahAir Special Project is supported by The Habitat FoundationMacaranga supporters and the Said Zahari Award for Law Yao Hua.

Published: September 26, 2022

(Photos: Lee Kwai Han)

It’s a staple food but rice is in the spotlight as extreme heat, heavy winds and floods due to the climate crisis are affecting rice production and stressing paddy farmers.

Read: Climate Crisis Stirring a Storm in a Rice Bowl

Answer the teaser quiz here; full quiz is in the story. At the end of the story, fill in the poll to let us know what you would do about the issue if you were in the seat of power.

(Photos: Ashley Yeong)

Deforestation is often seen as the biggest threat to Malaysia’s ecosystems but along beaches and coasts, reclamation is a quiet, destructive force.

Read: Reclamations Gateway to Ecological Disaster.

Answer the teaser quiz here; full quiz is in the story. At the end of the story, fill in the poll to let us know what you would do about the issue if you were in the seat of power.

Large swaths of sand from previous reclamation projects around Klebang, Melaka. (Ashley Yeong)
(Photos: Ushar Daniele)

Islands are creaking under the weight of mismanaged rubbish. This surely rings an alarm bell for Malaysia’s pollution issues.

Read: Trash Islands a Snapshot of Polluted Malaysia.

Answer the teaser quiz here; full quiz is in the story. At the end of the story, fill in the poll to let us know what you would do about the issue if you were in the seat of power.

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