Malaysia's war against Nature

JC Tansen

8 Feb 2010, 10:17 pagi

Updated 11 years ago


With respect to the call by some leading Malaysians to ‘make war illegal’ and to name and shame warmongers, I would like to draw attention at the war against Nature that is being waged by many sectors of Malaysian society.

At the receiving end are not only some of our indigenous people like the mystical Penans but also our magnificent biological community of plants and animals that God has endowed onto our land.

Malaysian logging companies like Rimbunan Hijau and Samling, in their quest for timber, have for many decades waged war against Nature and tribal people in Sarawak with great success.

Our oil palm companies have joined this onslaught against Nature. In Sabah, for instance, what was once prime lowland forest is now occupied by 1.3 million hectares of oil palm plantations. This has driven forest dwellers such as our gentle orangutan, the sun bear and the rhinoceros to the brink of extinction.

In July this year, Sime Darby announced its intention to convert 100,000 hectares of forested land belonging to the native people in Sarawak and Sabah to oil palm plantations.

But Malaysian companies do not stop their war against Nature at our borders. They are active in many countries from Latin America and Africa to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Recently, Sime Darby signed a deal to convert 220,000 hectares of land to oil palm and rubber plantations in Liberia.

The Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud has also been long waging his own relentless war against Nature. Besides giving carte blanche to logging and oil palm companies, he has launched a grand plan to build 12 mega hydro-electric dams, in a secretive joint venture with state companies from China.

This will destroy and flood vast expanses of forested lands that are also home to our native people. This is being undertaken despite the state having no need for additional energy. To add insult to injury, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports for each of these projects has not been released to the public or to the stakeholders.

In the nineties, the deforestation rate in Malaysia averaged 78,000 hectares per year but in the early years of this decade, this has been surged to 140,000 hectares per year.

Most of our lowland forest habitats have already been ravaged. They are still forests left in Malaysia but this is mainly because they have been naturally defended by our inaccessible rugged mountainous terrain in the interior.

But our businessmen and politicians, ably supported by their team of engineering consultants, have now begun to encroach into these regions with their ingenious schemes to wage their war against nature for money.

At this very time, YTL proposes to carry out quarrying in the Jebak Puyuh limestone caves and destroy this species-rich habitat forever.

At the individual level, every polluter who pollutes our drains and rivers is also waging a war against Nature. Every enforcement officer or a director-general who accepts a bribe so that an unlawful activity such as the discharge of untreated effluent or the poaching of our wildlife can continue, is guilty of the same.

Our war against Nature has been led to a large extent by a runaway development agenda underpinned by cronyism, corruption, crippled public institutions, removal of checks and balances and the violation of human rights.

Who do we give the most credit for entrenching these features in Malaysian society?

Yes, we ought to welcome Dr Mahathir Mohammad’s call to make war illegal and to name and shame those of us – individuals and companies – who have been responsible in one way or another for an act of war.