THE order to close picnic and camping places nationwide following the landslide tragedy at the Father’s Organic Farm camping site, Batang Kali, is like crying over spilled milk.
More surprising is that the camping sites involved in the incident were identified as unlicensed and had been operating illegally since 2020. This means for the last two years no authority has carried out inspections and monitoring to ensure that the owners of the premises comply with the rules and follow the guidelines set.
This incident is also reported to be the 23rd major landslide this year alone and the worst so far. Natural disasters that are not only happening more often but repeatedly in this country have almost become a norm because of irresponsible attitudes, failure to manage hill slopes, and lack of environmental awareness.
This situation is synonymous with the expression “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
Another example that clearly shows the authorities’ mistakes is the incident of Sungai Kim-Kim pollution due to the dumping of chemical waste that had happened for several years before the tragic water poisoning event in 2019, according to residents.
This event affected almost 6,000 people; until now, it is reported that they are still experiencing side effects. Just like the flood disaster that inundated Taman Sri Muda at the end of last year, only after the loss of several lives and losses reaching millions of ringgit was it discovered that the authorities had known for a long time that the area had the potential to be flooded.
Residents of Taman Sri Muda also claimed that complaints had been sent several times to investigate the area that often experiences flooding. Still, there was no response, and no action was taken to find a solution.
Let alone issues of clearing the hills and shrinking the forest reserves, which until now threaten not only flora and fauna but also the lives of the Orang Asli communities who have settled for a long time and depend on the produce of the earth as their ‘rice pot’.
All these show the weakness of the enforcement and monitoring system of environmental bodies and the general awareness of Malaysians, especially the authorities. It has become a trend that only after something happens that everyone wants to release a statement and start pointing fingers at one another.
If this matter is allowed to continue, we will not be able to solve anything and even cause more significant losses, especially with the “all bark and no bite” attitude which has become a norm for Malaysians who only make ‘noise’ when something happens and the issue gradually becomes forgotten after a while.
Natural disasters not only affect the quality of life of people who do not directly contribute to the occurrence of these destructive events, especially marginalised communities such as the poor, children and youth, people with disabilities (OKU), and Orang Asli communities but also have a direct impact on the growth the economy of this country.
Economic recovery after a disaster is very burdensome for the country, including constructing and replacing destroyed assets and rebuilding the financial sector in the affected area, especially in a developing country like Malaysia.
It cannot be denied that natural disasters also occur due to natural factors such as floods that are currently hitting several states caused by monsoon rains, the La Nina phenomenon, and changes in the climate system.
However, various studies show that human activities such as unplanned and unsustainable development, land encroachment, and pollution cause climate change and lead to natural disasters. For example, increased frequency and distribution of rainfall, sea level rise, and unpredictable weather due to the effects of global warming.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report also anticipates more forceful impacts of climate change in the next 20 years, such as more frequent and extreme natural disasters, scarcity of water resources due to sudden temperature increases, double destruction due to floods and increased rates of the extinction of animal and plant species that have a direct impact on the socioeconomics of the community if efficient action is not taken immediately.
Measures to mitigate climate change can no longer be delayed to ensure the continued well-being of people, natural ecosystems, food supplies, and water resources. We must immediately evaluate and review the effectiveness of existing efforts and the implementation of more effective risk management policies and strategies, further encouraging active participation from the community, especially industry players and stakeholders at the grassroots level, especially the youth.
In addition, efforts to increase community awareness should also be intensified especially to understand the effects and consequences of climate change, their role, and how can they act as individuals.
This process should start through formal education to nurture awareness from school days, for example, by revisiting and updating the content of the national curriculum so that it can add more elements of environmental protection that focus on local narratives, climate change governance, including policy-making processes and implementation methods and emphasizing aspects of cooperation between various parties including the public and private sectors in a different level. Next, I hope the government can reconsider the declaration of a
‘Climate Emergency’ as a sign of the government’s high commitment to efforts to deal with the issue of climate change. This step will help to plan and give priority, especially in implementing a more structured, comprehensive, and efficient climate action plan, significantly to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, curbing anthropogenic global warming, and greening the economic sector.
A study by UNICEF Malaysia in 2020 reported a grave risk to young people in Malaysia, especially in terms of well-being, education, and income generation. The report also recommends that young people are given space to contribute to the decision-making process and policy-making on climate change and the environment.
Therefore, the government should develop a more inclusive strategy and enable the involvement of various parties, including the youth, in climate change governance. I suggest forming a National Youth Climate Change Advisory Committee that can function as a think tank and an official platform to unite youth activists and organisations that the government officially recognises to contribute to the governance of climate change and the environment.
For Malaysians, this monsoon season will bring heavy rain, strong winds, rough waves, and rising water levels. So avoid recreational activities or being in dam areas, mountains, rivers, and beaches.
Plan your trip by referring to the latest weather forecast by the Malaysian Meteorological Department. In addition, be careful when handling electrical equipment, save water and maintain personal hygiene. For those who live in areas at risk of flooding, prepare sufficient supplies of food, water, and clothing, and save only essential items in case of flooding. Keep praying for everyone’s well-being; we can get through this challenging phase together.
In conclusion, I call for the newly formed unity government led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, to set aside all political and ideological differences and continue to unite in dealing with this increasingly critical issue of climate change.
The decision taken today has only two outcomes either a chance to find a way to survive or count the last days of the existence of the earth and its caliphate.
Together we can make a difference!
NOTE: The author is a Youth Climate Advocate, Co-founder of Project Ocean Hope, UN Youth Delegate to COP27, Stockholm+50 International Meeting, Sweden & Youth4Climate Summit, Milan 2021 & New York 2022, and Member of the Official Youth Constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (YOUNGO) Ph.D. Candidate (Molecular Biology & Genetic Engineering), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
Article originally published in: https://thepetridish.my/2022/12/23/declare-climate-emergency/