Environmental Issues in Malaysia

Environmental issues in Malaysia include: “air pollution from industrial and vehicular emissions; water pollution from raw sewage; deforestation; smoke/haze from Indonesian forest fires. Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy:181.9 million Mt (2010 est.), country comparison to the world: 30. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands. Signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements.

According to a survey of expatriates living in Asia: India, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Hong Kong are regarded as the dirtiest places in Asia, while Singapore, Japan and Malaysia were regarded as the cleanest. Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan were in the middle.

Malaysia faces many natural hazards, particularly flooding, landslides, and forest fires. Human-induced transformation of the environment is often regarded as more problematic than natural disasters but less so than in other Asian countries. Automobile emissions are Malaysia’s major source of air pollution, but air quality indicators for Malaysian cities tend to indicate cleaner air than in most other Asian cities. Livestock farming, domestic sewage, and landclearing have contributed to river pollution, but government documents do not suggest that river pollution is widespread or acutely problematic. Oil and grease have polluted coastal waters in all states and groundwater in some areas, and rates of deforestation increased from 0.4 percent annually during the 1990s to 0.7 percent annually from 2000 to 2005. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006]

Malaysia suffers from urban sprawl and traffic congestion in its capital Kuala Lumpur, and a lack of basic services in rural areas. DDT is still used, in part because it is effective in controlling mosquitos that carry the malaria parasite (1999, Source: World Wildlife Fund). The government has ordered academics not to make reports about pollution. At the same time a judge has ordered work to stop at a dam in Borneo over environmental reason and concerns about the rights of indigenous people.

Malaysia’s Plan to Build 'Green Economy'

In May 2011, Malaysia announced an ambitious plan to build a "green economy" with the help of an advisory council that includes economist Jeffrey Sachs and the UN climate change chief. AFP reported: “The initiative is part of economic reforms instituted by Prime Minister Najib Razak aimed at pushing the Southeast Asian country towards developed-nation status by 2020. Malaysia's vision of a "green economy" would see it moving beyond its status as a manufacturing hub, and establish "low carbon emissions, highly efficient use of resources, and a healthy, well-educated populace." [Source: AFP, May 18, 2011]

"Malaysia's ambitious goal is to simultaneously reduce poverty and achieve a green economy, " Najib said in a statement from New York. "We see science and technology innovation as key to achieving that goal, guided by the advice and active support of some of the world's most distinguished entrepreneurial, scientific and economic experts. These experts will liaise and work actively with key Malaysian agencies and institutions to develop 'quick wins' in the palm oil industry, in the creation of a smart city and smart village, and in education." As well as Sachs and Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the panel also includes media tycoon Steve Forbes and two Nobel laureates.

Najib said the council would aim to "raise the number of scientifically and technically-trained individuals, entrepreneurs and innovators in our country." Malaysia also hopes to develop smart cities and villages, where the Internet is available and resources, such as water and electricity, are managed efficiently through information technology.

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