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Logo RAS - New

October 20, 2009

will biofuel from algae look like Big Oil or Big Agriculture?

Hundreds of companies and laboratories are racing to find an economical way to make “green crude” from algae. The biofuel industry is grappling with a series of hurdles, which players readily recognized at a summit this week in San Diego and we cover in this story.

One question asked by one of the sector’s early leaders is will biofuel from algae look like Big Oil or Big Agriculture.

Steve Mayfield, who directs a new center for algae biotechnology at the University of California, San Diego, believes it should be more like .

“We’re not going to grow it in the lab … We are going to grow it on rice patties,” Mayfield said at the Algae Biomass Summit in San Diego.

Mayfield also helped found Sapphire Energy, a privately held company that has pulled in $100 million from venture capitalists. The company is looking at gene-based techniques to create a strain of algae that can be grown and harvested on a massive scale.

“What we need to do is domesticate algae. We are taking wild type strains and asking them to do what never was asked to do or evolved to do in the wild,” Mayfield said, pointing to how genetic changes have boosted crop yields.

Photo credit: Reuters


While solar power has investors on Wall Street seeing green, countries in the developing world also see a bright future in solar technology.

They believe solar power systems that convert sunlight into electricity can help power developing areas without going the route of dirty coal-fired power plants.

Solar companies like China’s solar panel maker Suntech and California-based eSolar, have recently announced forays into the developing world.

Suntech is teaming up with Pakistan’s alternative energy development board, which the company’s chairman and chief executive Zhengrong Shi called “a clear example of the promise of solar energy.”

Solar thermal company eSolar said last week that it is expanding in Africa and earlier this year it partnered with an Indian company to build solar power plants in India over the next 10 years.

And a $400 billion euro plan is gaining steam to power Europe with Sahara sunlight, despite critics.

Today’s top solar market — and lots of profits — are found in Germany while the United States and China are fast-growing alternative energy sectors. Will countries like South Africa join their ranks one day? How will countries and governments make good on the promise of solar energy for the developing world?

Photo: Workers build a thermo-solar power plant in Beni Mathar August 20, 2009. Photo credit:REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

World leaders told to seal climate deal in person

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain urged world leaders on Monday to turn up in person to salvage a U.N. climate deal in Copenhagen in December, and Australia and India outlined ways to curb their greenhouse gases.

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaks at the Major Economies Forum in central London October 19, 2009. Britain urged world leaders on Monday to turn up in person to salvage a U.N. climate deal in Copenhagen in December, as Australia and India outlined steps to rein in their greenhouse gas emissions. (REUTERS/Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool)

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told representatives of 17 major emitters meeting in London that success was still within reach for 190-nation talks in Denmark from Dec. 7 to 18, up to now intended as a gathering for environment ministers.

"We must frankly face the plain fact that our negotiators are not getting to agreement quickly enough," he said.

"Leaders must engage directly to break the impasse," he told the two-day talks ending on Monday. "I've said I'll go to Copenhagen, and I'm encouraging them to make the same commitment."

Talks are bogged down in disputes between industrialised and developing countries over how to share out curbs on emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels. Just one week of formal talks remains before Copenhagen, in Barcelona in early November.

The two-year U.N. talks launched in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007 are particularly stuck on how big carbon cuts recession-hit rich countries should make by 2020, and how much they should pay developing countries to fight global warming.

Among signs of action on Monday, Australian Climate Minister Penny Wong said the government would bring carbon trade legislation back to parliament on Thursday and will demand a vote on the controversial laws before the end of November.


The conservative opposition on Sunday demanded changes to the scheme, already rejected once by the upper house to avert a second defeat that would give Prime Minister Kevin Rudd an excuse to call a possible snap election.

The government, which is ahead in opinion polls and could benefit from an election, wants to start carbon trading from July 2011, putting a price on greenhouse gas and helping curb emissions in one of world's highest per capita polluters.

The Australian scheme will cover 75 percent of Australian emissions from 1,000 of the biggest companies and be the second domestic trading platform outside Europe. Companies will need a permit for every tonne of carbon they emit.

An Indian newspaper said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh wanted New Delhi to accept curbs on the country's rising carbon emissions, dropping insistence that they should hinge on new finance and technology from rich nations.

"We should be pragmatic and constructive, not argumentative and polemical," The Times of India quoted Ramesh as writing in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Ramesh signalled a willingness to make compromises to win a deal.

India, China and other big developing countries fear they will be hard hit by climate change and say it is in their national interest to try to limit the effects more extreme droughts, floods, rising seas and melting glaciers that feed major rivers.

The London talks of the Major Economies Forum focus on how to turn a patchwork of national policy plans, from China to the United States, into a deal. Countries attending account for 80 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

"The rich countries in the Major Economies Forum must urgently put new money on the table," said Friends of the Earth Climate Campaigner Asad Rehman.

A big sticking point for Copenhagen is that the United States, the only industrialised country outside the current Kyoto Protocol for curbing emissions, is unlikely to pass carbon-cutting laws by December.

In Cape Town, South Africa pointed to one area of soaring emissions -- next year's soccer World Cup. Emissions would leap almost tenfold from a 2006 benchmark set by Germany, partly because air travel would be added to the count.

"The FIFA 2010 World Cup will have the largest carbon footprint of any major event with a goal to be carbon neutral," Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said.

The Star 19.10.2009

October 9, 2009

Hypermart on a drive to save dolphins

CARREFOUR recently invited popular award winning film actress and nature lover, Maya Karin to witness the kick start of a 100-day countdown to end free distribution of plastic bags at the checkout counters of its newest outlet in Bandar Tun Hussein Onn, Cheras.

The beneficiary of this campaign are the Irrawady River dolphins that are often sighted along the coasts of Sarawak and Sabah.

Carrefour, in association with the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), decided that it was timely to raise awareness to protect the dolphines as their natural habitat had been seriously jeopardised by plastic bags.

To monitor closely: Actress Maya Karin at the launch of Carrefour’s ‘No Plastic Bag’ campaign.

An exhibition has been put up to engage customers into adopting a new habit of reusing their shopping bags.

”My role here is almost like a guarantor.

“In 100 days, this store will further reduce its environmental footprint once there is no more free distribution of plastic bags.

“I will follow up very closely on the efforts and will even step in to speak to the customers about the importance of cutting back on plastic bags,” said Maya after the launch.

MNS head of communication Andrew Sebastian said he was proud that Carrefour had taken the initiative to address the issue.

According to Carrefour Malaysia’s marketing and communications director Low Ngai Yuen they have eight eco-friendly checkout lanes that prioritise customers who have chosen to reuse their shopping bags.

The Star 09.10.2009

October 6, 2009

Henti import bahan pemusnah ozon

ROSNANI (dua dari kiri) bersama Nur Saidah Nor Mohamad (kanan), N. Jainthy dan Cheong Lin Lin (kiri) membincangkan sesuatu pada majlis sambutan Hari Ozon Antarabangsa 2009 di Kuala Lumpur semalam.

KUALA LUMPUR - Mulai 1 Januari 2010, Malaysia memutuskan untuk tidak lagi mengimport bahan pemusnah ozon (ODS) seperti kloro fluoro karbon (CFC), halon dan karbon tetraklorida.

Bahan-bahan ODS itu lazimnya digunakan untuk alat pendingin hawa, peti sejuk, penyembur rambut dan alat pemadam api.

Ketika mengumumkannya, Menteri Sumber Asli dan Alam Sekitar, Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas berkata, pendekatan itu adalah selaras dengan komitmen negara terhadap Protokol Montreal.

Menurutnya, Protokol Montreal yang disertai oleh 196 negara itu merupakan satu perjanjian untuk mengawal pengeluaran dan penggunaan ODS bagi membantu mengurangkan masalah pemanasan global dan perubahan iklim dunia.

"Bagi bahan hidroklorofluorokarbon (HCFC), pengawalan penggunaannya akan dimulakan pada tahun 2015 dengan pengurangan sebanyak 10 peratus daripada had pembekuan pada tahun 2013 sebelum diberhentikan pengimportannya pada Januari 2030," katanya pada majlis sambutan Hari Ozon Antarabangsa 2009 di sini semalam.

Teks ucapan beliau dibacakan oleh Ketua Pengarah Alam Sekitar, Datuk Rosnani Ibarahim.

KOSMO 06.10.2009

Program pemuliharaan alam sekitar dipertingkat

MUHYIDDIN berkata sesuatu selepas memberi ucapan pada Perhimpunan Bulanan Jabatan Perdana Menteri di Putrajaya, semalam. Turut kelihatan, Koh (tiga dari kanan), Jamil Khir (kiri), Liew (dua dari kanan) dan Idris.

UTRAJAYA: Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin mahu dasar dan program pemuliharaan dan pemeliharaan alam sekitar dipertingkatkan bagi menjamin khazanah kepelbagaian bio yang dimiliki negara dipertahankan untuk generasi akan datang.

Timbalan Perdana Menteri berkata, usaha itu juga penting bagi mengelak bencana alam melanda negara ini.

"Walaupun sudah ada pelan tindakan yang disediakan, kita masih melihat sikap dan rasa kurang bertanggungjawab mengenai alam sekitar yang masih berlaku."

"Gunung dan bukit kita ditarah, hanya tinggal pohon-pohon yang sudah terkulai, sungai masih terus tercemar dan tasik-tasik yang kita bangga dulu sudah dirosakkan oleh perbuatan manusia," katanya pada perhimpunan bulanan Jabatan Perdana Menteri (JPM) di sini hari, semalam.

Hadir sama tiga Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom dan Datuk Seri Idris Jala. Turut serta Timbalan Menteri di JPM, Datuk Liew Vui Keong, Datuk SK Devamany, Datuk T Murugiah dan Ketua Setiausaha Negara, Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan.

Timbalan Perdana Menteri berkata, memandangkan Malaysia adalah sebuah daripada 10 negara di dunia yang kaya dengan kepelbagaian bio yang tinggi nilainya, perhatian yang istimewa seharusnya diberikan untuk memastikan keadaan alam sekitar sentiasa dilindungi dan dipulihara.

"JPM yang terbabit secara langsung dan tidak langsung bagi memastikan langkah pemuliharaan dan pemeliharaan kepelbagaian bio itu dapat dilaksanakan dengan berkesan," katanya.

Timbalan Perdana Menteri berkata, rakyat juga perlu berusaha untuk mengurangkan gas rumah hijau dan mengurangkan pencemaran serta mengambil langkah untuk menjimatkan penggunaan tenaga khususnya di bangunan kerajaan.

"Putrajaya mungkin boleh jadi contoh," katanya.

Sementara itu, Muhyiddin berkata, Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Razak sudah menyatakan komitmen Malaysia untuk menghulurkan apa saja bentuk bantuan dan pertolongan diperlukan bagi meringankan beban usaha menyelamat yang sedang dijalankan akibat gempa bumi yang melanda Padang, Indonesia.

Tarah bukit punca banjir lumpur

Syarikat pengurusan tanah perkuburan Cina langgar syarat operasi

SENGGARANG: Syarikat pengurusan tanah perkuburan Cina di Batu 4 1/2, Jalan Minyak Beku, di sini, perlu mematuhi beberapa syarat yang ditetapkan kerajaan bagi memastikan keselesaan penduduk sekitarnya terpelihara.

Antara syarat itu, pihak terbabit perlu membina sistem saliran yang sempurna bagi mengelak limpahan air ketika musim hujan, membina dinding penahan tebing bukit dan menyediakan zon penampan.

Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (Adun) Senggarang, Ja'affar Hashim, berkata syarat itu ditetapkan kerajaan negeri ketika meluluskan permohonan untuk menjadikan kawasan itu sebagai tapak perkuburan pada 2004.

Bagaimanapun, katanya, syarikat terbabit didapati tidak mematuhi syarat itu apabila menarah lereng bukit sehingga menimbulkan kebimbangan penduduk setempat.

"Perbuatan syarikat itu menggondol bukit menyebabkan penduduk berhampiran menjadi mangsa apabila dilanda banjir lumpur setiap kali hujan lebat sejak enam bulan lalu.

"Penduduk yang tidak berpuas hati membuat beberapa siri bantahan dan saya akui memang wajar penduduk membantah kerana keselesaan hidup mereka kini terganggu," katanya ketika ditemui pada Majlis Rumah Terbuka Aidilfitri Adun Senggarang di Dewan Terbuka Senggarang. Hadir sama, Adun Rengit, Ayub Jamil dan Adun Penggaram, Koh Chee Chai.

Ja'affar berkata, berikutan itu beliau membawa penduduk menemui Menteri Besar, Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman, baru-baru ini untuk mengadu masalah yang mereka hadapi itu.

"Hasil pertemuan itu, Menteri Besar mengeluarkan arahan kepada Majlis Perbandaran Batu Pahat dan Jabatan Kerja Raya supaya memantau kerja tanah yang dilakukan syarikat itu supaya ia mematuhi syarat yang ditetapkan," katanya.

Ja'affar berkata, berikutan bantahan berterusan penduduk sejak beberapa tahun lalu, kelulusan pembakaran mayat di tapak perkuburan itu kini dibatalkan.

"Syarikat itu kini hanya dibenarkan menguburkan mayat, bukan lagi membakarnya kerana ia jelas mengganggu ketenteraman penduduk sekitar ekoran kedudukannya yang berdekatan dengan kediaman.

“Saya juga akan terus memantau aktiviti mereka selain berjumpa dengan pengurusan kubur itu bagi memastikan mereka mematuhi syarat ditetapkan," katanya.

Sebanyak 15 rumah penduduk berada berhampiran dengan tanah perkuburan seluas tiga hektar itu.

Berita Harian 06.10.2009

Satu tan barang kitar semula dikumpul

PASIR GUDANG: Lebih satu tan barangan kitar semula berjaya dikumpul sepanjang sehari Program Rakan Alam Sekitar peringkat Parlimen Pasir Gudang yang diadakan di Taman Air Biru di sini.

Semua barangan berkenaan hasil sumbangan penduduk sekitar Taman Air Biru dan Rumah Pangsa Air Biru termasuk komputer lama, telefon bimbit, komputer riba dan barangan elektrik.

Pengerusi Program Rakan Alam Sekitar Taman Air Biru, Ismail Yahya, berkata sambutan orang ramai terhadap program kitar semula amat menggalakkan.

Katanya, selepas program berakhir, masih terdapat beberapa penduduk sekitar Taman Air Biru yang menyatakan minat untuk menyumbang barangan untuk dikitar semula.

"Pihak kami masih menerima lagi bahan untuk dikitar semula sebelum dihantar ke Jabatan Alam Sekitar (JAS) Daerah Johor Bahru untuk tindakan selanjutnya. Ini satu perkembangan baik dan perlu ditanam dalam diri setiap penduduk di sini terutama kepentingan menjaga kebersihan alam sekitar.

"Program yang diadakan amat berguna dan bermanfaat kepada penduduk di sini kerana mereka didedahkan dengan banyak maklumat mengenai cara untuk kitar semula barangan yang sukar untuk dilupuskan," katanya.

Pengerusi Program Kitar Semula Peringkat Zon Taman Air Biru, Abdul Rahim Latif berharap program berkenaan akan diadakan setiap tahun untuk mendidik orang ramai supaya lebih peka terhadap program kitar semula yang dianjurkan JAS.

Abdul Rahim berkata, sebelum ini, program seumpama itu jarang diadakan di kawasan Taman Air Biru menyebabkan penduduk agak sukar untuk menyerahkan barangan untuk dilupuskan bagi tujuan kitar semula.

Beliau berharap kesedaran turut disampaikan kepada pelajar sekolah kerana golongan itu yang kerap terdedah kepada maklumat berkaitan kitar semula barangan.

Berita Harian 06.10.2009

Coming clean

Healthier and eco-friendly ways to dry-clean clothes can be found here.

AS consumers become more savvy about the products and services they pay for, it is only natural that they also start becoming more discerning.

The story Dirt From Dry-cleaning (StarTwo, May 12) on the possible environmental and health impacts of dry-cleaning solvent perchloroethylene (perc) prompted questions on what alternatives Malaysian consumers have if they choose to avoid perc-based dry-cleaning.

The majority of local laundries still use perc, even though the highly volatile solvent has been identified as being harmful to health and the environment.

In fact, the state of California in the United States is phasing out the use of perc all together.

Jeeves Malaysia CEO Jeffrey G. Walmsley says the Green Earth dry-cleaning machine uses the same process as traditional drycleaning, but eliminates the environmental and health concerns associated with the use of perc.

The use of perc can be safe if dry cleaners take the necessary precautions, like keeping machines in pristine condition so that minimal perc residue is left in clothing.

There is, however, no way to completely eliminate this. Operators should also store, transfer and dispose of perc responsibly in order to minimise its release into the environment.

There is, however, a sore lack of enforcing these practices in Malaysia.

While used perc is a scheduled waste that comes under the Department of Environment, laundries and dry cleaners fall under local authorities.

The usage of perc itself, however, does not seem to be monitored as such. Bigger laundry operators seem to self-regulate, while the smaller outfits simply do so on an ad hoc basis.

Green and clean

So what options do consumers have to clean “dry-clean only” clothes, while also protecting themselves and the environment? One lesser known but effective process is wet-cleaning. Admittedly, the idea of putting clothes labelled specifically for dry-cleaning through a wet process might turn off many customers. Wet-cleaning, however, is actually a viable alternative for most types of garments.

In wet-cleaning, computer-controlled washers and dryers are used to simulate the motion of a very gentle hand wash (to compare, a washing machine would rotate clothes a few dozen times a minute, while wet cleaning machines can spin as slowly as six times per minute). These machines can also be programmed for variables such as time, temperature, and mechanical action, allowing the wash to be tailored to the type of fabric. The cleaning agents used are simply detergents and softeners, similar to the ones we use at home.

The pre-washing process forms an important part of wet-cleaning. Here, spotting agents are used to remove stains from the garments. This removes the need for a strong wash. The clothes might then go through finishing (pressing or stretching) in order to retain the original shape and fit. Through these methods, wet-cleaning is able to tackle almost any type of clothing that should supposedly only be dry-cleaned, including leather, suede, woollens, silk and rayon.

Many people are not aware that wet-cleaning is actually available in Malaysia. Peggy Liew, whose company Kraft Trading brought in the Seitz wet-cleaning technology, shares that they have outfitted 124 laundries nationwide with the system.

“The chemicals used in the wet-cleaning process are completely biodegradable. Even our detergents are fruit acid-based,” Liew says, adding that the used detergent can go down the drain. She further explains that unlike when handling perc, laundry workers don’t need any protective gear while wet-cleaning.

She further claims that wet-cleaning is considered more hygienic in comparison to perc, which is distilled and reused. For garments used for prayers, for example, wet-cleaning might be preferable for this reason.

Zarina Ismail, who owns the Drop & Wash laundry chain, says wet-cleaning is the safest alternative to dry-cleaning, as it is a water-based cleaning process that does not generate hazardous waste nor pollute the surrounding environment. Utilising the Lagoon technology that incorporates washing, drying and finishing processes in one machine, Zarina currently operates five outlets in the Klang Valley and is offering their licensee package nationwide.

Providing options

For those who still prefer dry-cleaning, perhaps the alternative would be to use a perc-free service. Jeeves Malaysia does dry-cleaning using GreenEarth, an inert and non-toxic solvent made from silicone.

Chief executive officer Jeffrey G. Walmsley believes that while wet cleaning is effective, it is best to have more than one tool in the toolkit. He says certain garments may require proper dry-cleaning, such as those which aren’t colourfast, those that might lose their shape or finish (such as sunray skirts with many pleats), and certain fabrics like chiffon that are prone to shrinking in water.

The GreenEarth dry-cleaning process is similar to that using perc, except that the solvent itself poses no discernable threat to either the environment or health. Made from pure liquid silicone, or as Walmsley describes it, “liquefied sand”, GreenEarth breaks down into sand and trace amounts of water and carbon dioxide. Liquid silicone is also the base ingredient in many shampoos, conditioners and lotions, which makes GreenEarth safe to come in contact with the human body.

Consumers who think they may have to fork out exorbitant amounts for wet-cleaning are in for a surprise: it actually costs the same to wet-clean and dry-clean.

Walmsley, on the other hand, acknowledges that cleaning with GreenEarth is slightly more expensive. “The solvent is much more expensive than perc, and it is also more complicated to use, requiring more people and expertise. However, we believe that the benefits to our customers and their clothes are worth it. But the more consumers know about the cleaning processes, the better equipped they are to choose what’s best for their clothes, their health and the environment,” he says.

Liew agrees, saying consumers should ask more questions and be open to suggestions when dropping their clothes off for cleaning.

“Some operators say they are dry-cleaning when they are actually using wet-cleaning, simply because customers refuse to understand what wet-cleaning is. They assume that the only thing that will work is (perc-based) dry-cleaning, without realising how harmful it can be,” she says.

The Star 06.10.2009

Tireless campaigner

Dr Martin Abraham may help shape global green policies and initiatives, but his heart lies in improving the lives of the community through his work in environmental activism.

HIS might not be a household name but for the past 30 years, Dr Martin Abraham has tirelessly championed consumer rights and environmental protection, both locally and globally.

Through his work in numerous non-governmental organisations and United Nations bodies, he has had a hand in shaping global green initiatives and policies.

His quiet, unassuming ways belie years of experience which have placed him as a respected figure in environmental circles.

His deep knowledge of all things concerning the planet has seen him playing advisory roles in various think-tanks and conservation groups, and involved in writing up global treaties and policy documents.

Eco-champion: Dr Martin Abraham’s green credentials include one of the most esteemed environmental awards, the UNEP Global 500 Roll Of Honour For Environmental Achievement.

He has worked on a diverse range of topics, from chemical safety to hazardous wastes, sustainability, traditional knowledge, persistent organic pollutants, trade, endocrine disrupting chemicals, tobacco, biotechnology, genetically modified organisms, consumption patterns, energy and climate change.

For the past 10 years, Abraham has been instrumental in helping community groups obtain Global Environment Facility (GEF) funds to carry out sustainable development projects.

As national co-ordinator of the GEF Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP), he has helped these groups shape their project concepts and prepare documents to support their applications for funding.

The funds have helped the single mothers of Wanita Inovatif Jaya Diri (Wijadi) in Kelantan to grow and market medicinal herbs, communities in Selangor to set up the Kota Damansara urban park, and Sarawak fishermen to stop overfishing of the endangered ikan terubok.

“By building the capability of NGOs and local communities in implementing activities that promote sustainable livelihoods and at the same time conserve natural resources and ecosystems, my work in SGP has brought about positive changes in the lives of people,” says Abraham, 54.

He left the GEF-SGP programme in July, however, following policy changes at the headquarters and now works as an independent environmental consultant.

His wife, Rajeswari Kanniah, is the dean of law at Taylor’s University College and they have a daughter, Gowri Chitra, 17.

Tracing back his green roots, Abraham can count himself as one among the small group of people who were witness to the rise of the budding Malaysian environmental movement during the 1980s.

Armed with a doctorate in marine microbiology, he had joined a local university in 1983 as a research co-ordinator but ethical conflict saw him quitting soon after.

“Seabed oil exploration was just taking off then and I was involved in a project to look for oil-eating bacteria in Malaysian waters, which can prevent oil spills from destroying mangroves and coastlines. When I found no such bacteria, I was instructed to doctor the data. It was against my ethics, so I left.”

The loss of a capable scientist in the research community, however, was a gain in the fledging environmental movement, for Abraham then joined Sahabat Alam Malaysia.

As a research officer, he used his science background to eject science-based principles into work related to water pollution and pesticides.

His next positon was with the International Organisation of Consumers Unions (now renamed Consumers International) in Penang, where he campaigned against harmful chemicals and tobacco trade, among other things.

In the aftermath of the 1984 Bhopal industrial disaster where a leak in the Union Carbide pesticide plant in the Indian town exposed 500,000 people to the toxic methyl isocyanate gas, Abraham was among those who lobbied for better management of chemicals.

His books on this subject cover hazardous technologies, unsafe pesticide manufacturing in the Third World and the denial of justice for the Bhopal victims.

In 1989, his environmental activism work was acknowledged – he was elected into the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global 500 Roll Of Honour, the second Malaysian to receive that accolade. (The first was former IOCU president Datuk Dr Anwar Fazal).

Abraham recalls that the years leading up to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, were a whirlwind of non-stop jetsetting for him as he travelled the globe as an NGO representative for talks on environmental concerns.

By then, his scope of work had widened from toxics and chemicals to include indigenous rights, transnational corporations, trade-environment issues, biotechnology, consumption patterns and climate change.

“I was travelling eight months of the year and accumulated so many days of leave that my boss ordered me to go on a year’s leave. It so happened that at the same time, Dr Mostafa Tolba (then UNEP executive director) invited me to be one of his consultants and advisor.”

During that year-long tenure in Nairobi, Kenya, Abraham joined negotiations running up to the Earth Summit and helped draft UN documents – everything from Agenda 21 (the blueprint for sustainable development endorsed at the Summit) to the UNEP annual environment report and even Tolba’s speeches.

Upon his return to Kuala Lumpur in 1993, he took up a new position at WWF International, heading its new division on “wasteful consumption and pollution”.

Four years into the programme, it emerged that corporations found to be toxics emitters were also major funders of the conservation group.

A decision was made to close that division. Abraham was then asked to work on WWF’s core area of wildlife conservation but he declined.

“I’m not into cuddly animals. I’ve always been more interested in toxics as that affect people and will lead to extinction,” he says of his decision to quit WWF.

Brief stints in the private sector ensued – brief because his ethical convictions again saw him quitting both companies.

In one, an environmental consultancy, Abraham witnessed how Environmental Impact Assessment reports were produced, “sometimes four reports a day from someone sitting at his desk”.

“There were conflicts of interests and being a consultancy, the bottomline is profits.”

His next position at an environmental monitoring consultancy was short-lived too because of differences in directions, in particular his stand that Air Pollution Index (API) figures should be made public.

When he joined the GEF Small Grants Programme in 1999, he finally found gratification because he could work with communities, especially marginalised groups. “People have always been the focus of my work. The orang asli, for instance, have been a major beneficiary of the Small Grants Programme,” says Abraham.

Indeed, the SGP has funded numerous indigenous people projects, such as the rafflesia ecotourism by the Semai of Ulu Geroh, Perak, and the conservation of rice biodiversity in Tanjung Purun, Sarawak.

Having witnessed the growth of the Malaysian environmental movement, Abraham is heartened by the rise in green awareness, action and advocacy but is frustrated that policy changes have remained dismal.

“There is space for improving environmental conservation in Malaysia. We need more strategic approaches such as abiding by the ‘precautionary principle’. Now, we tend to be reactive and not proactive, and have a tendency to focus on the symptoms rather than the root causes of environmental problems.”

He also sees a need to shift from individual, site-specific EIAs to more comprehensive and cumulative studies, especially in ecosystems of ecological significance.

And he still advocates the principle that had guided him when he first joined the NGO movement – the community’s “right to know”. “Now, people get to know about a coal plant only after it has been approved. We should not only be guided by the 3Ps … people, profit and plant. They must be underpinned by justice and equity, too.”

The Star 06.10.2009


Tahukah Anda ?

Kebanyakan mentol lampu, samada jenis pijar (incandent), berpendaflour (fluorescent) ataupun berpendaflour kompak mempunyai sedikit cecair merkuri dan bahan kimia berbahaya lain yang boleh mencemarkan tanah dan air bawah tanah.

Opportunity Green