The Association for Welfare, Community and Dialogue is appalled by the decisions of the Perak state government (past and present) in instrumentalising certain state heritage and precious indigenous environmental assets for corporate gain.
This came to light recently when Malaysia’s Court of Appeal allowed Associated Pan Malaysia Cement (APMC) to evict the Dhamma Sakyamuni Caves Monastery, in one of the last 12 remaining limestone hills in the Kinta Valley national geopark, which is home to some endangered species of flora and fauna like the bent-toed geckos, snow-white orchids and tiny snails
According to environmentalists, Gunung Kanthan, a limestone hill, along with its historical monastery, might soon be destroyed and replaced by the grotesque sight of a cement factory.
The Perak state government should take generational responsibility and accountability for giving away the state’s limestone hills, since it plays a part in issuing permits.
Remember the Kledang Saiong forest reserve in Perak, where plans to convert a large swathe of it into a forest timber plantation are also brewing. Spanning 4,280 hectares, the size of almost 6,000 football fields, the project seeks to use the area for the development and operation of a plantation for up to 50 years.
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The decisions concerning Kledang Saiong and Gunung Kanthan reveal the neoliberal mindset of the Perak state government, which tends to ‘liberalise’ essential heritage and life ecosystems with little consideration of the environmental implications that will affect generations to come.
The Perak government seems to be adhering to unbridled neoliberal economics.
The ideology of neoliberalism maintains that human wellbeing can best be advanced within an institutional framework characterised by the absence of economic regulation, and with strong individual property rights that go unrestricted.
In the current era of climate change, economic regulation is critical to ensure the very survival of ecosystems that support life.
While there is a lot of talk among ministers and political leaders on sustainable development goals 2030, they seem to be lacking integrity in its wholesome implementation.
We are witnessing the worst environmental catastrophe around the world such as extreme temperatures and floods. Yet we have not learnt the critical lesson of preserving a vital ecosystem.
Flora and fauna are key for human existence. They help to regulate oxygen and CO2 in the air, which preserves the local ecosystem. Its loss would be damaging to the state’s ability to decarbonise.
The Association for Welfare, Community and Dialogue therefore urges the state government to intervene for the common good of the people. It needs to stop activities that only benefit a coterie of elites while damaging the ecosystem over the long term.
The alternative option is to preserve Gunung Kanthan as a tourism spot, where tourists would be able to see an indigenous historical monastery and contemplate its surrounding ecosystem.
It is time for the menteri besar and the state executive council of the “unity government” to explain to the people of Perak what is going on and to show whether it is committed to sustainable development. – ACID