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Sustainable development projects as catalyst for stronger economic growth

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Ihsan Zainal Mokhtar of the Malaysian Institute of Planners writes an open letter to the prime minister to express concern about the recent state of affairs of the envionment.

We write to express our concern on the recent state of affairs of our environment.

Among the significant cases that is still very much in our minds, is the disaster of Sungai Kim Kim, the landslides in Penang, the massive deforestation of Cameron Highlands and Gua Musang, causing increase in temperature on the highlands and the latter also the massive floods in Kelantan.

It is our hope that politicians, decision-makers, and implementors can look beyond the needs of politics and our economy. Our national development is guided through the various planning policy document of the “Rancangan Fizikal Negara”, RFN, and translated into strategies, a step down in the various states, “Rancangan Struktur Negeri”, RSN. As often the case, RSN, is tied to the wishes of political leaders. Though powerful, it is rather limited, in making a NO decision towards environmental and social impacts. Usually, it is a mitigation document. The final decision still lies with the politicians.

The MPFN, which YAB Tun chairs, is our last hope for an integrated sustainable approach.

Dear YAB Tun, there have been many other studies, showing the adverse impact towards reclamation project.

These questions needs to be addressed:

  1. Where is the sand coming from? The sea or rivers is often used with dire consequences. We in Malaysia, are already having these sand mining problems, and many parts of the third world are having to face these issues.
  2. As in the case of Penang Island, the planned three island reclamation, the amount of investment can certainly be utilised and invested elsewhere – Seberang Perai for example, to be a catalyst of growth for Penang and the Peninsula and to address land shortages in Penang Island. The propose Penang Transport Masterplan is also too focused on the automobile; the thinking of new highways in cities solving congestion has been proven wrong. Dear YAB Tun, more roads just means more cars. Higher carbon production and adding to factors leading to drastic climate change.
  3. The recent admission of the chief minister on faulty berm design, together with findings showing a shift in nearby fault lines, the cause of the last disastrous tsunami, together with climate change, will be disastrous for our nation and others globally.
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On behalf of the Malaysian Institute of Planners and the environment, I plead with YAB Tun to reconsider these massive projects and help implement the rule of law in protecting our environment by allowing more scrutiny, and through more objective town planning strategies based on RFN, RSN and other planning legislations.

May Malaysia grow continuously and develop sustainably and be a global leader in sustainable growth, physically, economically and socially.

TPr Hj Ihsan Zainal Mokhtar is president of the Malaysian Instiute of Planners (2019/2021).

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