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Malaysia is an increasingly motorized country with a rising demand for the consumption of vehicles. This is evident in Figure 5, where the data on total vehicles shows a trend of exponential increase from 1980 to 2018 June. In correlation as seen in Figure 6, Malaysia’s GDP also shows a similar trend. It can thus be established that rising incomes are the primary cause of the increasing purchasing of vehicles. Therefore, it can be expected that if the Malaysian economy improves under Mahathir’s leadership in terms of Malaysians’ purchasing power, it can be expected that the import and thus the consumption of cars will be incited. If this happens, it will only inflame the country’s reliance on fossil fuels as a means of energy, as we know a small fraction of these cars are electrically powered. Thus, this is unfavorable in a green economy position as according to Figure 7, cars make up nearly 60% of CO2 emissions out of every vehicle in Malaysia.
Furthermore, demand for fossil fuel consuming cars will encourage the increased export of oil and gas, despite Malaysia’s own supply of these resources depleting. But it is apparent the government has long-term goals to drastically reduce transport emissions. Plans and blueprints for transforming Malaysian transports are being pushed forward but have not been solidified yet.
An example of this is the Electric Mobility Blueprint (2015) with an ambitious goal of “2,000 electric buses, 100,000 electric cars, 100,000 electric scooters and motorcycles, and 125,000 public electric vehicle charging stations by 2020. ” To counter the obvious rise in costs, strategies such as yearly membership options for electric vehicles are being considered which seem enticing in comparison to the price of a private car. This can also familiarise the population more with electric vehicles. In addition to this, the government plans to invest in two new MRT and LRT lines, both powered by electricity. The importance of this is that it will expand coverage via train in Malaysia, hence encouraging public transport. But this is also critical for energy efficiency as seen in Figure 8, where electric trains are estimated to use 25 times less fuel per person compared to a car occupied by two people. This development is massively important for keeping fuel demands down as Figure 9 shows that a large chunk of energy use comes from the transport sector.
In addition to this, Mahathir plans to pioneer a nationalized Malaysian electric car, to support the electric revolution on vehicles. However, the failure of the Proton (Mahathir’s previous automotive project) due to its inability to compete with Japanese and Western carmakers with more advanced technology may discourage investors from placing their bets on its success. Overall, the aim of electrifying the vehicle industry will lead to a sharp decline in carbon emissions; but lacks material evidence of the Blueprint’s execution and method of financing to bring the government’s target to fruition by 2020.
The rate of reforestation in both nature reserves and urban areas is incomparable to the rate of deforestation. According to Global Forest Watch, Malaysia had lost 7. 29 Mha of perennial cover, whilst only gaining 2. 58 Mha between 2000 and 2017. This shows that unsustainable logging continues to not be outlawed. Therefore, the increasing need for land use in Malaysia will most likely be satisfied as it is evident there is a lack of laws to protect forests. Furthermore, the volume of carbon dioxide conversion is extremely insignificant with new plants in comparison to older trees. Thus, replanting is ineffective in reducing carbon emissions in the short run as it will take many years for these to mature. The rate of percolation from surface-runoff water to reduce flood risks is also heavily reduced with newer plants as their roots are relatively shallow.
In addition, there is also a decline in urban forest cover. An investigation has shown that Kuala Lumpur (the capital) and Pasir Gudang, two highly urbanized areas in Malaysia have a net tree cover loss of 16. 7% and 41% respectively. This is expected to exacerbate due to the expected increase of migration towards cities and thus its expansion, further reducing tree populations and worsening current environmental conditions such as rising air pollution and thus rising temperatures in these urban heat islands. Failing to recover Malaysia’s natural carbon conversion potential through forestry is thus a massive flaw in its attempt to transition to a green economy. Organic farming as a method of encouraging sustainable agriculture in the market is littered with barriers and thus unviable. Firstly, the higher costs of production results in higher prices for organic goods (50-300% higher), unfavorable when competing with usual agricultural products. This involves the need for many workers that require training in organic farming procedures which already requires higher wages, a reduction in profit margins. Operational costs are also higher to mitigate pests and diseases, meaning more costs induced from better technology in farms. Secondly, the lack of fertilizer will reduce crop yield. This is due to organic farming practices aiming to reduce environmental damages through chemical leakages from pesticides or fertilizers which can disrupt ecosystems; resulting in farmers struggling to satisfy the demand for organic goods with their inconsistency with supply. Thus, using the land for other purposes will provide farmers with better returns. Thirdly, demand is affected by the skepticism of its supposed health benefits, due to poor evidence or studies to prove this. Consumers also associate product quality with its physical appearance, which is harder to make uniform in organic agriculture.
These three hurdles are exacerbated by the myOrganic certificate to label trusted suppliers; which requires farmers to practice organic farming for two years straight under these conditions, with reduced revenue. Even then, revenue from exports will be insignificant as this certificate is unrecognized by international bodies and even some domestic consumers. Therefore, it is clear that the government would be cautious in implementing such environmental laws in the agricultural sector due to heavy risks, especially towards palm oil production. This is another quality of a green economy Malaysia strongly lacks along with the management of other forms of wastes. As an extension to forest protection, wildlife management has been progressive. Under the Wildlife Conservation Act of 2010, laws were materialized that prosecuted offenders caught conducting illegal activity within nature reserves or illegal animal-related trade.
As an example, the unauthorized possession of an endangered species can result in a fine of US$155,000 and imprisonment that can potentially last five years. Perhilitan was also granted increased manpower to patrol protected forest routes, as well as coordination with bodies such as “military, police, and airport customs” to execute these laws. However, Malaysia currently has the resources to fully finance the adequate task force as issues such as bribery by poachers still occur. According to WWF Malaysia, about 10% of land territory is under protection. However, there is no measure of how much land should be reserved. Using Kinabatangan nature reserve as an example, this uncertainty can lead to economic restraint. This is because the area has fertile soil and floodplains, utilized for large-scale palm oil production before it was protected. Therefore, a balance between reserved and economically productive areas is needed in the case of palm oil; since returns in the form of biofuel and the possibility of sustainable palm oil development may be more essential to Malaysia’s green economy compared to completely shutting down land for agricultural uses. Waste ManagementLandfill and brownfield sites are rampant in Malaysia with nearly no government measure to solve issues stemming from these. The Derelict Land Development Project in 1984 has led to the revival of about 32,000 hectares of land up to the year 2000.
Aside from this, there is no legislation that obligates businesses to restore brownfield sites resulting in about 800,000+ derelict grounds within Malaysia as there is no official publication that provides the distribution of these sites. This is a danger to the green economy model not only due to the possible chemical contamination with soil and groundwater being environmental hazards as the Environmental Quality Act has no specified standards for these; but if uncleaned, it will rob its location of employment opportunities as it consumes an available site. This is evident as an estimation of 630,000 hectares of fertile farmland classified as brownfield is unused and thus unemployed as a resource. Other brownfield sites emerge from ex-mining posts, old rubber factories and industrial sites, all having untapped potential. However, private organizations have rehabilitated about 10% of the mining sites within Peninsular Malaysia for other purposes, such as the conversion of the Sungai Besi mine into a recreational resort and golf course. Malaysia also has landfills that stretch from 20 to 150 acres in size.
In terms of environmental damage, this is worse as it is increasingly concentrated with disposed wastes and pollutants, emitting toxic gases and methane as a more potent GHG. It also consumes land at an unsustainable rate as new ones operate once old landfills are closed. Fortunately, the government does recognize the need to reconstruct landfills for other uses. But, the public is anxious towards safety and “robustness” of such sites, thus causing conflict within stakeholders’ decisions.  Therefore, there is currently no effective conclusion as a nation to stop damages derived from brownfield sites. The demand for landfills is fuelled by the metropolitan culture of disposing of wastes, especially plastics. Malaysians have historically been generating wastes at a rising level, with an increase of 91% of produced MSW between 2003 and 2013. This is exacerbated as it is estimated that only 5% of the 30,000 tons of garbage produced daily is recycled. Furthermore, as migration to urban areas increases, the output of trash in the city will rise. The issue extends to public ignorance to waste management, rather than just a problem with Malaysia’s laws. Attempts at awareness programs and campaigning, such as the 2001 campaign by the government in Penang to popularise recycling failed since Malaysians had misused the bins as deposits contained 40-60% non-recyclable wastes.
Throw-away culture has also led to rubbish being dumped and festering with toxicity in soil and water. Although worse in the cities, 34% of rural areas lack provision of garbage collecting services and more lacking education for the environmental effects of littering. In fact, 55% of Malaysia’s solid plastic wastes are mismanaged. Therefore, waste management poses the biggest challenge for the Malaysian government in transitioning to a green economy. This is because heavy coordination with the public is required, yet Malaysians are evidently too accustomed to disposing trash and lack interest in safeguarding environmental cleanliness. In addition, it is difficult in practice to penalize individuals that misuse recycling bins or illegally litter. Thus, the lack of a solution to this will result in the increased dependence on landfill sites to house wastes. However, there has been a Mandatory Waste Separation Program launched in 2015 that forces Malaysian households to organize recyclables from their trash or risk a fine of RM1000 (US$240) which could cut burdens on landfills by 40% if successful. But there are no statistics or data on its organization and execution to judge its success currently.
Malaysia’s inefficiency in the control of its aquatic resources may obstruct the country from satisfying rising water demands. Referring back to land management, there is no prohibition towards industrial sewage being deposited in rivers and waterways from “palm oil mills, rubber factories, and animal husbandry” as well as a strong concentration of “suspended sediments” from other urban activities like infrastructure development and deforestation. This is an issue for future populations as 97% of Malaysia’s raw water is derived from mainly rivers. Dependence on groundwater is not an option as discussed earlier on how landfills contaminate this supply. The situation is not as pessimistic statistically, as displayed in Figure 10 on how only 7. 2% of rivers are categorized as “polluted. ” But with increasing industrial activity and demands for water rising from different sectors, rivers will only degrade in water quality. In addition, rising incomes will also result in the further overuse of water. Exacerbating this is the lack of efficiency with water distribution. There is poor incentive to use water sparingly in the agricultural sector as irrigation water is charged based on how much area it is used in, rather than volume. Leaks in the distribution system also results in a loss of water, between a quarter to a third of the supply.
As for greywater schemes, there has been no report of this within Malaysia. This is critical as having a secured distribution of clean water supply is not only expected within a green economy but necessary for the everyday industrial use and by the rising population. Continued water contamination will only lead to constraints in the water supply as a cost, which will raise the future prices of anything that requires this resource. This risk of water scarcity within Malaysia is not being mitigated by the government; because it is being managed by different bodies(not one dedicated agency) to manage water as a resource. It is also the case that much of the legislation is “outdated, redundant, or ambiguous” which would explain the current misuse of water in Malaysia. Therefore, these factors demonstrate that Malaysia’s capability to manage water sustainability for a growing or green economy requires severe improvement in every body that is responsible for this resource.
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