The recent weeks of choking haze due to peat and bush fires triggered by a long drawn-out drought, and excessive rain which led to flooding in Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan and Johor, suggest that the normality of our weather has been affected.
In the Klang Valley many of us had to experience water rationing and it is no easy thing to have your routine disrupted this way. But having said that, I believe our time in the sun as far as the weather is concerned is up and we should be better prepared for these shocks.
Some things will have to change. For example, the haze is due to hot spots happening in Malaysia and many other South-East Asian countries, based on the ASEAN Meterological data surveys. There should be concerted efforts across regional authorities to prevent and stop the causes of these hotspots.
Presently, there is a Regional Haze Action Plan Co-ordination and Support Unit within the ASEAN Secretariat, established in April 1999 by the Haze Technical Task Force (HTTF) and ASEAN Environment Ministers.
Its function is to coordinate and develop programmes aimed at addressing this problem and what we need now is strong will to implement solutions.
Meanwhile, in dealing with drought, more aggressive planning will be required on the government's part and this is something that is already being done by the relevant ministries.
I came across an interesting chart by the National Drought Mitigation Centre at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln explaining the 'Hydro-illogical Cycle'.
When drought occurs, society becomes acutely aware of the problem and starts becoming concerned about the impact on their lives. This leads to panic and cries for immediate solutions.
However, when it rains and we have enough water, society sinks back into an apathetic state, resumes business as usual and forgets the need to save water.
In my work and social engagements, I am also often asked - how does the GTP and ETP address environmental concerns? My answer is quick and certain.
The single biggest air quality project under the ETP is the mass rapid transit system (MRT) for Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley which I believe will be the game changer for the environment in Greater KL.
Imagine this. We now have six million people - one out of five Malaysians - living in the Greater KL area, basically the city and the Kuala Lumpur-Klang Valley.
By 2020, one out of three Malaysians will live here. Clearly we cannot continue with business as usual. We have to do something drastic to make sure the city does not grind to a crunching halt, ruining productivity and increasing the already high levels of frustration commuters feel sitting in traffic.
But before we can reduce the numbers of vehicles on the road we must improve our public transport to provide an affordable, convenient and comfortable alternative.
What we want to do is to take as much as 50 per cent of the cars and perhaps as many of motorcycles that are on the road now off it when the MRT is ready, up and running.
That will result in a major reduction of emissions in the Klang Valley area, improve urban development and go a long way to improve air quality.
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