KUALA LUMPUR: With the global community busy with addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, many may have forgotten that today is World Environment Day.
The celebration, since 1972, calls for the commitment of all quarters to protect the environmental ecosystem so that it can be passed on to future generations.
However, this year’s celebration is different due to the COVID-19 pandemic and with the society having to change and adapt to the new normal.
Nevertheless, efforts to raise awareness on environmental conservation have never ceased, and the celebration to mark World Environment Day this year continues with a theme that is significant with the environmental pressures facing the world today.
The theme for this year’s celebration is Biodiversity, with the slogan “Time to Nature” to highlight the importance of biodiversity as a valuable global asset to the well-being of humanity.
Environmental balance depends on biological diversity that needs to be managed sustainably to reduce climate change, security of water supply and food as well as prevent outbreak of new diseases.
Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) president S. Piarapakaran said the slogan “Time for Nature” for this year’s celebration should not be looked as a rhetoric.
“The concept of ‘time for nature’ should be more comprehensive and not as a rhetoric to address the environmental issues facing the world today, including global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions, volatile sea tides that cause extreme natural disasters,” he told Bernama here today.
He said there are many examples, as featured in newspapers and the social media, on the positive impact to the environment during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period and lockdown imposed in many countries.
They included improved air quality that has enabled the Himalayan Range, hidden since 30 years ago due to pollution, to be seen from a distance of 200 kilometres away, and also the presence of dolphins at Bosphorus Strait in Turkey.
In Malaysia, air pollution index (API) in some places is reported to be moderate (below 60) and good (below 50), with the condition of some rivers, including Sungai Gombak, Sungai Way, as well as Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang, once known for its toxic pollution and oil spills that there is no life in it, improving and the water clearer.
“However, implementation of the MCO is only to reduce human economic activities. It is only a temporary measure and not a yardstick to reduce pollution from human activities to the environment.
“When the MCO period ends, we will return to normal economic conditions. At the same time, demand for raw materials and products will be back to the old routine and this will boost the level of environmental pollution again,” he added.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) president Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail said since the MCO was enforced in Malaysia to curb the spread of COVID-19, millions of people were confined to their homes and economic activities were not operating at normal level.
The wisdom from this, we see many rare wildlife found wandering in human habitat, he said.
“Around the world there are many stories of wildlife entering human habitat. In Malaysia, there are also reports of elephants and monkeys entering houses,sighting of beavers in main rivers.
“This phenomenon occurs because humans are indoors and there is less movement of vehicles, giving the animals the opportunity to get out of the woods,” he added.
He said the phenomenon should be a lesson to humans on some basic principles of human, animal and environmental relations.
“If we want a clean and harmonious environment, everyone must take care of it and there need to be a system and technology to ensure the quality of the environment is preserved,” he said.
Apart from greening the earth, we must protect and conserve existing wildlife habitat or conserve all forest reserves to ensure balanced biodiversity in the country.
So, appreciate and preserve the environment because money cannot restore nature to its original form.