KUALA LUMPUR: 2020 Budget’s allocation for preserving the environment has drawn mixed reactions from environmentalists and academics.
Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) president Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail commended the government for proceeding with its current fiscal policy of returning 50 per cent of the tourism tax proceeds to the respective states.
He further said the move in Kedah could deter logging in the catchment of Ulu Muda, while encouraging the state to convert the forest reserve into a state park.
“This can also attract ecotourism and create more opportunities for the economy,” he said adding that the forest also provided water to Penang.
Zoologist Dr Hafidzi Mohd Noor commended the government for its tiger initiative.
He said that this was the first budget in which Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) was mentioned and given support for its years of hard work.
Dr Hafidzi however, said the RM15 million budget allocated for the non-governmental organisation (NGO) and other environmental groups was insufficient as their objectives needed more spending.
“Close to 2,000 volunteers from around 35 countries have scoured our forest and disarmed about 170 snares over the last 10 years.”
He also said that the RM20 million budget allocation for the recruitment of ex-servicemen and Orang Asli as rangers should be higher.
Earlier, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the allocations were due to the critical numbers of tigers and orang utans that number 200 and 11,000 in the wild, respectively.
Dr Hafidzi also said that empowering the private sector was a way forward to get them involved in forest and wildlife conservation efforts.
Sustainability expert Dr Mohd Yusoff Ishak said that the RM30 million boost for the Department of Environment and the Chemistry Department was insufficient to smoke out water and air polluters.
“This is due to the expensive nature of equipment, much that is needed in their job. This amount would also not be enough to prevent the incident of open burning even in the Johan Setia area.”
“However, they could strategise with universities, with support from industries in enforcing precautionary principles for any activities that has the potential to pollute our environment.”
He also welcomed the RM10 million matching fund to foot the bill for sustainable development initiatives, alongside the RM5 million allocation for the set-up of a special select committee and for organising activities related to sustainable development goals at the grassroots levels which involved the MPs.
“This is very much welcomed in preparing our country to face the impact of climate change.
"We would like the government to include academics and youth where collaboration with the Youth and Sports, Education and Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change ministries would allow solid two-pronged approaches to help empower our youth,” he said.