Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh and Good Afternoon.
I would like to thank the Royal Danish Embassy and the Selangor State Planning Unit for organizing this seminar and inviting me to say a few words on this occasion.
First and foremost, I would like to say that I fully appreciate the importance of today’s presentations and discussions. Rest assured that we regard the issue of sustainability of cities – and of the state – as a very serious matter.
Indeed, we are fully committed towards sustainable development in all the vital aspects within the jurisdiction of the state. I am therefore particularly grateful that our friends from Denmark, especially from Copenhagen – both from the municipality as well as the private sector are here to share their expertise and experience with us.
Climate Change & Sustainability
The climate system of the planet Earth has changed substantively since the pre-industrial era, posing a serious challenge to policy-makers, and leaders around the world.
One of the fundamental issues facing modern society, now more than before, concerns the clash between conservation on the one hand and progress and development on the other. This tension runs across the entire spectrum of activities ranging from climate change issues to overall liveability concerns.
For example, at the 21st Conference of Parties at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris last year, Malaysia announced that it intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions intensity of GDP by 45% by 2030.
However, at the same time, we are aiming for developed nation status by 2020 and this means transforming into an industrialized nation.
These two interests appear to be diametrically opposed. Attaining developed nation status is paramount, yet this must be done with a careful eye on carbon emissions, traffic congestion and waste accumulation among other things. The answer lies of course in searching for the optimum solution.
The major cities in the country are located along the Klang Valley right in the heart of the state of Selangor.
What this means is that, much that concerns cities all over the world, also concerns us here. Top on the list is of course the overarching theme that you have deliberated today – the question of sustainability in the face of the common challenges posed by urban living.
When dealing with sustainability, we cannot break away from the major question of liveability, which in turn covers issues of stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.
Indeed they go hand in hand. Sustainability is important to ensure we have and will continue to have, continuous food supply, safe drinking water, adequate materials and resources to protect human health and our environment. This is not just for us but for our future generations.
Safe drinking water – that is a phrase we seem to have taken for granted. On a global scale, we are using freshwater at rates faster than replenishment. Latest United Nations studies tell us that in another 14 years the world could face a 40 percent water shortage.
The impact of such a shortage is far reaching and widespread. Ecosystems may break down with severe political and socio-economic dimensions. The harsher effects will be borne by the poor and the marginalised.
We need a paradigm shift in current usage trends, as well as in attitude and mind set, on the use of water. We need to re-think water policies and encourage water conservation and recycling of wastewater.
Our local authorities must start taking pro-active steps in translating this philosophy into their policies in relation to housing projects, industrial development and their town and city planning.
The point is, it is incumbent on the government to manage water resources more efficiently and to utilise more effective technology as well as maintain water assets to ensure long-term sustainability of water supply.
The Copenhagen formula on sustainability is impressive and is obviously reflective of the attempt to seek a golden mean between adaptation and mitigation initiatives on one side, and progress on the other.
While the developed world in Europe and the West may aspire for zero-waste, suffice to say that at this juncture that Selangor would be considered successful if we achieve our emissions targets, have clean air, sound water usage, attain better health and practise optimised recycling.
While growing our economy, we must continually aspire for enhancement of the quality of life for our citizens, green mobility and efficient and integrated public transportation.
Selangor has recognized the need and importance of achieving long term sustainability, thus providing a conducive environment to the people. In this regard, we have launched several policies related to environmental protection, reflecting the government initiatives on sustainable growth and development and the move towards greener solutions.
Klang River cleaning
We have begun the process of revitalising the Klang River starting with the initial cleaning of floatables and building 48 waste traps along key discharge points entering the river.
About 4000 tons of floatable waste were collected. We are now looking at methods to monetise these floatables by converting them into industrial products such as plastic flakes or the generation of biodiesel through the synthetic gas route.
Meanwhile, a more sustainable river management model is being explored for a long-term rehabilitation and re-development program for the Klang River.
Pilot waste management project
We have appointed a state company to take over the waste management operations from the Klang local authority. Since its inception, average daily complaints have dropped and with new technologies being deployed, collection capacity is much higher today. Here, I must thank residents for their active cooperation.
Forest Management and tree planting
Much has been said about our forest reserve with allegations of irresponsible state-sponsored deforestation being spread via a campaign of spurious lies and disinformation.
The truth is, we have been able to maintain our forest reserve intact, no doubt on account of a sustainable forest management policy.
A majority of the forest areas in Selangor is gazetted as permanent forest reserve: to be precise, a total of 250,129 hectares or 31.5% of the total land area of the state.
Of this, about 175,090 hectares or 70% have been classed as Protected Forest.
We have also embarked on a perennial tree-planting and greening program for the towns and cities in the state.
The Sultan of Selangor is a strong advocate of this campaign and we are indeed fortunate that his Royal Highness takes an active role in ensuring the success of this program.
In ensuring a sound balance of development and environmental protection, the state government constantly endeavours to implement development by giving due emphasis to environmental factors to ensure that it complies with the guidelines and conditions stipulated by the technical agencies.
Low Carbon City Framework
As for other green initiatives, our Green Technology Action Plan encompasses 5 Local Authorities to adopt Low Carbon City Framework implementation by 2017 and all 12 Local Authorities by 2020.
We have also installed more than 50 electric vehicle charging stations in Selangor to promote use of emission-free vehicles in a bid to reduce the carbon footprint. This makes Selangor the state with the most EV charging stations in Malaysia.
As the largest contributor to the nation’s GDP, Selangor is the most progressive state. We have embarked on a drive to become a Smart State.
We believe this transformational change is necessary to take us to the next level in industrial and economic development. Integral to this paradigm change is our new urban planning master plan, a transport master plan, educational programs and initiatives, and a restructuring of our essential water utilities.
Needless to say, models on liveability and sustainability are most relevant for us to consider. Hence, your presentations today are both timely and enlightening.
May I also seize this opportunity to invite all of you from Denmark to come aboard and share your technologies and expertise with us in Selangor. There is no zero-sum game here. Let us make this a win-win situation and prosper together while at the same time, stay true to our duty to preserve the green of this planet.
As Benjamin Franklin once said “Well done, is better than well said,” I would like to conclude with the sincere hope that we leave this seminar with the immediate resolve to put into action all the great plans we have, towards making this world more sustainable and more liveable.