WE have said it many times before: very few countries on Earth are blessed with the natural resources that Malaysia has. People in land-locked countries dream of our beaches and our getaway islands. Those in barren flat lands look at our lush majestic mountains and wonder why we don't seem to take care of them. And those who hardly have a drop of rain will wonder how a country like ours, with rain all year round, has to struggle with water shortages and flash floods.
The Prime Minister [of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi] said it well when he spoke out on the general quality of the environment in Malaysia on Wednesday. Malaysians, he said, should learn to appreciate the environment as it is a gift from God. "God gave us such a beautiful gift. Why are we destroying it?" he asked.
He wondered why our rivers are polluted and our waterfalls seem to dry up. When he mentioned the long-gone waterfalls in Penang, many of us will surely sigh along with him. Anyone who has gone camping on the beaches of Penang and then hiked inland to enjoy the fresh water of the falls will know what he is talking about.
On the rivers that run through the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Abdullah remarked that "if you throw a crocodile into the river, the crocodile will die." It is a sad indictment of the situation because so many great cities not only blossomed along the banks of great rivers, but know how to take good care of them.
We can expect all the relevant people to rise up like a chorus line to echo the PM's sentiments, but what is the point?
Such remarks have been made before, but the moment the spotlight is not trained on this issue, the people will go about their merry ways. Projects will continue to be approved in environmentally sensitive spots. People will continue to throw rubbish into the rivers. And if the next pristine diving spot is discovered, you can be sure that the comforts of modern life must be instantly brought there. The construction mayhem at Sipadan, one of the world's top 10 dive sites, is a classic example.
But surely we do not need our Prime Minister to micro-manage issues like this. Surely we do not need him to go on a helicopter ride to show the scars of the lands caused by hillslope development. The Prime Minister has a right to show his concern and express his anger on the state of the environment. But it is the people at the state level, and on the ground, who should hang their heads in shame.
Everything in life is connected. We are but mere trustees of what God has blessed us with. It is time we make ourselves worthy of the task at hand.
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