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Sarawakians want environmentally conscious leaders

ByFreddy Bohari

KUCHING, 17 Dec: WWF-Malaysia recently held an online public survey, in conjunction with the 12th Sarawak State Election, to inquire on what the environmental concerns are among Sarawakians.

Among the 324 Sarawakians, from various age groups and backgrounds who responded to the survey, it was concluded that they want to have future political leaders that will prioritise environmental conservation when they take office.   

The survey started on 26 November and ran for 17 days via digital media and messaging services. 

The majority of the respondents belonged to the 31-45 age group (36.1%), followed by 21-30 years (26.9%), 46-60 years (20.7%), under 21 years (8%), and 8.3% were 61 years and above.

A high percentage of 89.5% expressed that they would like to know more about political parties’ environmental aspirations for Sarawak, and 88.6% opined that our politicians do not attribute enough attention to the environment.

However, only 217 respondents (67%) surveyed plan to vote in tomorrow’s election.

In terms of environmental concerns, water pollution (85.2%), plastic and waste management (81.8%), as well as loss of forest (78.7%) are the three major issues.

Other environmental concerns are climate change (72.2%), COVID-19 pandemic and zoonotic disease (71.6%), declining wildlife (71.3%), air pollution (70.4%), food resource and supply (59.3%), as well as clean energy (55.9%). 

The majority of the respondents or 85.5% of them expect future state government or legislators to have and enforce strict regulations to address pollution and indiscriminate waste disposals; have programmes to clean up dirty rivers (82.7%); increase green areas or plant more trees in cities and towns (77.2%); have more recycling efforts and facilities (75.9%), and have better protection for wildlife (74.1%).

There are also aspirations for future leaders to assist in creating more green jobs (70.7%), gazette more protected areas (70.1%) and increase environmental awareness programmes (65.4%) in Sarawak. 

The respondents also ranked what their priorities are for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 interlinked global goals to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. 

The top 10 SDGs ranked in descending order are quality education, good health and well-being, clean water and sanitation, decent work and economic growth, no poverty, reduced inequality, sustainable cities and communities, peace and justice, strong institutions, climate action, and life on land. 

In this survey, respondents also urged for better and meaningful collaborations between politicians, local authorities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and communities by coming together to tackle environmental issues.

They also called for increased environmental education and awareness programmes and strong policy and enforcement to manage our natural resources, address pollution and tackle illegal logging. 

“The past two weeks of election campaigns by political parties and candidates have mostly touched on development subject matters and lacked messaging on environment and nature conservation,” said WWF-Malaysia Head of Conservation for Sarawak, Dr Jason Hon.

“The people have also voiced their concerns and hopes for better governance that protects the environment, as evident from the results of the online survey here. They may represent a small group of people but their voices are loud and clear: we want a better environment for the well-being of Sarawakians.”

The challenges around the globe caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted economies and people’s well-being. They were acerbated in part by poor management of the environment.

WWF-Malaysia hopes that efforts will be increased to ensure a healthier and more resilient environment for the people of Sarawak.

Prior to the survey, WWF-Malaysia also sent out open letters to all political parties in Sarawak urging them to include bold yet achievable environmental commitments in their manifestos.

In the letter, WWF-Malaysia asked for effective implementation of sound policies and plans based on environmental sustainability, including the continuation of good existing policies and action plans aligned to the SDGs.

It also encouraged the participation of youths and non-state actors in advancing the SDGs and the post-COVID-19 plans. 

WWF-Malaysia is a non-partisan environmental NGO that has been operating in the country since 1972, with dedicated teams present in Sarawak, Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia, to advance the conservation agenda for the three regions. – TVS

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