Thursday, August 20, 2015

Letter to the Editor: Construction of EKVE will have disastrous consequences


It is with dismay and disappointment that right-minded citizens greeted the news that the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) had given its approval for the construction of the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE) today (The Star, 20th Aug 2015). This proposed expressway project would have far-reaching consequences that go beyond the boundaries of Ampang and would adversely affect the water supply and air quality of Selangor residents, as well as destroy and fragmentise wildlife habitats.

The decision of the council, which brushes aside the entirely valid concerns of citizen action groups, environmental organisations and the scientific and conservation community, makes a mockery of the concepts of transparency, democracy and participation in Local Agenda 21, which the municipal council and state government claim to be committed to.

It has often been reiterated that the Ulu Gombak and Ampang forests, which the EKVE will cut through, are vital carbon sinks and water catchment areas. The destruction of even a part of the Ulu Gombak and Ampang forests will result in more dry spells and poorer water and air quality for Selangor residents.

Furthermore, once the state government has gone down the slippery slope of forest degazettement, it will find it easier to justify the degazettement and destruction of a wider and wider area, and inadvertently create opportunities for unscrupulous developers, vandals, poachers and profiteers to enter into, plunder and destroy previously inaccessible forested areas.

The aforementioned forests are also part of the Selangor State Park, gazetted with the objective of protecting air and water quality, biodiversity and local climatic stability. The state government’s readiness to degazette a state park does not bode well for the future of other remaining green lungs and forested areas in Malaysia.

Proponents of highway construction often rely on the argument that highways will alleviate traffic congestion and thus ultimately improve the quality of life of residents and reduce carbon emissions. This logic is ridiculous, because the solution to the problem of traffic congestion is not to build an ever-increasing number of roads and highways, but to improve the public transport system and improve road safety for public transport users, cyclists, and pedestrians in order to encourage people to choose alternatives to private vehicle ownership. We have the infrastructure for an efficient public transport system in Malaysia, but not the political will to make the system reliable, punctual, convenient and safe. Improving road safety and the public transport system will use less public funds and take less time to implement than constructing more highways and roads.

Since the parties concerned have already given their approval for the construction of the dreaded expressway, any objection at this point may be purely academic.

There is apparently a list of conditions drawn up by the Drainage and Irrigation Department, Public Works Department, and MPAJ’s Planning Department to be adhered to in the construction and management of the said expressway. It is hoped that these documents will be made available for public viewing, and there must be a check-and-balance system to enable citizens to determine compliance with these measures and provide feedback on the same.

If the state government is adamant about proceeding with this expressway project, on behalf of all concerned citizens, I request that at least these environmental impact mitigation measures are considered and implemented:
1. That fences, barriers and wildlife corridors (underground or overhead) be constructed to allow safe passage for local fauna;
2. That filters, ideally helophyte filters, be utilized to control and manage toxic runoff from the paved substrates into the soil and waterways;
3. That a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule be established to prevent waste and debris from entering into waterways and forested areas;
4. That construction materials be sourced locally, and as much as possible, from reclaimed and recycled materials to reduce the carbon footprint of the construction project; and
5. That the project incorporates design elements such as solar-powered lighting and the planting of indigenous trees to act as a noise-absorbing wall along the expressway.

It must be admitted, however, that compliance with all the above requirements is still a weak substitute for scrapping the expressway project altogether. The haste with which approval was given, and the betrayal of trust by the authorities when they had previously assured the local residents that the Traffic Impact Assessment would be made available to them, reflect poorly on the state government, contractor and agencies involved in this controversial expressway project, and raise concerns that the parties concerned will just bulldoze through with this project with equal disregard for human residents and the natural environment.

All state and national efforts to encourage and reward environmental sustainability and citizens’ participation in public interest matters amount to nothing more than greenwashing and lip service if projects that cause significant and irreversible harm to the environment such as the EKVE are approved with such outrageous haste and recklessness.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Non-Toxic Air Fresheners

By Wong Ee Lynn
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Clever advertising makes us believe that commercial 'air fresheners' and deodorisers can make a room smell fresh and clean, but there is nothing clean about the butane, propane, dichlorobenzene, phthalates and other toxins found in most store-bought air fresheners. These products do not actually improve the quality of indoor air, but merely masks other unpleasant scents, and can contribute to a host of ailments including breathing difficulties, headaches and nausea.

Chemical-free alternatives are available in natural and organic food stores, but are usually too expensive for the average homeowner. If you are going to use air fresheners often, it is best to make your own air fresheners and experiment with the recipes and ideas below until you find one or several that suit your needs and purposes.

1. Use good quality, natural essential oils (such as tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender and peppermint) in an aromatherapy diffuser to create an inviting and calming indoor atmosphere. You don't even have to buy a diffuser. Boiling some water in a saucepan and then adding a few drops of essential oils or some lemon peel, mint leaves or lavender flowers to the boiling water after you turn off the heat would serve your purpose just as well. Do not buy cheap essential oils such as those found in RM5 stores, as they have usually been adulterated with petrochemical products or alcohol

2. To eliminate bathroom smells, leave a little box of matches in your bathroom cabinet. Strike a match after flushing. The smell of sulphur from the burning matchstick (admittedly not perfect but still less harmful than hemical strays and fragrance gels) will mask and eliminate other unpleasant smells.

3. A freshly-unwrapped bar of soap (choose natural and phosphate-free soap whenever possible) will work wonders in deodorising a room, closet, bathroom or car interior, so consider doing this right before guests arrive. As a bonus, if you are using lavender or citronella soap, it will also repel insects and roaches. Once the soap has lost its initial fragrance, you can still use it in the shower or at the washbasin.

4. Many houseplants, including spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) and aloe vera, have incredible air-purifying qualities, so be sure to add living and not artificial plants to every window and area that receives natural light. Read up on the plants in advance to ensure that they do not pose any danger to pets and children. Plants with a pleasant natural fragrance such as pandan, lemongrass, musk lime, mosquito plant and potted herbs are also good additions to a home.

5. Make your own vinegar-based air freshener spray by mixing 1.5 cups of water, half a cup of white vinegar (natural, not artificial or 'cuka tiruan') and 12-15 drops of pure essential oils in a spray bottle. Shake it up and use the solution to spray a room before guests arrive, or to eliminate smells near pet litter trays, rubbish bins and in bathrooms.

6. Alternatively, make a baking soda-based air freshener spray by pouring 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 5-6 drops of pure essential oils into a spray bottle and topping it up with water. Shake it up and spray it to freshen up a room, fabrics, shoes and car interiors.

There are many ideas online on how you can make your own potpurri, orange and clove pomanders, beeswax candles, scented cloth sachets and even scented gels. There are no limits to what the human imagination can think up when we are determined to do the right thing for Mother Earth and human (and animal) health.

Event Announcement: Visit and Volunteer Session at the TTDI Edible Project Garden


Green Living SIG's Visit-and-Volunteer Session at the TTDI Edible Project Garden

(Photo credits: Susan Tam of the TTDI Edible Project)

Need ideas for your own balcony or kitchen garden? Keen to find out more about composting, mulching, vertical gardening and natural pest control? Come join us in a hands-on session at the TTDI Edible Project Garden!

Date: Saturday, 26th September 2015
Time: 10 a.m. until 12 noon.
Location: The garden space next to the TTDI Community Centre tennis courts, Jalan Athinahapan, Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur.
Itinerary: Guided tour of the garden and Q&A session followed by a hands-on gardening session.

No fee charged and no registration necessary. Open to the public. Just show up in comfortable outdoor clothes. Bring any gardening tools you may have, drinking water, sunblock and insect repellent. Refreshments will be provided. For more information, please email Ee Lynn at

Eco Kids Column: Helping Out Tired Bees

By Wong Ee Lynn

(Compiled from and Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Photo credits:

Bumblebees feed on the nectar and pollen made inside flowers. Nectar is a sugary liquid that gives bees energy.

Pollen is full of protein which helps the body  of bumblebees to grow. It is well-known that bumblebees are great pollinators, and therefore have a key role in producing much of the food that we eat. Bumblebees are disappearing all around the world because there are fewer flowering plants to provide nectar and pollen for them. Also, pesticides and other chemicals sprayed onto plants are killing bumblebees in large numbers. If bumblebee and other insect pollinator declines continue, people would have to find new and artificial ways to pollinate the crops that we grow. These artificial ways may not always be as safe or efficient as having bumblebees as natural pollinators. It could also make fruits and vegetables a lot more expensive for people.

Bumblebees also help pollinate many wildflowers, allowing them to reproduce. Without this pollination, many of these plants would not produce seeds, resulting in declines in wildflowers. As these plants are often the basis of complex food chains, it is easy to imagine how other wildlife such as other insects, birds and mammals would all suffer if bees disappeared.
We can all help save bumblebees by growing bee-friendly flowers in our gardens and not using any pesticides, insecticides or herbicides in our homes, gardens and schools. If you see a bumblebee that has lost its way and is trapped indoors, please switch off all the fans and any other devices that may inadvertently kill bumblebees and insects, and open the nearest window or door to let the bumblebee escape. You might have to gently catch the bumblebee using a box, jar or glass and a piece of paper and card, and then release the bumblebee outside.

Sometimes you might find a tired-looking bee in your house or garden. It might be crawling or struggling, and you might think that it is about to die. However, a simple solution of sugar and water may help revive exhausted bees.  To create this energy drink to revive tired bees, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) of the UK suggests mixing two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water, and placing the mix on a plate or spoon.  Do not add any more water, otherwise the bee could drown.  Place the bee on the plate or spoon, where it will have a little drink, hopefully this can help it gather the energy it needs to fly back to its hive.

You can also add the same quantity of water and sugar to a small container, such as an egg cup, and leave it amongst a patch of flowers in your garden or window box, so that bees can have a drink on the go before they get to the exhaustion stage.

Don’t be tempted to offer tired bees honey – in most cases the honey isn’t suitable as a lot of honey is imported and may not always be right for native Malaysian bees. Some honey may also have sugar and other additives added into it. Only ever offer white granulated sugar – never offer demerara, brown sugar or any artificial or diet sweeteners.

Leave the tired, thirsty bee to drink up and fly back to its hive. If you keep nudging or pushing the bee, you might stress the bee further or end up getting stung. If your exhausted bee fails to pull through, please don't feel too sad or guilty. You tried your best. Plus, the bee may already have been injured or is beyond saving. The important thing is that we all now know that there is a little something we can do to help bee populations and individual bees.