Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Bangi School of Thoughts

Some years ago a few professors at LESTARI talked and discussed about the Bangi School of Thoughts. Some of the ideas thrown into the air for discussion then include:-
1. Could LESTARI and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia spearhead a school of thought especially in sustainable development in Malaysia
2. Could LESTARI and UKM change how the citizens of UKM and Bandar Baru Bangi think and act on the environment and sustianbale development. At that time littering is a common sight in BBBangi and in fact it still is. How the citizens of Bangi solve the water crisis by using water sparingly in the weekends.... even the energy crisis by switching off their lights for just an hour a week.
3. Could the learned citizens of BBBangi and the staffs of UKM work together to create a more conducive atmosphere for learning and healthy living in the precint
4. Is BBBangi a university new town? After all the new township is sand-witched between UKM and UPM and FMI and other institutions
5. Have the citizens of BBangi attended the professors Syarahan Perdana? or any other public lectures constantly organised by UKM and her faculties and institutes
6. Has the rate of crimes, burglary, thefts, other social problems decrease? Many stories were told of car thefts, house-breakings, handbag snatching and even petty car accidents

Some food for thoughts!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Biodiversity of Bukit Belata, Selangor

The proceeding of a scientific seminar entitled, "Bukit Belata Forest Reserve, Selangor : Management, Physical Environment, Biodiversity and Socioeconomic Environment" published by the Department of Forestry Peninsular Malaysia is officially distributed this week. It contains more tyan 27 papers describing the geology (by Assoc. Profs. Dr. Kamal Roslan & Che Aziz) and water quality of the area (Assoc. Prof. Mohd. Kamil) ; flora (by various botanists) and fauna (by various zoologists) of this logged-over forest reserve and the ethnobotany of the Orang Asli (by Ms. Rosta Harun of Universiti Putra Malaysia). The papers potray the biodiversity of a forest reserve in Selangor which had been logged more tyan once in the past. The forests have generated or recovered, of course not climaxing to be pristine as it was before, but good enough to contain many plant and animal species to make the ecosystem functioning. Many forests in the state of Selangor suffered from logging and other land-use changes as Selangor is the most developed state in Malaysia. Pressures for lands and forest products had been tremendous not only from the Orang Asli who have the Customary Rights over forests and their products but also from developers and land-hungry populations. Except for the forest lining the Titiwangsa Range bordering Pahang and Negeri Sembilan, others have been fragmented so as to render them vulnerable.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Plant Biodiversity Still Alive

Today I had a full audience with my friend and students discussing plant diversity. In the morning Mr. Mathew Wong a businessman turned naturalist came to discuss the possibility of describing a new rafflesia species from Kelantan, Peninsular Malaysia. This species is closely allied to Rafflesia kerrii but differs from it in (a) five prominent tongue-like appendages coming out from the rim of the diaphragm (b) two circles of warts on the diaphragm (c) twice branched ramenta on the upper portion of perigone lobes (d) number of processi, amongst others. Then my PhD graduate student, Ms Lee Gaik Ee came in smiling and thinking that she might have discovered a new species of Leujenea (Liverwort), a specimen collected by a Japanese collector some times back. Of course it is possible to get suprises or bonuses like this in a systematic study of especially Malaysian liverwort, a much neglected bryophytes. After all no Malaysian is studying liverwort in Malaysia to-day except her. I urged her to start describing and illustrating it and possibly get published as a prerequisite for her PhD work. Then Ms Aishah Hanum came in smiling too, thinking about her molecular studies of Lycopodiaceae. As far as we know there is no molecular study on this group of fern-allies. Before lunch Mr. Yasser Mohamad Hassan, my Egyptian MS student came in to hand his thesis on systematic studies of the genera Kayea and Mesua (Guttiferae), He too found some new records of Malaysian taxa and possibly new species of Kayea. One obvious bonus is to combine Mesua corneri Kochummen with Kayea, a combination which we urged the late Mr. K. M. Kochummen to do some years ago. Late in the evening my MS student Ms. Anisa from Yemen came in to hand me her final draft of her thesis on systematics of Neolitsea. She thinks Neolitsea sp. of Kochummen is a variety of a variable N. cassia (incl N. zeylanica) and specimens collected from Gunung Brinchang, Pahang may prove to be different from the other species recognised.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Diversity of Language

The language of English is not a pure language as any other languages in Europe. English had borrowed many words from the French, German, Latin, Greek and even Arabic. But some how the English language has developed well with the aid of Oxford dictionaries etc. The Queen's English is the language that I understand as spoken by BBC newscasters. When you listened to Sir Ian Ferguson, Graeme Souness, even Harry Redknapp speaking English you coundn't help but listened so attentively to understand their grammar.
Malay language as written and spoken by millions in Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia is no different, the langauage had borrowed many words from English, Arabic, Sanskrit, Javanese and many others. Thus the langauge is so dynamic that many users found it so difficult to understand the evolution of the language. I was lucky to be active in forming Malay terminology when we were using Malay as a lingua franca in our universities and schools. We formed many scientific terms using a prescribed rules and regulations of Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka. These stood the tests of times and users untul recently, when Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka prostituted herself to politicians. Hence we are beginning to use Cif Inspektor (for Chief Inspector = Ketua Inspektor), Asisten Komisyener (for Assistant Commissioner = Penolong Pesuruhjaya) and produser (for produser = pengeluar) etc. To-day many users of Malay language are not sensititive to the rules anymore, hence spelling in the Malay dailies, TVs etc were a "rojak" Malay and many were wrong. One day the people of Malaysia are going to use Malay the way English is spoken by the people of the West Indies!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dilemma in biodiversity : Logs vs Water

On Sunday 1st february I, as Chairman WWF Malaysia paid a visit to the office of Kedah state Exco to discuss the old issue of logs vs water. Some years ago, the Kedah government had wanted to selectively log the area. The former Menteri Besar YAB Dato' Seri Syed Syed Zain Syed Razak had wanted to do some logging in the Ulu Muda Forest Reserves. The talks of the day then was helicopter logging. The EIA was carried out but the Federal government disagreed with the idea of logging in the watershed areas bordering Thailand. Incidently, these watershed areas collected rain water and flow them into the four dams that feed the MADA agricultural areas and also into the river that passed across Seberang Prai. The NGO's were against the logging simply because of the negative impact on the watershed areas.
The idea died for a few years until the new government took over in March 2009, when the new Menteri Besar, YAB Dato' Seri Ustaz Azizan brought back the old idea hoping for $100 million compensation from the Federal government. Though the idea is sound but the Federal government wouldn't want to set a precedence to be followed by other state governments, especially Pahang.
Our arguments is simply if you logged the area, negative impact will befall the watershed areas and the state government will earn some revenue. But we argue if the state government keep the watershed intact, the state government will earn more money via MADA's compensation and also the industries of Penang compensation for using the Kedah water.+