FOLLOWING the landslide tragedy at the Father’s Organic Farm camping site in Batang Kali, the order to close picnic and camping places nationwide is like crying over spilt milk.

More surprising is that the camping site involved in the incident was identified as unlicensed and had been operating illegally since 2020.

Has no authority conducted inspections or monitoring during the last two years to ensure that the owners of the premises follow the rules and guidelines set?

This incident is also reported to be the 23rd major landslide this year alone and the worst so far.

Natural disasters that are not only happening more often but repeatedly in this country have almost become a norm due to irresponsible attitudes, failure to manage and lack of environmental awareness.

This situation is synonymous with the expression “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

Another example that clearly shows the authorities’ mistakes is the Sungai Kim-Kim pollution incident due to the dumping of chemical waste, which had happened several years before the tragic water poisoning event in 2019, according to residents.

That event affected almost 6,000 people. Until now, it is reported that they are still experiencing the side effects.

Similar to the flood disaster in Taman Sri Muda at the end of last year, it was only after several lives and millions of ringgit were lost that it was discovered that the authorities had known for a long time that the area had the potential to flood.

Residents of Taman Sri Muda also claimed that complaints had been lodged several times to investigate the frequently flooded area.

Still, no response was received, and no action was taken to find a solution.

Let alone issues of clearing the hills and shrinking forest reserves, which until now threaten not only flora and fauna but also the lives of the Orang Asli communities who have settled for a long time and depend on the produce of the earth as their “rice pot”.

All this shows the weakness of environmental bodies’ enforcement and monitoring systems, and the general awareness of Malaysians, especially authorities.

It has become a trend that after something happens each person wants to release a statement and point fingers.

If we allow this matter to continue, we will not be able to solve anything and may even cause more significant losses, especially with the “all bark and no bite” attitude that has become the norm for Malaysians who only make “noise” when something happens and the issue gradually fades away after a while.

Natural disasters not only affect the quality of life of people who do not directly contribute to the occurrence of these destructive events, especially marginalised communities such as the poor, children and youth, people with disabilities and Orang Asli communities, but also have a direct impact on the growth of the nation’s economy.

Economic recovery after a disaster is burdensome for the country, including constructing, replacing destroyed assets and rebuilding the financial sector in the affected area, especially in a developing country such as Malaysia.

It cannot be denied that natural disasters also occur due to natural factors such as floods that are currently hitting several states due to the monsoon rains, the La Nina phenomenon and changes in the climate system.

However, various studies show that human activities such as unplanned and unsustainable development, land encroachment and pollution cause climate change that leads to natural disasters.

For example, the increased frequency and distribution of rainfall, sea level rise and unpredictable weather due to the effects of global warming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report also predicts more severe climate change impacts in the next 20 years, such as more frequent and extreme natural disasters, scarcity of water resources due to sudden temperature increases, double destruction due to floods, and increased rates of extinction for animal and plant species, all of which will have a direct impact on the community’s socioeconomics, if immediate action is not taken.

Measures to mitigate climate change can no longer be delayed to ensure the continued well-being of the people, natural ecosystems, food supplies and water resources.

We must immediately evaluate and review the effectiveness of existing efforts, as well as implement more effective risk management policies and strategies, while encouraging even more active participation from the community, particularly industry players, the grassroots and stakeholders, including youth.

In addition, efforts to increase community awareness should also be intensified, especially in understanding the effects and consequences of climate change, their role and how they can act as individuals.

This process should begin with formal education, such as revisiting and updating the content of the national curriculum to include more elements of environmental protection that focus on local narratives and climate change governance, such as policy-making processes and implementation methods, and emphasising aspects of cooperation between various parties, including the public and private sectors on a different level.

I hope the government can reconsider the declaration of a “Climate Emergency” as a sign of the government’s commitment to efforts to deal with the issue of climate change.

This step will help to plan and give priority, especially in implementing a more structured, comprehensive and efficient climate action plan to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, curb anthropogenic global warming and green the economic sector.

A study by Unicef Malaysia in 2020 reported a grave risk to young people in Malaysia, especially in terms of well-being, education and income generation.

The report also recommends that young people are given space to contribute to the decision-making and policy-making process on climate change and the environment.

Therefore, the government should develop a more inclusive strategy and enable the involvement of various parties, including youth, in climate change governance.

I suggest forming a National Youth Climate Change Advisory Committee that can function as a think tank and an official platform to unite youth activists and organisations that the government officially recognises to contribute to the governance of climate change and the environment.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my condolences and sympathies to all the families of victims affected by the landslide tragedy in Batang Kali, Selangor, and to thank the rescue team and volunteers who helped make the search and rescue operation a success.

For Malaysians, this monsoon season will bring heavy rain, strong winds, rough waves and rising water levels.

Avoid recreational activities or being in dam areas, mountains, rivers and beaches.

Plan your trip by referring to the latest weather forecast by the Meteorological Department.

In addition, be careful when handling electrical equipment, save water and maintain personal hygiene.

For those who live in areas at risk of flooding, prepare sufficient supplies of food, water and clothing, and save only essential items in case of flooding.

Keep praying for everyone’s well-being, we can get through this challenging phase together.

In conclusion, I call for the newly formed unity government led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to set aside all political and ideological differences and continue to unite in dealing with this increasingly critical issue of climate change.

The decision taken today has only two outcomes, either a chance to find a way to survive or count the last days of the existence of Earth. Together we can make a difference.

Mogesh Sababathy is a youth climate advocate and co-founder of Project Ocean Hope. He is also a Doctoral Candidate at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). Comments: