Highlands are environmentally sensitive areas. The fragmented administrative and management of highlands resources pose difficulties for holistic and integrated decision making. Given that many highlands in Malaysia straddle over two or more states, managing them as single entities would lead towards holistic solutions. Many districts have common boundaries in the highlands, making it necessary to plan and manage highlands as integral and physical planning units. As such, the strategy and recommendations presented in the Country Report are to improve inter-agency and inter-stakeholder collaboration on environmental management, development planning and biodiversity conservation of the highlands, so as to ensure sustainable economic development.
Local Residents need to be educated on environmental conservation and the importance of sustainable development in the highlands. The Local residents as key stakeholders should be encouraged to gain further knowledge and detailed understanding of environmental issues. This process would help lead to a change of perception and attitudes towards environmental conservation and sustainable development in the highlands. Local residents should also be expected to acquire skills in identifying, preventing and resolving environmental problems. The extend of civic consciousness should be greatly enhanced in the highlands.
Government decision makers, officers and administrators should be educated on environmental conservation and management in order to integrate environment concerns into the decision making and policy making process. Environmental education would include awareness rising on highlands issues. The Local Authorities are a prime candidate for environmental education, since they are frontline agencies involved in day-to-day operations. Administrative training programmes should include environmental education modules to raise awareness.
Environmental education should be promoted and intensified to enable and encourage all stakeholders to participate in the sustainable development of the highlands. The first step in environmental education is raising awareness. Then stakeholders would be encouraged to gain further knowledge and understanding of environmental issues and of each stakeholder's role in overcoming the problems. This would lead to a change of perception and attitudes towards environmental conservation and sustainable development, which should then motivate people to actively participate in and continue towards sustainable development. Individuals and communities should also acquire skills for identifying, preventing and solving environmental problems.
The Ministry of Education should increase the emphasis on environmental education in the schools in the highlands in order to raise environmental awareness and educate students on the importance of environmental conservation right from a young age. The Ministry of Education should continue its partnership work with non-governmental organisations to incorporate environmental education module into the formal education curriculum. Nature education centres in the highlands should be utilized to expose students to environmental issues unique to the highlands. Teachers and trainers will also need to be trained to teach the environmental subjects and use the teaching aids developed for the purpose. Some NGOs are presently involved in conducting environment education modules for students and in training teachers to include environmental awareness elements in the school curriculum.
Based on the regular inspection and monitoring slopes, government agencies and private property owners and occupants should formulate and implement slope maintenance programmes to carry out preventive maintenance of slopes. This is especially important for slopes which pose risk to the public, such as slopes along main roads and slopes adjacent to densely populated areas. Its is recommended that the Local Authorities, and Public Works Department (PWD) undertake a systematic slope maintenance programmes that include:
The Local Authorities should educate occupants and property owners on the importance of regularly monitoring slopes within their properties. Example may be drawn from Hong Kong, where Civil Engineering Department of the Local Government provides information to the public on ways to inspect slopes and walls within private property. Property owners should be given guides on early detection of potential slope problems and how to recognise the warning signs of potential slope failure. The public will then be able to assist the authorities in monitoring slopes on a wider scale. The public can be further motivated for being informed on the catastrophe that could befall them should any major slope failure occurs. The Public Works Department could assist by providing technical advice to the Local Authorities.
It is recommended that a nationwide essay competition focusing on "Sustainable Development in the Malaysian Highlands" be organised by The Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment. The aim of such an essay competition, which should be devided into appropriate categories, would be for further knowledge, awareness and interest among the Malaysian public, including school children, in sustainable development.
The education centres run by the government departments and NGOs should be made to function as a place of information dissemination and environment awareness for the local community, with an emphasis on targeting students and farmers who reside in the highlands. In addition, the education centre should be promoted as a stopover for local and foreign tourists. Exhibits on the ecology and natural attractions of the highlands should be set up and open for public viewing. The education centre should be a place for visitors to learn about environmental issues through various exhibition units, literature, audio-visual, posters and displays. Nature trail guides and brochures should also be made available to tourists as reference materials and souvenirs.
The aborigines should be given sufficient opportunities to be involved in future development, especially those close to their settlement. The opportunities could be in the form of employment opportunities, local product development, entrepreneurship and management of their cultural heritage. The Departments concerned should ensure that there will be efforts to establish, where appropriate, arrangements to strengthen the participation of the Orang Asli as stakeholders in the formulation of national policies and programmes relating to resource management.
There is at present, no overarching policy or strategy with regard to the land use in highland areas, often resulting in haphazard and ecologically insensitive development. Therefore, strategies for the optimal sustainable utilization of the highlands and the resources are essential to guide the development plans for the Main Range as well as the highlands in the rest of the country. In this context, the current situation in Malaysia with regard to highland conservation, has presented the critical need for a holistic and integrated approach to disaster reduction, mitigation and preparedness, which focuses on collaboration among all stakeholders. This would enable a much better basis for the conservation and management of the highlands environment for sustainable development.
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