by Terence Toh, The Star
“Maintenance key to addressing environmental issues”, says veteran activist Gurmit Singh. “Most of the problems pertaining to the environment in the country today stem from issues of poor maintenance.”
Speaking at the launch of his book Memoirs of a Malaysian Eco-Activist, the Penang-born activist said Malaysians were very good at constructing new things, but terrible at keeping them maintained.
“Everyone thinks planting trees is great. But they forget that trees have to be maintained.
“I now tell people that ‘I will support your effort if you check every six months to see if your trees are alive’.
“We will count the living trees and then see if the project is successful.”
Gurmit Singh is the founder of two pioneering local NGOs – the Environmental Protection Society Malaysia and the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia.
He has been active in many environment-related initiatives and has published many important references on the environment, including the Malaysian Urban Household Energy Consumption Patterns in 2006.
On the future of the nation’s environment, Gurmit Singh said he hoped the new generation would be more environmentally conscious.
“My hope is that more young people will get involved with environmental issues, but with their eyes open.
“If you go back and look at the new generation, they like instant results.
“But environmental issues cannot have instant results. You have to look at the long-term,” he said.
Present at the launch was World Islamic Economic Forum chairman and former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam.
Describing their relationship as one of “constructive engagement”, Musa commended Gurmit Singh’s spirit of always speaking up fearlessly for the environment while keeping himself free of political influence.
“You (Gurmit Singh) trained me during the course of my leadership, up to the number two in the country, to be able to tolerate and appreciate feedback in the roughest way possible, the rougher the better,” Musa said in his speech.
“We need more people like him in the political and social system,” he said.
The book is now available at RM30 at Areca Books, The Star Pitt Street, 15 Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, George Town, Penang, or via online at www.arecabooks.com.
This article originally appeared in The Star on 23 April 2017.