Thursday, May 27, 2010

Healing a River...

The Sungai Pinang River is not much longer than the Penang Bridge from one end to the other and it runs right through the central part of the Island disecting Georgetown from what used to be considered areas out of the Georgetown City Limits in the old days. It was wide enough at the mouth and deep enough to allow large 'Tongkangs' or Chinese barges to load and offload goods such as coal, rice, rubber etc where they were taken to awaiting cargo ships in the channe, this too was in the days gone by. The whole area around the river delta was littered with large warehouses and "godowns' or Gudangs in Malay and there was all manner of sizes of boats and barges in the water that was both aesthetically a gem to behold for a young boy. The smells of spices from the flourmills close by, the smell of bales of rubber rubber being loaded onto barges, or coal of onions, potatoes filled the air and spin your head with imaginations of far off exotice lands and the desire to travel and discover them.
That was the SungainPinang I grew up with... today the stench is of a different kind, it evokes the stench of death and decay of pollution from God only knows what and the river is black most of the time, littered with all kinds of flotsams from plastice bottles to rubber mattresses. It is the the saddest sight to behold at times that it makes one feel like there is little hope for the Island that once upon a time it its glory days boasted of the purest drinking water from this same river at its source. A river that used to host all kinds of mangrove wild life from the crocodiles and monitor lizards to the myriads of brilliantly colorful mud crabs. all species of birds found in such an ecosystom whose prescence and voices held one's spirit close to mother nature with awe even as a child. This was in the old days and the old days was not more than forty yeats ago and by any standard this was not that long ago not even in one generations' lifeti

Monday, May 24, 2010

Invivsible or hidden Pullutants...

While working as Health and Safety manager for three different companies at the Petronas Refinaries in Kerteh and Gebeng on the east coast of the Peninsular, one of the major source of pollution generated from the works in progress was Petroleum related byproducts such as thinners turpentine and paints and not to mention chemicals from waste products used at hospitals and factories. These are another form of invisible pollutant that cause untold damages to the water system everywhere. As they are hard to detect once released into the ground or waterways these elements contaminates every inch of ground and water system without our ability to contain them causing all kinds of damages to life forms in the environment.
It is a falacy to think that a small amount released here and there is of no consequences as these small amounts can become a great amount when tallied across the board and there is no way of measuring this other than by making sure that anyone and everyone using these materials are aware of the resposibility towards proper discard of the waste generated from the work done. All major painting works done in and around the city is to be closely monitored with regard to the medium used and the proper manner in which these mediums are made environmental friendly. No short cut and easy way out as far as cleanups and disposal of unused materials...stop pouring them onto the ground or in the closest drain as they will one way or another find their way into the rivers and the sea. This is the job of the environmental agencies as well as the city council to ensure that it does not occur and it is manageable through the the emplyoment of the health and safety Officers who should be held accountable for their sites and projects. It is the resposibility of the City Management Committee to educate the ignorant masses in the long run through the media and various other means. Start with the dealers who distributes these materials get them ivolved, committed to spread the word to their customers through phamphlets and brochures spelled in all languages. Make them accountable towards who buys and uses the most of these items in order to be able to keep a tab on proper use and disposal. Help them with a solution not imposition of laws and litigations but solutions no matter how small and insignificant it may seem. At the end of the day people will start caring when they understand what it is that they are faced with. Communicate! Educate! Persuade and Awaken their realizations, their concerns.
It is a tedious battle when looked upon with a passing glance however it is these tedious undertakings that will ensure that the larger problems are easily met with. We cannot sit on our hands and pretend things are all well while the earth and the waters arund us is slowly loosing the battle to maintain a healthy life...our life!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

How, Where or What to make it happem...

The Star news Paper today published some statics with regards to Penang being selected as one of the most livable cities in Asia 'on Par with KL and Bangkok, Thailand.' The picture showed the CM at a site on Prangin Road where a Back hoe was in the process of digging what looked like a black sewage drain while onlookers watched in celebrated fanfare. Kudos to the CM, I want to believe he got my message but highly unlikely and even if by chance my moaning and groaning about the environment did get through from what i see it is still a 'Band Aid Job', making a show of doing something better than nothing.
We do not need a publicity stunt or being recognized by some international panel of judges to upgrade what is sorely need to be taken care of in our backyard, we need a proactive spirit regardless of who acknowledges our efforts. it is not for the benefit of the few who has the means to choose to settle down here that we need to look into the matters concerning the health and welfare of the state but for those who claim themselves sons and daughters of Penangites, the inheritors of this beautiful Island.
Enough said, so how do we got about making things happen? From my understanding of what little i have learned about the cleaning up of rivers there certain steps that needs to happen before one starts to dig or build and those steps involves allot of research, surveys and implementations. One of these most crucial undertaking is the survey done to ascertain all points of pollution from the smallest drains to the minor tributaries that leads to the main river itself. I call this the soul searching survey where no one escapes and everyone is held accountable for the source of pollution in front and behind their homes and shop houses. We can begin by confronting the worse 0f these sources and that is the automotive shops where cars and motorcycles are repaired, where buses are serviced wherever an engine oil change takes place. By persuasion or cohesion we will have to educate those found emptying waste oil into the drains or behind their shops to seize doing so and provide them all with an alternative. Make this known in the Media so that everyone responsible will come forward to participate in the effort. Do not use force or will of power but try persuasion and appeal to better awareness and understanding. Sometimes even the hardcore devil may care individual can be made to become involved if the approach is right.
Waste oil is the major polluter in any environment and it is not easy to detect as it can be hidden from sight in the form of washout by rain and the flow of water eventually ends up in the river. Waste oil is carcinogenic as everyone can tell you, it causes cancer especially in our country where the hot climate dries up the oil which also seeps into the ground leaving behind the heavy metal from engines. This is flown around in the wind to be ingested by all man and animals alike, don't take my word for it, READ!
The disposal of waste oil by various points of origins such as Auto shops and mechanic stalls needs to be addressed seriously and knowing their journey from 'cradle to grave is essential to the state government agency like the environmental or health departments. If found where none exist every effort should be made to assist the proprietor in setting up such a program. For every engine oil change on a motorcycle at least two quarts of waste oil finds its way into the drain if not the ground when done by owners themselves to save cost. We have to stop this one way or another, it takes not much thinking on how to go about implementing this procedures without causing too much backlash from the users, again right, communication. Making them aware what is right and wrong and why it hurts everyone in the long run including their own.
I am not assuming anything, does Penang have a waste oil recycling plant or at least a waste oil water separation system? Does it have a waste oil collecting unit that services all the automotive outlets including the public transport system depots? Or do we depend on some far away facility such as the Quality Alam facility in Seremban at whose mercy we are when it comes to implementation of such a service, like how often and how reliable the services and who monitors this? If the answer is yes, Kudos! if not we might think about it deeply and take appropriate action to remedy the situation or we can live with it and make belief all is well while our rivers and sea remains one of the most polluted in the country.
This is only one of the sources of pollution that is infesting the rivers in Penang it is an invisible pollutant and needs to be brought to light so that the general public becomes more conscious of its presence. Who bears the cost and manpower to carry out this kind of survey? This is where the power of persuasion and the spirit of volunteerism comes into play. The survey can be carried out by NGOs and various organizations on a voluntary basis with the guidance of the State agencies such as the MPPP. This is where the so called friends of the rivers and the environment are challenged to put words into action. Pinalizing and throwing fines at offenders comes much later when all is said and done, when the infrastructure is laid down, when the solution is viable without force, we have to sell the idea to the general public as a whole. This is where the media can play its positive role instead of merely looking for sensational events or political dramas. Our river needs a general overhaul and only we can provide the remedy, we the citizens of the State.
... so lets make it happen.
To be contd...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Is Penang a peaceful State?

Yes it is and its not, we hope that it is even if it is purely on the surface but we pray that this peacefulness runs deeper than meets the eye and woe unto those who take no heed of the teltale signs of the decadence of society in whatever form it may manifest itself. Penang is the stage where racial harmony is being put to the test ever since this country achieved its independance, it was and still is the litmus paper. With the influx of foreign workers the equation has been raised substantially whereby this human experiment of coexistance can survive without a fracture or even a rupture in the near future. It will take a whole lot more than the Ulama' and the temple priests, the politician and the police, it will take alot more than just the government agencies to hold this prevailing peace, it will take a massive mind shift, an overhaul of mindset happenig on a scale larger than life to affect a strong enough blanket of security to cover this present state of peaceful coexistance.
It is a moral obligation of every thinking citizen of this state from the humble and destitute to the Governor, from preschoolers to the first generation citizens if they still are alive to awaken to this mind shift, this massive communication experiment involving every aspect of society with no gains in mind except to keep the peace that has been achieved thus far. Primarily Penang has to develop itself into a sensitive and caring society. An awareness that has to be instilled in the minds of every one of its citizen who value this peaceful coexistance and the only way that this can be accomplished is through mass education. To achieve this common goal what is needed is a common project, a project that is benificial to the state as a whole, aproject that will not fail to appeal every sensible man woman and child...I call this project 'House Cleaning.'
In western countries, countries that experiences the four seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall, just about every household carry out what is known as spring cleaning. Winter cloaths are put away and the whole house is aired out to get rid of the old musty smell of winter and warm summer cloaths are brought out, carpets are vacuumed and bed sheets washed and dried in the warm fresh spring sun. One cannot avoid but feel these changes from dark and cold to warm and freshness of life. Penangites needs this kind of refreshing changes, this overhaul of the environment and mental states of the whole especially those who are born and raised here and call themselves Penangites. We have to embark upon a labour of love. A labour of self scrifice and personal commitment towards the achievement of a common goal as a whole and that is of Peace and Harmony. Irregardless of who is in power or who wileds the stick and the purse of the state, we have to appeal to our sense of logic and determination, our expertise and spritual inclinations to substantiate our commitment towards this our common goal.
What would be the project that would appeal to the common people? I have always maintained that the cleaning up or our envornment is the key towards uniting the people and this can begin with the cleaning up of the Sungai Pinang River from its source to the sea!! I am not suggesting patchworks to rectify flooding problems or unecessary digging to deepen the river, no band aid remedies but a major all out overhaul. Which would involve all points osurces of pollutions as well as thelong term "healing' of the river. If need be this is where we burn our incense and carry out our Khutbah and ring our temple bells, this is where we turn for forgiveness for having abused mother nature to the point of almost no return living our so called peaceful existance. What have we got to loose? And what can we gain from this massive experiment that involves each and everyone of us who call ourselves Penangites?

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Peace and Prosperity is Relative...

The 'old Penang' that i used to know is no more it has been replaced by the New a long time ago ever since the drive for so called development and the political tug - o -wars that has taken place has placed the state in a roller coaster mode. it is not a matter of good or bad for the state however the changes were made not for the right reasons and often without care for or benifit to the locals. In the guise of prospering the state and raising its standard of living the governmant of the day has set about constructing and more constructing so long as there is pieces of land available for construction, yet it never seems enough. Those who stands to gain from these constructions push for the so called development while making sure that they get their share of the pie through the construction industry. Most of the real estate are too expensive for the locals especially those who are in the low income bracket and thus these real estate are sold to outsiders and even foreigners, people who can afford second and third homes or those with money to invest for the sake of investments.
The population of this small island has been growing not because Penangites born and raised here have larger families but mostly due to migration of foreigners, those who chose to live here as a second home as well as those who came for employment. The streets are congested and often a pain to drive aound in and traffic jams are becoming a common expereince just as it is in Kuala Lumpur. This often leads to fruttrations and pressure among users especially during the peak hours. This is the new Penang, congested, polluted and often frusterated.
Peaceful? That depends on who you ask the question, the man on the street may have a whole different story to tell you than those who are lving the life of Riley. The racial tensions that existed even during my youth is now laying dormant closer to the surface than most care to admit as Chinese has become "more" Chinese in nature and Malays more Malays each going all out to promote and push their cultural as well as religious image into the public. Temples and mosques spend untold amount of money to upgrade and upgrade not only with the looks but with noise as well as smell. Each racial group outdoing the other like in a competition on whose God is appreciated better.
In the meantime the poor and displaced, the destitute and deranged roam the streets sleeping in street corners and begging during the day and their number is growing. Crime is ever on the increase and so is the rate of abuse and suicides. These are teltale signs of a decaying if not a sick society. But we can live in denial as we always do if our lives are not directly affected by these negative sights and scenes. Lest we become too complacent we have to take a closer more sober look at the state and its health not just from the tall concrete buildings and fancy hotels but from the gutters and back alleys, not at the life put on for the benifit of the tourists but at life that is slowly manfesting into an irreversible terminal cancer.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Penang a Peaceful Place?

The reason i am relating the background of my childhood, the environment and the people is because it is crucial to what i am trying to express about why or how i feel about Penang growing up among the Malays and how my own mind and perception was influenced by this community in the later days of my life. I never consider one hudred percent a Malay myself and am proud to have had the opportunity to born and raised in and among Muslims some of whom i consider are Malays without doubt. My interpretation of a Maly is he who has nothing else he can relate being other than being a Malay. he thinks like one eat, sleep, shit like one. One has to feel being a Malay not so much as who one's great grand father was or where he originated from. The term Bumi Putera was coined to ensure this feeling was further enshrined into the Malay psyche a political platform for championing the Malay's cause when all else fails. The only right I have to claiming of being a Malay is this feeling that has been ingrained into my mind from my childhood otherwise I am a Malaysian just like everyone born in this country, Malays Chinese or Indians and the host of other races.
My teenage years were spent in Terengganu on the East coast of the Peninsular where I grew up among the Terengganu MalaysI moved to this predominanatly Malay state when I was twelve and was converted to Islam then. Before that I was raised both as a Buddhist as well as a Muslim in Penang. It is a long story but suffice to say even in my early years my life was destined to be a little mixed up and long term impact of having gone through such a life is what I am today...a mixed up kid, once accused in this blog as a Man with no identity. God had wanted my to take the road less traveled in this life and I have accepted my lot taking the stance that i will turn what is potentially a negative into most productive and creative well rounded life that can be lived.
THe first school I attended was a Sekolah Kampung Jawa, a Malay school and all I can remember of this school was strange smell like insence that permeated the whole area and the other was the fact that one of the my Malay teacher byt eh name of Cikgu Hamid had slammed my face onto the table for not paying attention in class. I have date with this man in hell one day I told myself. I lasted less than a year in this school and was transfered to the Jelutung English Primary School where I enjoyed the attention of my English teacher who was Chinese born and Indian raised as she always wore the sari but had the Chines looks. For some reasons unknown to me I was again transfered to Francis Light Primary School on my second yeat and ther I lasted till I completed my primary education.
I was short of being a boy genius while in my primary school except for when it came to maths! I excelled in most of my classes and even every once in a while held the first place in my class through accumulated points despite failing maths. I was even chosen as one of those to joing the express class tus skipping one year when I bypassed standard three to joing standard four. I remember this because I was already famillir with the term first general merit which meant that i was he first in my class and when I used to go upstage at the end of the years on Parents day to receive the awards, often for English, Intelligence tests, Arts and crafts, sometimes Geography and History. I would be carrying home a pile of books related to these subjects. But school was still a torture for me when it came to Maths and I hated everything that had to do with it was like my mind just refused to learn. The physical abuse and the mental torture I received from my two maths teachers a Chines and a Sikh sealed my distaste for the subject.
While in Primary school I hung out with the Chinese boys mostly as I was considered a Kafir by my fellow Malay students when they fond out that I was a Buddhist and did not go to the Friday Prayers like everyone else. I felt like a Pariah when in the company of Malay boys and they shunned my prescence while the Indians treated my like an outcaste to be tolerated only as such. So I grew up among the Chinese, visiting their homes and being accepted in their company as almost one of them. We used to hang out around the Anson road Buddhist temple grounds mostly or playing soccer or Police and Thief to pass the time. The Malay in me rebeled when it came to food during those years, I would not eat Chinese was simply haram! Strange how the mind works, how it can be conditoned by one's upbringing and environment even when you know you are a Kafir as far as your so called fellow Malays were concerned, like it was your fault.
During those early years too I was attending the Buddhiast classes on weekends learnig the Pali language and Buddhist texts at the Mahindrama Buddhist Temple in Counter Hall near Ayer Itam raod. This was part of my uncle's plan for me to grow up a Buddhist. My Uncle who had adopted me was the only man in the entire family who refused to be converted to Islam and thus insisted that i be raised a Buddhist. No one among my relatives knew of my dual religous upbringing as I kept it a secret from everyone less i be further accused and humiliated among my peers in the Kampung. So every saturday and Sunday i would disappear in the morning saying I was off to school for extra curicullar activity or some excuse and cycle my way passsed P.Ramlee's old wooden house to the temple. I was at home in the temple among other Buddhist who were mostly Chinese or Ceylonese (Sri Lankans) and they treated me quite special especially the Monks from Sri Lanka who knew my Grand Father and my uncle.
I was born with a Buddhist name, Nanda Sena s/o Simon Bartholomuze, what a name!, and how much grief it had caused me among my so called Muslim brothers. My uncle was Paul Nanda s/o Paul Mariano. In Sungai Pinang I was known as Ba kecik or small Baba. My name was changed to Shamsul Bahari Bin Abdul Mutalib when I moved to Terengganu and where i was converted to Islam. Whats in a name you say, well it means a great deal when till this day the Malaysian Government Agencies that I had to deal with has delayed alot of my citizenship apllications for my children for example, simply because...
Such Is! my brief life history to lay the foundation from which i speak my mind of race and societies, of religions and philosophies, of pride and prejudices, this is my Dharma Position, the platform from which I let it loose. It is not and never will it be for me to judge or criticize, to place one above the other for better or worse, it is my intention to relate one man's view of life with thope that it will in some small way enl;ighten some soul somewhere into and awakening of his or her own heart from despair of ignorance. Time and again I have tried to relay the fact that I intend to accomplish my mission through self discovery and through self awakening..."He who knos himself knows his Lord."
What has all these to do with Penang being peaceful or not?
To be Contd...