Environmental Education Programes
1. Grant received from Toyota Foundation for Environmental Education Programes at Tasek Bera.
The on going efforts by Wetlands International-Malaysia Office to educate youths on environmental conservation was given a boost recently when it became the recipient of the Toyota Grant Program for Global 500. With this grant, we will be able to spearhead an Environmental Education Programme targeting Semelai school children at Tasek Bera Ramsar site, Malaysia.
The indigenous Semelai people are believed to have inhabited the lake area for more than 600 years. Today, most of the community live in a government resettlement scheme at Pos Iskandar, Tasek Bera which was established during the Communist insurgency (1948-1960).
Although still dependent on forest resources as their ancestors did, the Semelai today are increasingly being exposed to influences from modern city life. Elements of consumerism and capitalism are already evident in their society, yet many Semelai lack general environmental consciousness and have no basic idea of sustainability, conservation and recycling.
It is therefore timely that an Environmental Education Programme is carried out at Tasek Bera to inculcate the impulse for conservation amongst Semelai schoolchildren. More so as they hold the key to the preservation of Tasek Bera, its flora and fauna and ultimately, the survival of the Semelai.
During the 2-year programme, which is from December 2002 to November 2004, Wetlands International-Malaysia Office, will assist the local association called 'Semelai Association for Boating and Tourism' (SABOT) to develop classroom visual aids and materials. Additionally, members of SABOT and also teachers at the schools in Tasek Bera will be trained on the ways to conduct and carry out the environmental education programme for the schoolchildren.
An environmental education pack will be developed and produced for use in Tasek Bera primarily for the schoolchildren, but the Semelai community may also use it. Topics in the pack will comprise the 5Rs of sustainability, how to conserve wetland resources, Recycling, Composting, use of organic rubbish, an example of a sustainable garden, appreciation of the natural environment, how to conserve water, use of certain hazardous chemicals and more. Accompanying materials will include an interactive CDRom on Environmental Education, various teaching aids and even T-shirts.
It is hoped that this programme will create more awareness on environmental issues such as threats to the wetland ecosystem which include haphazard disposal of used oil, grease and batteries where there were instances when batteries were used as weights for fishing. The Semelai will then be educated on the safe methods to dispose waste through a fun-filled and exciting educational programme. With this project, we hope that Tasek Bera Ramsar site would have more enhanced values with clean surroundings and environmentally sensitive people while its youths would better appreciate and understand the values and attributes of the special wetland, Tasek Bera.
2. 'Conserving our Wetlands' School Project
'Conserving our Wetlands' school project is sponsored by HSBC Bank Malaysia Berhad, a leading supporter of wetland conservation intiatives in Malaysia, in collaboration with Wetlands International and Malaysian Nature Society.
This project actually has its beginnings in the previous wetland project of the publication of newspaper supplements in the New Straits Times which was titled 'Wetland Wonders' and renamed 'Save the Wetlands' in 2002.
To participate in the 'Conserving our Wetlands' project, schools with Nature Clubs in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Malacca and Negeri Sembilan were asked to take part in a competition by sending in proposals on how they can conserve a wetland nearby or in their school. The school proposals had to focus overall on environmental education and awareness raising particularly among youths and should reflect one or more of the following criteria: conservation and rehabilitation, cultural and social significance, technical or social research or economic importance.
Winners were selected by judges from the organizing parties, HSBC, WI and MNS based on creativity, details on project maintenance and how the Nature Club, school, local communities or environment can benefit from the project.
It was then amidst much gaiety that the 'Conserving our Wetlands' school project was launched on 13 June 2003 at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park. The event was graced by Datin Rose Ismail, Managing Editor of New Straits Times Sdn Bhd; Mr Zed Cama, Chairman and CEO of HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd; Ms Elizabeth Wee, Head of Public Affairs HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd; Mr Zaini Nyuziri; HSBC Public Affairs Officer; Dr Loh Chi Leong, Executive Director of Malaysian Nature Society, Dr Sundari Ramakrishna, Director of Wetlands International; Teachers and students from schools who sent in winning proposals; reporters from local dailies: Sin Chew Jit Poh, New Straits Times Sdn Bhd; Berita Harian; and Bernama.
Winning schools comprising SMK Puterijaya Kuala Lumpur, SMK Tinggi Melaka, SMK Tinggi Klang and SMK Pasoh Dua, Negeri Sembilan were given a prize money of RM5000 each to carry out their ideas for wetland conservation. The many positive stories published in the local dailies were excellent publicity for the wetland cause.
All the schools have now put the prize money to good use. Three schools have built ponds or rehabilitated the existing ponds in their schools while the school in Negeri Sembilan continues to restore a nearby river by weeding, carrying out water quality monitoring exercises, planting saplings and breeding fish. It has been very exciting for all the students involved and many have discovered a whole new world of wetland flora and fauna they never knew existed. They have also learnt the complexities of pond building and maintenance, and the experience they now have is a great help in their studies such as in subjects like Science, Maths, Life Sciences, Biology, and Geography.