It’s Time for Mother Nature to Shine | The Full Frontal

It’s Time for Mother Nature to Shine

The MCO has had a drastic impact on millions of Malaysians all across the nation. Whether you’re rich or poor, young or old, your lifestyle has had to make some adjustments over the past few weeks. 

Personally, I’m one of the lucky ones. For me, the MCO has meant less time traveling to and from the office and more time with my family. And I’m not the only one either – with so many people stuck at home, traffic in KL has been clearer than ever. 

We’ve all seen the pictures of clear roads and empty highways, and on some level it is admittedly a little frightening to see how much has changed over just a few weeks. But at the same time, this has led to one of the surprisingly positive aspects of MCO: the sight of a cleaner, healthier environment. 

There are plenty of posts flying around on social media sites showing how nature is retaking urban areas across the globe. In fact, let’s take a look at some of the environmental changes that are happening a little closer to home…

Blue Skies and Clean Air

“Day 9 of MCO: Air is so clean that I can clearly see buildings about 20km away,” posted a Malaysian Redditor. Source: Reddit

Remember the last haze season? When the sky was constantly grey and smokey, and going out without a mask could leave your nose and throat feeling dry and itchy due to all the gunk in the air?

Well, over the last few weeks, we’ve been seeing the exact opposite occuring. The lack of cars and operating factories has led to unusually clear skies and clean air all across the nation. According to Environment Minister Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, this change in air quality is due to the reduction of activities such as vehicle exhaust emission, industrial stack emission and open burning. 

He explained that the Department of Environment (DOE) had used air quality monitoring stations in major cities such as Shah Alam, Ipoh, Penang, Kuantan, Seremban, Melaka, Johor Bahru, Kuching, and Kota Kinabalu to keep track of air quality throughout the country during this MCO period. 

“The findings also showed significant fall in each parameter with NO2 reduced between 11 to 62 per cent, SO2 between five to 22 per cent, CO between two to 25 per cent and PM2.5 between two to 23 per cent,” he said.

Even in urban areas, many citizens have been surprised by just how much the air quality has improved. For my own part, seeing the sunrise and sunset from my balcony has never been more spectacular. 

Crystal Clear Rivers

The formerly pitch black Sungai Pinang has shown dramatic improvement over the past few weeks. Source: The Star

Just a few months ago, Sungai Pinang seemed like a lost cause. The river, which runs through densely populated urban centers, was seen as one of the dirtiest rivers in the country. 

It was officially categorised as a Class Four, just one step below Class Five – dead river. After over 10 years of efforts to improve the river cleanliness failed to provide any significant results, many authorities believed that the Sungai Pinang was dead and could not be revived. 

Yet, after seven weeks of MCO, people noticed something miraculous: Sungai Pinang, which used to be pitch-black from the sheer amount of pollutants dumped in, was now clear and green, with plenty of algae.

Prof Dr Chan Ngai Weng, who researches environmental management and hydrology in Universiti Sains Malaysia, said that these events were highlighting why it is so important to control pollution and waste dumping. 

“With the MCO, the dumping has stopped. You can see now how a river cleans itself if the pollution load is low. It is we humans who overload the rivers,” he said. “We must either relocate polluting sources elsewhere or ensure they treat their waste before discharging them into the environment.”

And it’s not just one river, either. According to marine biologist Prof Datuk Dr Aileen Tan, rivers all over the country are showing signs of improvement. Even Sungai Melaka, which used to be known for its murky, ‘teh tarik’ colored water, is looking cleaner and greener for the first time in years. It is now so clear that people can see schools of fish swimming around!

“Concrete results are achievable if the authorities set up better sewage management systems or get tough on enforcement in the new norm after MCO,” said Prof Tan. “We should treasure this phenomenon and take it as a chance for us to change for the better after the MCO.” 

Who Let the Elephants Out?

With fewer people on the roads, wild animals are appearing more often. Source: Malay Mail

With fewer cars zooming down the road, there has been an increase in the amount of wildlife wandering the streets of Malaysia. 

And it’s not just small critters like squirrels or monkeys either; last Sunday, a 21-second video was posted on Facebook showing a group of elephants calmly walking near a petrol station in Kenyir, Terengganu. It is believed that the road near the petrol station used to be an old route for wild elephants, but had not been used by them for awhile.

Terengganu Perhilitan director Abdul Malek Mohd Yusof confirmed that they had received reports of the sighting and urged the public to report to them immediately if they stumbled across any wildlife. “We will send in officers to identify and assist if there’s a threat to the residents of the area,” he said. 

This is only the latest wildlife encounter we’ve had over the past few weeks. Earlier in April, another elephant sighting was reported in Kluang, Johor, after a video was posted showing a lone elephant wandering into the car park of the Enche Besar Khalsom Hospital.

Other animal sightings have included monkeys, tapirs, and a rather bewildered looking wild boar photographed on the streets of Kuantan earlier this month. Source: Facebook

“It is likely that the MCO had prompted the elephant to wander off further than usual, due to the absence of road traffic in the area,” said Johor Perhilitan director Salman Saaban, who added that Kluang Perhilitan personnel were sent to investigate after the 47-second-long video went viral on social media.

A Cleaner, Greener Future

Even if you’re feeling down, just remember that we won’t be stuck at home forever. Photo by Samuel Silitonga from Pexels

Despite the negative aspects of MCO, in a way this period can almost be seen as a blessing in disguise. Despite living apart, we Malaysians are all standing closer than ever before. 

All these photos showing that nature can heal, that our air and water can be clean and our wildlife can flourish – this is definitive proof that we can actually make a difference, that it’s not too late for us to go down a cleaner, greener path. 

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen how fast our environment can recover if we simply leave it alone. But how much better would it be if we could cut down on our pollution levels without needing to shut down our society? 

If we can punish polluting companies, reduce the amount of waste poured into our rivers and skies, and invest in ways to conserve our amazing wildlife, there may come a time when all Malaysians can enjoy a healthier, more beautiful environment without having to stay at home all day long. 

Unfortunately, not everything has been sunshine and roses. Just a few days ago, we wrote an article to highlight one of the disappointing aspects of MCO: the rise in pet dumping cases. To stay informed on this topic, you can also follow our Twitter to keep up to date with all the latest news and events.