CommentaryConservationEnvironmentOPINION

Taking a Pragmatic Approach: Sustainable Development from the Perspective of a Developing Nation

By LT Yin

Nature is precious, and as Malaysians, we take pride in the beauty and abundant resources of our country. It saddens us to see the decline in our surroundings due to the desecration of our nation’s resources. Our deepest desire should be to preserve this for future generations. As nature’s ambassador, Sir David Attenborough asks, “Are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?”

This is why Sustainable Development is crucial; it ensures a legacy for the future.

However, Sustainable Development is not a “one size fits all” proposition. Each nation and individual has unique circumstances, and we must face the reality that Malaysia is still a developing country without the advantages of a long industrial history or vast lands.

While conservation is crucial, we also need the Earth’s resources for nation-building. Land is useless if people are homeless or hungry, and an Electric Vehicle is pointless without electricity or charging stations. We must take pride in our developing, resource-rich nation and, at the same time, adopt a pragmatic approach to conservation.

Development of Transportation Services: Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in Klang Valley, Malaysia. One of many vital infrastructures requiring the country’s natural resources.

As a developing nation with a relatively young population, we have urgent developmental needs to address urbanisation, infrastructure, and housing requirements. The key is to foster healthy discourse, explore options, and find solutions that suit our country.

A notable example is YTL Cement’s recent collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education, to form Malaysia’s first research consortium. The aim of this collaboration is to conduct much-needed research on Malaysia’s tropical limestone karst landscapes so that informed decisions can be made, based on scientific data, on what should be conserved and what can be developed sustainably to support the nation’s growth.

For Cement Production: Limestone karst landscapes.

Through initiatives with local universities, the YTL Cement-backed consortium supports postgraduate students who will then contribute to the growing literature on sustainable development. This would increase the understanding of the Malaysian situation.

The key is balance – taking what we need in the least wasteful way. This allows us to enjoy a good quality of life while leaving behind a legacy for our children and grandchildren.

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