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   Electronic greenies: can going online help the environment movement?

By Wong Siew Lyn
October 22, 1999

They were a motley crowd: the trendily grunge, the orange-haired, the curious Mat Sallehs (Caucasians), and the odd office-suited professional. This was a briefing by the "Save Our Sungai Selangor" campaigners, a movement against a government proposal to dam the Selangor River as an answer to Klang Valley's impending water shortage.

The speakers included long-time activists such as Dr Kua Kia Soong of Suara Rakyat Malaysia, and Gurmit Singh, executive director for the Centre for Technology, Environment and Development, Malaysia (CETDEM). Facts were plentiful and well presented and videos were shown.

Yet little of the new information from the meeting appear on the SOS Selangor Web site; nor did any of it go out on the mailing list. And while email had been used extensively to alert people about the meeting, the turnout could have been harnessed via snail mail or faxes.

The SOS Selangor Web site has had only slightly over 4,400 hits since March, and a previous online petition before the dam's Environment Impact Assessment garnered only 578 signatures. Considering the Internet's reach, was this an indication of typical Malaysian apathy, or that the public supported the dam?

Or were people perhaps simply not apprised of enough information to make a decision? According to the site's Webmaster, articles are put up "as and when" they are given to him, and Dr Kua agreed that more needed to be done to utilize the Net as a tool for change.

SOS Selangor, a coalition of non-government organizations (NGOs) and individuals, suffers from that twin NGO malady: lack of manpower and funding. This is a shame because this has the makings of an interesting case study on the role of the Net for the Green Movement, should this ongoing campaign succeed.


Wong Siew Lyn is a freelance journalist and author of several books on technology, travel and the environment, including the Malaysia Internet Book and Exciting Malaysia: A Visual Journey. Email us your comments.


Electronic greenies

Harnessing the Net

A case of resources

 Local Environmental  Web Sites
SOS Selangor Web site

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia Web site

Southeast Asian haze

Malaysian Nature Society

MNS Perak

HSBC Bank Malaysia on marine life and wetlands

Malaysian Timber Council Web site

Centre for Environment, Technology and Development

Department of Environment Malaysia

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