Easing impact of climate change on Orang Asli
PETALING JAYA: Speak about climate change and one immediately thinks of the unpredictable weather with heavy rains and floods. But little do people realise that climate change is so far-reaching that it even affects the Orang Asli’s way of life.
The World Bank Group 2021 report “Climate Risk Country Profile” projected that temperatures in Malaysia will rise an additional 0.8°C and 3.11°C.
Hence, environmentalists have stepped up efforts to assist the Orang Asli community and ensure their welfare is looked after in the face of potential environmental calamities that can endanger their culture and way of life.
Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia CEO Andrew Sebastian has come to the aid of about 400 Orang Asli of the Bateq community in Jerantut, Pahang.
This will be the second time in two years that he has donated essential goods to ease the community’s plight as they are being hit by the monsoon season.
“The devastation to the environment has created a ripple effect on the Bateq community. They are known as hunter-gatherers, so when there’s an effect on the climate, their game and wild herbs that are used for medicinal purposes dwindle, and this affects the ecosystem and their livelihood,” he said.
At the time of the interview, Sebastian was preparing a list of items to be taken to five Bateq villages. They include colouring books, stationery items, rice, flour, salt, canned food, biscuits, tarpaulin, sarong and multivitamins.
He will need a total of RM25,000 to purchase the essential goods for those who live in Kampung Kuala Atok, Kampung Tabung, Kampung Ayur, Kampung Yong and Kampung Dedari.
“The villages are situated next to the Sungai Lembing area, which is prone to floods during rainy season. Some parts of the area are lowland and can only be accessed by boats,” said Sebastian.
He added that each village can take up to half a day to reach. He is also concerned that waterborne diseases might occur if the situation is not addressed urgently.
“We hope to get enough medical practitioners to check on the well-being of the Bateq community. In this case, we can assist by liaising with local government clinics.”
Similarly, about 70 children aged 16 and below have been identified as illiterate due to lack of access to schools.
Sebastian hoped that those who are keen to volunteer to teach the children to come forward after the monsoon season is over.
“Urgent action is needed to ensure that no one is left behind, especially the children, who should be able to look forward to a better future, and ensure their heritage is not lost.”
Sebastian, who has been involved in conservation for more than 20 years, said he was urged to help the Bateq during a visit with other environmentalists a few years ago.
He was captured by their simplicity and way of life, which is in harmony with nature.
Noting that the community lacked access to schools and fresh water, he developed a learning programme that would allow younger ones to enter government schools.