Sustainability Science

The information and knowledge that build the understanding of Planet (S&T), Profit (economics), and People (social) make up sustainability science. ASM strives to bring in forward-looking sustainability science into policy-making by concentrating on local challenges, while keeping in mind, regional and global perspectives.

Water R&D

This study was completed in May 2014 and found that past and current research on water in Malaysia had been largely ad-hoc, fragmented, and often undertaken with a limited and narrow focus. This study identified 96 research topics related to 21 water themes to harness STI in addressing the country water management issue and challenges through an integrated and coordinated multi-disciplinary R&D framework.

The water R&D Advisory Report entitled, "Setting a National Agenda for Integrated Water Research" was published in 2014. From that, four recommendations were highlighted, which are as follows:

Adoption and dissemination of the National Integrated Water Research (NIWR) Agenda
Water Research Governance Options
Provision of Adequate Human and Financial Resources
Implementation of NIWR Agenda

Energy Use and Energy Efficiency in Transportation
i. To identify current status of Malaysia’s energy use & energy efficiency in transportation;
ii. To address the issues/gaps in energy use & energy efficiency in transportation;
iii. To gather input from the various stakeholders on the current issues on energy use & energy efficiency in transportation;
iv. To encourage and build partnerships among diverse stakeholders;
v. To provide policy inputs to the government on energy use & energy efficiency in transportation in Malaysia.

Transportation sector is the second most energy consuming sector after industrial sector, accounting for 40% of total energy consumption in Malaysia. The transportation sector is one of the most energy intensive sectors in the country and relies primarily on petroleum products, which in total account for nearly 98% of the total consumption in the sector.

(i) Water and Agriculture

Agricultural water use is interpreted to include water for crop production (food and plantation crops), livestock and fisheries. After about two decades (since mid1980s) of neglect, interest in agriculture resurged under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (see excerpt below from the 9MP document), starting with the revitalizing of the sector as one of the key aims of the Plan, and the sector itself featured strongly in each of the five key thrusts of the National Mission. This followed from the earlier restructuring and renaming of the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) as the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry in 2004,

“During the Ninth Plan period, the agriculture sector will be revitalized to become the third engine of growth. The emphasis will be on New Agriculture which will involve large scale commercial farming, the wider application of modern technology, production of high quality and value-added products, unlocking the potential inbiotechnology, increased convergence with information and communications technology (ICT), and the participation of entrepreneurial farmers and skilledworkforce. The function of agricultural services will also be streamlined to enhance service delivery and efficiency.”– (…9MP)

Agriculture has long been the main consumptive user (around 70%) of water resources in Malaysia, the bulk of which being mainly tapped for irrigation supply to paddy lands in designated granary areas where double cropping of rice has been practiced since the 1960s. The recently completed National Water Resources Study (NWRS 2011) has projected on 4 areas, namely irrigated paddy, non-paddy crops, livestock and fisheries. The study has also recommended improved irrigation efficiencies and expansion of water demand management practices to achieve the projected water demand for each sub-sector. As a result, total consumptive agriculture water use is projected to decline gradually while potable water use would continue the upward trend to eventually become the major user.

It is timely now that the agricultural water user sector be reviewed and realigned from its current role of a traditional provider of drainage and irrigation infrastructure into a more holistic agricultural water supply development and management function to ensure “more crop per drop” in support of the objectives of the recent Dasar Agro-Makanan Negara the National Commodity Policy, and ASM Mega Science Framework Study related to Agriculture undertaken in 2011. The review would entail a more strategic and expanded focus addressing a wide array of issues and challenges such as the upgrading of rain-fed agriculture; revitalizing irrigated agriculture; the introduction of instruments and mechanisms such as realistic water pricing and “virtual water” or water footprint considerations in agricultural trade; investment in better technologies; and improving on-farm water management. The role of science, technology and innovation (STI) in spurring these changes is also crucial as underlined by the Mega Science Framework Study on Water undertaken by ASM in 2010 which highlighted STI’s role in the realization of the twin objectives of “sustaining the resource” and for “wealth creation”.

(ii) Water-related Policies and Legislation

The National Water Resources Policy (NWRP) was approved by the Cabinet on 22 Feb 2012 and launched by the Government on 24 March 2012. The Policy comprises 4 Key Core Areas, 9 Thrusts, 18 Targets, 28 Strategies and 69 Strategic Action Plans. The strategies and strategic action plans have been designed to address immediate problems and current concerns. The time frame for implementation of the NWRP is targeted over short to medium term. Periodic reviews are planned to ensure that the Policy remains dynamic and flexible enough to adjust to changing conditions.

Water resource institutions have a history of adapting to dynamic conditions such as economic and population change. Changing weather patterns and climate conditions represent urgent factors that require a higher level of adaptive capacity among water resource institutions. Coupled with uncertainty in hydrology and response of ecosystems, management of water resources will be extremely challenging, particularly in view of its increasing demand. Science and technology provides the foundation for strengthening adaptive capacity by bringing clarity to predictions on the effects of climate variability and change and generating knowledge to provide a concrete basis for developing adaptation strategies.

The capacity of water resource institutions to adapt to future changes in climate and other factors as well as their ability to cope with the uncertainties involved needs to be strengthened. Water provides sustenance to living resources and serves as the basis for utilising non-living resources. Thus, it is critical to ensure that the adaptive capacity of water resource institutions is given adequate emphasis in implementing the NWRP. It is also important to understand the linkages of water resource institutions to other natural resource institutions, and how the NWRP can serve as a precursor to promote integrated management of natural resources.

The implementation of the NWRP will be facilitated through structured work programmes that will be overseen by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE). This offers an entry point to the Academy of Sciences (ASM) to suggest measures that address the gaps in the NWRP, particularly with respect to the adaptive capacity of water institutions and provide innovative solutions based on science and technology. This will support the NWRP to fulfill its aims to strengthen governance of water resources for security and sustainability.

(iii) National Key Economy Area (NKEA) for Water

The Water Sector Transformation Road Map (WSTRP) is multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary involving a cluster of component road maps in key focus areas and sub-sectors driven individually by relevant lead ministries or stakeholder agencies. There is hardly 7 years to go before we arrive at Vision 2020. At the current rate of progress, it is far from satisfactory largely due to inadequate resources, especially financial. There is a need for coordination of parallel action on multi-fronts to realize sustainable development goals and solutions. WSTRP must be regarded as a crucial and integral component of the National Transformation Programme moving in tandem with other NKEAs and especially with those falling within the Water-Food-Energy nexus. As such, an NKEA on Water is required as a matter of urgency to spearhead the WSTRP which would include a string of Entry Points Projects (EPP)s that would be catalytical to simultaneously kick-start the component road maps for their successful implementation and timely completion.