Brunei turning a darker shade of green

|     Ishan Ibrahim     |

ACCORDING to the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which measures the environmental performance of a state based on its policies and ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across 10 issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality, Brunei Darussalam emerged 53rd overall, but what is most encouraging is that the Sultanate is clocked in at fourth in Asia, just behind Japan, Taiwan and Singapore respectively.

This is particularly remarkable for Brunei given the international standing of the trio above it. This was made possible due to the concerted efforts by government agencies – notably the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe) at the Ministry of Development (MoD), and non-government organisations (NGOs) that have played important roles in raising public awareness on the importance of keeping environmental pollution to a minimum.

This involves implementing policies which are good for the environment, such as averting or controlling the release of pollutants into soil, water and air by using alternative energy sources and being less reliant on fossil fuels, practising recycling, and reducing waste.

JASTRe for its part has done tremendously well in efforts to reduce the pollution impact on the environment, evident from their drive to promote recycling and reducing waste.

An example is the ‘No Plastic Bag Weekend’ initiative that began in 2011, which saw businesses and shops discontinuing the practice of handing out plastic bags to customers on Saturdays and Sundays.

The move, though initially causing public bewilderment, is now widely accepted and welcomed by Bruneians, who have accepted the step as necessary in the nation’s bid to become more environmental-friendly.

Within the first quarter of this year, the movement was extended to Thursdays and Fridays as well, and later in July, to Wednesdays.

The government sees the initiative as a key cog in realising the nation’s aim of phasing out plastic bag usage by January next year.

More still has to be done, however, to curb pollution of the environment if the country is to improve on its current rankings in the EPI.

Common gripes among the public include the persistent and annoying social issue of open burning, which to this day is still widely practised in the country.

The practice is a major contributor to air pollution, generating emissions of pollutants such as smoke and toxic fumes, causing serious health problems among Bruneians and damaging on the environment.

Many citizens have cited that more education is needed to address this problem, adding that banning the practice outright could probably be the best solution.

Another issue is the indiscriminate disposal of large amounts of rubbish by a section of restaurants, eateries and businesses in the vicinity or rear compound of their establishments.

The people of Brunei are now more environmentally-conscious than ever before, with an increasing number of people, such as volunteers and members of NGOs and private sector organisations, actively engaged in environmental preservation activities, doing their part in the nation’s drive to “go green”.