Institutional Policies and their Implications on Land Use Change and the Environment: Lessons Learned from Seberang Perai, Penang, Malaysia
This paper seeks to relate government policies on land development with land use change and environmental quality from the late 1950s to the near future 2010. The land cover of Seberang Perai, Penang, has changed significantly in phases over the period of five decades. In the initial phase, many natural forest lands have been converted to agricultural use mainly. Subsequently, a major portion of agricultural lands were redeveloped into industrial and residential areas forming large industrial complexes and expanded town and city limits. In consequence, such changes implied degradation of environmental quality of Seberang Perai. This region is the ‘home’ to three out of ten most polluted rivers in Malaysia according to the Water Quality Index or WQI established by the Department of Environment with Juru River having one of the most ‘notorious’ reputation. Moreover, air quality has lowered over the years. Rapid urbanization that started in the 1980s also brought frequent flash floods that interrupted economic and social activities and caused damages. These environmental impacts could be linked to land use changes related to institutional policies. By examining a number of selected cases from the Juru River Basin mainly, the Seberang Perai experience offers lessons on the need of proper land use management, conscientious and environmentally educated development, and the importance public awareness and participation.
Keywords: Land Development, Land Cover, Land Use, Environmental Quality
Dr. Edlic Sathiamurthy
Lecturer, Department of Engineering Science,