Whither our prospects for fully developed status?


(The Star) – It is easier to take the slum-dweller out of the slum than to take the slum out of the slum-dweller. 

SOME people routinely unload their rubbish into rivers. Even more people unthinkingly dump rubbish into drains, which then empty into rivers.

Thus proper drainage is skewed, restricted or simply obstructed. Floods occur or become exacerbated as foul, rotting refuse in various forms clog our waterways.

According to the Drainage and Irrigation Department, a main cause of clogged drains and rivers is discarded rubbish from the public. For this year alone, RM828mil is being spent on flood mitigation projects.

This is a worrisome financial issue, but also much worse than that. It is an unacceptable anti-social habit for a nation aspiring to “fully developed” status.

The indiscriminate dumping of rubbish into drains and rivers is also a problem of fetid water flow and a putrefying environment. It is aesthetically disgusting, indicative of a society with low living standards.

It is also a health problem for entire neighbourhoods. Stagnant water breeds mosquitoes while filthy surroundings promote harmful bacterial growth.

Not least, this most undistinguished social habit can also be a safety hazard. If planned water flow is blocked, water will find alternative routes, causing seepage, soil erosion or secondary flooding that compromises the structural integrity of certain sites.

It is at root a question of our developmental mentality as a nation. Are Malaysians developed, undeveloped, or not even ready to contemplate fully developed status?

Some economists presume development to be defined by rising GDP levels. Yet others imagine that development is about having tall buildings in the city, or the traffic congestion and pollution which come with that.

However, it is sound environmental care at all levels of society that is a hallmark of a developed nation. Where development is largely about maintaining high standards in public hygiene and environmental awareness, we are still nowhere near it.

Some put it more bluntly: it is easier to take the slum-dweller out of the slum than to take the slum out of the slum-dweller. Putting up with heaps of rubbish in our midst is slumming it inexcusably.

Countries that overcame similar problems passed tough laws and strictly enforced them with heavy fines to make offending individuals change their habit.

We seem to have neither the will to do that nor any clue about alternatives that work. When can we really get serious about development?