We were also like other developing countries, cutting down forests and filling up swamps, all without any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). CETDEM
trained those from the government on EIA. There were people in the Department of Environment who were trained overseas and did have some feelings for
the environment. At the time many would say EIAs would add cost and delay to projects, but we said in the long term it would make more sense, economically and
CETDEM helped mould, shape and reinforce my belief that to move environmental issues you need a whole complex strata of people — the government, policymakers, enforcers, the industries, the stewards with money, NGOs, and of course, people’s support.
There is space for everybody. However, I think the space that was harder to fill was the technical side of things. I hope in the future CETDEM will be a space for our country’s scientists and engineers to be green. We have always been ahead of the curve, as we were on leading edge of EIAs. We were also at the leading edge of climate change and organic farming in the country, when no one even knew what they were.
Our farm coordinator, Siew, just kept getting her hands and feet soiled, literally, and did so much with organic farming in this country through sheer perseverance.
The big difference about CETDEM is its name. The key is that we are for development while most green activists are ambivalent about it. We embrace it, and we think development is good for people and the quality of their lives and for their families, while enhancing or preserving what we got. It is not a compromise, it is a statement of truth.
Given the more encouraging position for green issues today, can CETDEM do more? I believe so. If not, who else?