Climate Change and COVID-19

Is Mother Nature healing?

Image via Malay Mail

As Malaysians are forced to hunker down in our homes and create TikTok videos to keep ourselves occupied, our cities are changing in ways we hadn’t thought possible. Following orders from governments around the world to self-isolate in an effort to “flatten the curve”, you’ve probably seen numerous viral pictures of wildlife freely wandering the empty streets of the urban jungle.

The positive environmental impact is something we never saw coming amidst the COVID-19 storm.

Image via Malay Mail

Think City’s pollution map shows a sharp decline in nitrogen dioxide levels in densely populated cities, especially in the Western Peninsula. 

A viral joke circulating on the internet is that the skies have cleared up so much that the Star Wars credits scenes are visible!

To uplift Malaysians in these bewildering times, here are two small environmental victories that prove Mother Nature’s resilience.

In normal times, the log boom of Gombak River is cluttered with rubbish

Gombak River on 2 April

Images via The Star

Reverting to its former glory

If you ever thought that the Klang River meandering through the heart of KL was just a huge muddy drain infested with rodents, you aren’t alone. We’re guilty as charged!

KLites have provided multiple visual testimonies that our urban waterways — namely Gombak River, Klang River and Kemunsing River — seemed to run clear and are litter-free a week after the Movement Control Order (MCO) came into effect.

The Global Environment Centre’s River Care Programme stated that lower levels of pollution and human interaction allowed wetland plants to flourish; vegetation absorbs pollutants and plays a vital role in cleansing the river basin.

Community members living along the rivers have also reported bird and otter sightings.

Image via Bernama

Getting a breath of fresh air

Malaysians have adopted working remotely en masse. The MCO’s strict travel limitations lead to a significant drop in the number of pollution-puffing vehicles on the roads. 

Can you imagine driving down the Federal Highway without stopping every 100 metres because of traffic? That is every driver’s dream right there. For now, it’s more important for the public to follow the government’s advice to stay safe at home.

Malaysians are no strangers to annual bouts of noxious haze. Now, netizens have taken to social media to share their excitement about clear views of gorgeous sunsets against the backdrop of our iconic KLCC and KL Tower skyline.


According to Think City, motor vehicles alone emanate 80% of air pollution in Malaysia. Now for a bright spot of good news: data from the Air Pollutant Index shows that between 1 March to 25 March, nitrogen dioxide from motorised vehicles has decreased! Imagine breathing fresh air instead of a cloud of black soot while waiting for that pedestrian light to turn green. Memang best lah!     

The dilemma we face now is: can we continue this trajectory post-MCO? It would be wonderful if we could preserve nature and enjoy our personal freedom. Despite its negative impact, this pandemic also reminds us to show empathy towards all living things.

It is challenging for many of us to #dudukrumah for such an extended period of time. Let’s utilise this downtime to put on our thinking caps and figure out how we can coexist with Mother Nature in a less destructive way. Many scientists have warned that failure to take care of the environment will bring about catastrophic consequences in the near future.

This pandemic has shown us that spending billions on environmental protection is not the only way to preserve our planet. We can achieve that if we all play our parts and make environmentally conscious decisions.

Together, let’s step up and preserve the environment for future generations!  

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