Malaysia is one of the most bio-diverse regions on earth, with extensive tropical forests. Agriculture and infrastructure development cause massive deforestation in the 1960s. Discharge from industrial and mining operations pollutes water resources. The government passes the Environment Quality Act (EQA) in 1974 and establishes the Department of Environment to enforce it.
As Malaysia rapidly industrializes, urban smog during the dry season becomes a climate trait. Water toxicity and river silting are side effects of rapid and intense industrialization. Malaysia's population doubles between 1960 to 1990, straining sewage and waste management infrastructure.
Malaysia plays a prominent role at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Mahathir leads calls for sustainable development. In 1997 Malaysia declares a state of emergency as forest fires on Sarawak blanket dense smog over the region; Mahathir appears in public wearing a smog mask. Environmental concerns force suspension of the Bakun hydroelectric dam project in Sarawak.
Malaysia commits to reaching International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) sustainable forest management goals. In June 1999 the government declares air pollution figures a national secret. Work begins anew on the Bakun Dam in 2000. Logging is barred in Malaysia except in the tropical rainforest areas in Sabah and Sarawak. The 2001-05 plan makes cleaning up air pollution a national priority.
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