Key lessons from Sudbury – by Dzulkifli Abdul Razak (The Sun Daily – October 25, 2017)

FROM Bali the trail of “sustainable development” brought me to a little known place called Sudbury in Ontario, Canada. This was in conjunction with a Unesco meeting on sustainable development with respect to indigenous people, especially when they are marginalised (think Rohingya).

Sudbury (400km north of Toronto) is well ahead in sustainable development. It was once a mining town whose fortunes dipped when the price of nickle ore plummeted. Massive ugly environmental scars likened to a “moonscape” were left behind by the mines.

There was also marked deforestation due to the unbridled pollution from industries. In mid-1800s, an intense wildfire devastated whatever remained; this was in addition to rampant illegal logging of the region’s majestic red and white pines.

On top of this was the poisoning caused by the fumes from sulphide mining that turned the atmosphere acidic with a pungent smell to go with it. Then Sudbury proudly housed the “world’s tallest smokestack” which it is now trying to get rid of.

Simply put, the worst had got the better of Sudbury where a large swathe of land was rendered barren (think bauxite in Pahang), its numerous scenic lakes dead and unable to sustain aquatic life. By the 1970s, some 20,000ha around Sudbury allegedly looked like a “blackened scar” when viewed from space.

But this is now history. The ambitious land reclamation effort undertaken over the last 40 years has turned Sudbury into a global name (with many accolades) as related by the mayor.

A book aptly entitled: Healing the Landspace (2008) recounts and illustrates this very well. “Sudburians found the will to act,” it proudly claims. “Scouts, summer students, unemployed miners, school kids, local businesses and other community members have planted more than 11 million trees” since the 1970s. The locals, especially the volunteers and students take immense pride in the landscape that they helped revitalise.

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