Public Awareness and Support for Environmental Protection—A Focus on Air Pollution in Peninsular Malaysia

  • Citation: Chin YSJ, De Pretto L, Thuppil V, Ashfold MJ (2019) Public awareness and support for environmental protection—A focus on air pollution in peninsular Malaysia. PLoS ONE 14(3): e0212206.
    • Topics:
    • Global Development
    • Keywords:
    • air pollution
    • industrialization
    • public health
    • environmental protection

As in many nations, air pollution linked to rapid industrialization is a public health and environmental concern in Malaysia, especially in cities. Understanding awareness of air pollution and support for environmental protection from the general public is essential for informing governmental approaches to dealing with this problem. This study presents a cross-sectional survey conducted in the Klang Valley and Iskandar conurbations to examine urban Malaysians’ perception, awareness and opinions of air pollution. The survey was conducted in two languages, English and Malay, and administered through the online survey research software, Qualtrics. The survey consisted of three sections, where we collected sociodemographic information, information on the public perception of air quality and the causes of air pollution, information on public awareness of air pollution and its related impacts, and information on attitudes towards environmental protection. Of 214 respondents, over 60% were positive towards the air quality at both study sites despite the presence of harmful levels of air pollution. The air in the Klang Valley was perceived to be slightly more polluted and causing greater health issues. Overall, the majority of respondents were aware that motor vehicles represent the primary pollution source, yet private transport was still the preferred choice of transportation mode. A generally positive approach towards environmental protection emerged from the data. However, participants showed stronger agreement with protection actions that do not involve individual effort. Nonetheless, we found that certain segments of the sample (people owning more than three vehicles per household and those with relatives who suffered from respiratory diseases) were significantly more willing to personally pay for environmental protection compared to others. Implications point to the need for actions for spreading awareness of air pollution to the overall population, especially with regards to its health risks, as well as strategies for increasing the perception of behavioural control, especially with regards to motor vehicles’ usage.

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