Environmentalists applaud MACC's effort to fight environmental corruption

KUALA LUMPUR: Environmentalists are happy that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is tackling corruption in environmental management, especially with environmental degradation recurring nationwide at an alarming rate.

Veteran environmentalist and one of the founders of the Sahabat Alam Activist Association (Kuasa), Afandi Ahmad described the move as a good start to something bigger.

"We thank MACC for talking to us on how to tackle corruption involving the nature," he told Bernama in response to the establishment of the Environmental Protection and Anti-Corruption Caucus (EPACC) by MACC, in collaboration with non-governmental organisations and environment experts.

Afandi said major changes were needed to stop the environment from being used as a goldmine for certain parties.

"There are many loopholes right now. As a start, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), that is under the provision of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), needs to be stricter and more transparent.

"It is true that there are many stages (in EIA) that must be approved, but sadly, it could be bought. A complete reform in the system is needed," he lamented.

According to an eco-manifesto signed by 23 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in 2013, all had agreed to declare an eco-emergency on national deforestation and forest degradation. The NGOs included Transparency International-Malaysia, Bar Council, Institute of Foresters, Malaysian Nature Society and Southeast Asia Council for Food Security and Fair Trade.

The manifesto revealed that the massive losses of natural forest in the country is attributed to commercial logging, development of mono-culture, and palm oil plantation. The ill-conceiving economic development has contributed to a growing number of unsustainable trend, threatening the country's forest ecosytem.

Statistics obtained from the MNRE showed that Peninsular Malaysia's total forested area of 5,901,389ha in 2006 has declined to 5,784,870ha in 2015. It showed 2% deforestation rate or a declined of total forested area of 116,519ha in that 10-year period.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, when contacted by Bernama, welcomed the positive networking between MACC and the environmentalists to fight environmental corruption.

Meanwhile, MACC Chief Commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad, who chaired the meeting with environmental groups and universities in early April, said it was time to pay extra attention to environmental degradation issues involving environmental corruption.

"This move is to tackle unlicensed logging and environmental obliteration which had caused flash floods and soil erosion and put it to an end," he said.