Political will needed to tackle pollution

06 Aug 2020 / 12:00 H.

PETALING JAYA: The government’s move to strengthen the Environmental Quality Act 1974 has been given the thumbs-up with the proviso that the minister himself plays a more serious role in its enforcement.

Alliance for Safe Community chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the move indicated the Environment and Water Ministry is serious about tackling pollution.

He, however, reiterated it will need the ministry’s political will to make it a success.

“Leaving it to the civil servants is not enough, the minister must also be proactive about it,” he said.

“In the meantime, the present Act can be used to enforce it. Plantation owners should be told there is an existing law and they are accountable,” he told theSun yesterday.

On Monday, Deputy Environment and Water Minister Datuk Dr Ahmad Masrizal Muhammad had said the ministry will tighten regulations on pollution parameters for activities that are not subjected to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

He pointed out that the Department of Environment’s (DOE) jurisdiction has all the while been limited to activities that are subjected to the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Order 2015.

Lee added the threats to nature are increasing at an alarming rate. “Deforestation, illegal wildlife trade, use of plastics, discharge of harmful chemicals and pollution of air, noise and water are rampant.

“A search for environmental issues will reveal much interesting news.

“In fact, if greenhouse gas emissions are constantly high and global warming continues unabated, an average of 234,500 Malaysians will be affected by floods annually due to a rise in sea levels between 2070 and 2100. This is aggravated by a poor drainage system,” he said.

He cited the case of Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang, Johor in March last year.

“An issue relating to negligence in environmental care worth highlighting is the dumping of chemical wastes in Sungai Kim Kim.

“This resulted in the release of toxic fumes that caused thousands to be hospitalised.

“This happened despite the Environmental Quality Act 1974, which specifically restricts the discharging of wastes into the environment,” he said.

In the incident, almost 6,000 Pasir Gudang residents were affected. Many of those who fell ill were schoolchildren.

Lee added the public plays a vital role to preserve the environment for long-term socio-economic well-being.

“This in accordance with Goals No. 14 (Life Below Water) and No. 15 (Life on Land) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“These pledges were made by Malaysia and other countries in 2015 under the 2030 agenda for sustainable development,” he said.

He expressed disappointment that many environmental legislation and regulations are developed only to be ignored years later.

“Even with so many goals put in place, sustainable development still ends up seriously wrong.

“It is time for a consistent indicator or measure to track the progress of nations that have pledged to create a better environment,” he added.

Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Malaysia (EcoMy) CEO Andrew Sebastian said the penalty is still low by today’s market value.

He recommended that the government rethinks the proposal to have industry players “voluntarily meet or go higher” than the standards required under the Act.

“It is not just a top-down government monitoring (approach), or monitoring the industries. The tables should be turned around where the industry players would want to improve,” he added.

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Political will needed to tackle pollution

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