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Stricter Environmental Law Is The Way Forward

LETTER TO EDITOR - 23rd October 2012 (Tuesday)


Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) welcomes the announcement made by YB Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embah, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment on the amendments to Environment Quality Act (EQA). Enforcement beyond Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) required activities is a good move to protect our natural resources and uphold our sustainability.

We would like to highlight few important points for the ministry and Department of Environment (DOE) to consider during the implementation of the amendments to further enhance and improve the environment quality.

Point 1:  Human Capital for enforcement unit in DOE must be increased
Currently, DOE is already bogged with a lot of work relating to environmental monitoring and enforcement. There is a serious lacking in enforcement as DOE faces lack of technical officers to move on the ground. AWER had similar experience with DOE in this problem when we raised few environment pollution incidents. Such a situation will deter the implementation of the EQA amendments. Therefore, the government must consider to increase technical and knowledgeable human capital in DOE. A 24 hours Environmental Squad should also be formed to ensure the culprits are caught in action.

Point 2: Full Environmental Recovery Cost Must Be Developed
When a company pollutes the environment, it is slapped with a penalty. However, this penalty is a small amount for many whom are raking huge profits. Section 47 of the EQA clearly specifies that DOE is given the power of recovery of costs and expenses to the environment. We urge the ministry to prepare a mechanism for Full Environmental Recovery Cost to ensure wrong doers are paying back for their wrong actions on top of the penalty.

Point 3: Preliminary EIA (PEIA) should be fully replaced with Detailed EIA (DEIA)
PEIA is not a complete EIA as many environmental parameters and studies are usually omitted. Many PEIA referred by AWER are usually of no use. On the other hand, DEIA is a more comprehensive process with most impacts are assessed. Therefore, PEIA should be fully replaced with DEIA to ensure proper evaluation.

Point 4: EIA Panels and Consultants Must Have Strict Code of Conduct
Panels are invited based on their expertise to give technical comments before EIA starts and after it is completed. There are cases where after the first DEIA meeting of a project, a panel recuse himself/herself and jump to become consultant of the same project. This action must be stopped as it is unethical job seeking. In addition to that, enquiry over misreporting or unethical reporting in EIA by consultants must be taken seriously. An independent enquiry must be done to investigate the matter. If the EIA consultant is found guilty, he or she must not be allowed to practise permanently as EIA consultant.

Malaysia needs stricter enforcement to protect our natural resources. Nothing should stop us from doing so. We are borrowing the resources from the future generations. It is not our right to destroy it.

Piarapakaran  S.
Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER)

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