English World

Harsher penalties await offenders

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is in the midst of reviewing the Environmental Quality Act 1974 and the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 which will see the introduction of stiffer penalties for offenders.

Its minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, said the proposed amendments would include heavier penalties for poaching and other wildlife-related crimes.

“The National Environmental Policy will be reviewed to ensure that the relevant policy is suitable for the current situation.

“I’ve also instructed the Department of Environment to review the Environmental Quality Act to ensure effective enforcement and monitoring, and also to facilitate public participation in environmental management.

These are all ongoing efforts and some will be carried out as soon as possible,” he told the New Straits Times.

He said the government also needed to engage the public and private sectors more to ensure that policymakers and stakeholders worked together to resolve pollution issues at source.

“However, upon realising that environmental protection incurs cost, many private sectors or industries are reluctant to invest in pollution control or mitigation.”

Wan Junaidi said he had raised the issue of the lack of manpower with Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa and the Public Service Department.

“If you look at our national parks, for instance, there is often only one forest ranger guarding an entire park. This is inadequate.

“How is one person going to look after our forest reserves? There must be sufficient officers on duty if we are to enforce the law and put an end to issues like illegal logging.”

On another matter, Wan Junaidi said he had signed the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) bylaw, whereby every development covering 20 hectares or more would required an EIA to be produced.

“Under the existing ruling, an EIA for every 50 hectares is required.

There have been cases where developers split their companies into two to develop a land. But only one of the companies would produce the EIA for development.

“With the new law, the EIA will be compulsory as it covers every 20 hectares of land.” He said the ministry had also proposed amendments to the Land Acquisition Act 1960 that would allow acquisition of underground land to facilitate development needs.

The changes would not only enable landowners who wish to retain their surface lands or develop their land, but also help the government better plan for long-term use of Malaysia’s underground space.

The proposed changes, he said, would need consequential amendments in the National Land Code 1965, particularly regarding provision of issuance of title in continuation.

The proposed amendments will be made together with the amendment to the Strata Titles Act 1985 to overcome problems in applying for strata titles, especially for old buildings.

Wan Junaidi noted that there were about 300,000 apartments belonging to local councils, built in the 1970s or 1980s, but had yet to get their titles.

“With this amendment, such cases can be solved. I’ll get the law ready in due time to be tabled in Parliament by April next year.

“The responses from all ministries have been good except one or two ministries that are sceptical on this. But I’ve directed my ministry to engage with those ministries to address the issues of concern.”

-nst

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