Malaysia to amend laws to target environmental pollutors

Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Minister is planning on amending legislation to enforce strict liability for those behind environmental pollution, such as from bauxite mining.

Sumisha Naidu, Malaysia Correspondent, Channel NewsAsia 19 Jan 16;

PAHANG, Malaysia: Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Minister is planning on amending legislation to enforce strict liability for those behind environmental pollution.

The push comes at a time when Malaysians are up in arms over the sea and rivers turning red in Pahang state, supposedly due to pollution from bauxite mining.

It is known worldwide as the main source of aluminium, but in Malaysia’s Pahang state, bauxite has earned a reputation as the source of environmental pollution and corruption.

Despite the aluminium-making ore leaving layers of red dust and changing the colours of sea and rivers, the Department of Environment has found it difficult to charge those responsible for the environmental effects of bauxite mining.

“The water has turned red,” said Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, Minister for Natural Resources and Environment. “When the Department of Environment checked, they found the water was at class III (of the National Water Quality Standards), it is not clean anymore. The evidence is there. Still we don't have the law to accuse the ports or the lorry drivers or the companies."

However, Wan Junaidi wants to change this, with plans to table amendments to ensure strict liability for those responsible for the environment pollution, be it from bauxite mining or oil spills.

Authorities have charged at least four land officers for accepting bribes from illegal mine operators. Wan Junaidi added that his officers have handed over evidence of river pollution to the Pahang state government.
But there are limits to what the federal government can do to offenders beyond this.

FINDING A PERMANENT SOLUTION

Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam, however, wants action be to taken on the industry itself, if it continues to contaminate waters and jeopardise the health of residents.

For now, a temporary ban has been placed on bauxite mining, while the government enforces stricter regulations and tries to find a permanent solution.

The Department of Environment is hopeful of healthier water readings after this suspension, as are the fishermen who have to deal with nervous customers.

"We go out to sea, 25 nautical miles from this river,” said Raja Haris Raja Salim, Sungai Balok's chief fisherman. “I guarantee my fish are 100 per cent without additives, without poison, original."

The temporary suspension is meant to be lifted on Apr 15, unless more time is needed to ensure compliance to the new standards.

- CNA/yt

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