Malaysia to introduce ‘holistic biodiversity law’

CHRISTINA CHIN The Star 10 Apr 16;

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia is introdu­cing a “holistic biodiversity law” for environmental protection, aimed at filling the gaps and marry existing laws into one new, comprehensive Act.

Describing it as very important in protecting forests, marine parks, wildlife and water bodies, Natural Resources and Environment Minis­ter Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar (pic) said the Act would cover everything, including the “intangible”.

He said this “very finely drafted piece of legislation” would be the country’s first biodiversity law.

“The Biodiversity Act is very inte­resting as it includes what we can and cannot see – like the ecosystem. It’ll even address the dwindling number of Malayan tigers,” he told Sunday Star.

The completed draft, which even included input from villagers, must go through the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ scrutiny before it was presented to the National Land Council and tabled in Parliament by the end of the year, he said.

“I’m very happy with the draft but we still have to explain it to the states because it will be binding on them.”

The legislation, he assured, would not take away the states’ authority but serve to protect their wealth.

“Whether state or private land, it must be observed if the trees or plants are indigenous to us as we cannot allow these to be exploited. We’ve a wealth of biodiversity like forests that produce herbs but we haven’t protected them.

“If some fellow from another state or country comes into your jungle and finds a tree that cures cancer and patents it, would you want that? So, the states have no choice but to implement our law.”

On March 1, The Star reported that once signed, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement requires the country to keep its biodiversity intact.

The National Policy on Biological Diversity 2016-2025, which was launched in February, outlines the means to reduce pressure on biodiversity, safeguard key ecosystems and species, involve more people in conservation and share the benefits of using the natural wealth.

The ministry, Dr Wan Junaidi added, would also present its proposal to raise open burning compound pe­­nal­ties – now being checked by the A-G’s Chambers – for Cabinet approval very soon.

The current compound of RM2,000 is too small a deterrent for offen­ders.

The new compound rates will be based on a graduated scale depen­ding on the class the offender falls under.

“For example, a villager burning rubbish in his backyard will pay RM2,000, construction companies will pay RM10,000 and big plantations will have to fork out the RM250,000 maximum compound,” he said, adding that the new law to bring to book local companies setting forest fires abroad was still being studied.

“The A-G is very interested and is talking to legal quarters in the region on the kind of law we want.”

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