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Meaningless having more environmental protection laws if the government is not serious about enforcement, which is marked more by its breach than its compliance
by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid’s enthusiasm for more environmental laws to establish recycling and solid waste management as part of our daily lives to preserving the environment is misplaced if existing laws passed are not enforced, co-ordinated and implemented. DAP considers it meaningless to have more environmental protection laws if the government is not serious about enforcement, which is marked more by its breach than its compliance. Azmi appears to be more interested in passing laws such as the Solid Waste Management Bill not so much as to implement recycling in a big way but to award waste collection concessionaires long-term contracts.
What is the meaning of celebrating 5 June is World Environment Day when there was no official event planned. Obviously official events will be planned if long-term concessions are awarded where the public will be again “taxed’ with payment much like the sewerage services of the Indah Water Konsortium. To ensure a sustainable and balanced development, we need a democratic government which is guaranteeing transparency, accountability, good governance and public participation.
Environment and humanity are interrelated. In recent years, environmental degradation has become one of the critical issues in the era of industrialization and economic globalization.
World Environment Day is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the challenges cause by global climate change and its consequences as well as enhances political attention and action. It is important to think globally and act locally when managing environmental issues, we should discard the NIMBY (Not-In-My-BackYard) mindset, and managing our local environmental problems based on our understanding of global environmental change.
We hope that all Malaysian will pay attention to the three particular environmental issues in this country:
(1) Lack of transparency and accountability in Environmental Impact Assessment
Recently, approval of the oil pipeline project traversing Kedah, Perak and Kelantan is given by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister even before the EIA report is submitted for approval by the Department of Environment. Celebrating 50 years of Independence, are we going to continue allowing the few to give approval to development projects, while EIA reports are breached and environmental law and regulations are violated?
In developed countries, the EIA report has a decisive role in influencing the approval process. Generally, if there is any evidence showing that the project poses health and environmental risk to the local people or can cause severe environmental degradation, the project would be rejected. However, in Malaysia, EIA reports are known more by its breach rather than its compliance of environmental standards. Such practices have undermined the accountability and independence of our EIA reports.
Ensuring sustainable development and natural living heritage for our children
(2) The failure of "Love Our River Campaign"
In March, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid announced that “Love Our Rivers”campaign to clean up our rivers has been branded a failure after the government launched campaign in 1993; increasing pollution had rendered 17 of Malaysia's 186 river systems so toxic the water was considered even unsafe for humans to touch.
In Malaysia, annual rainfall varies from 2000-2500mm, therefore rivers are important water sources for us. We need a concrete river management policy to ensure our water usage and supply is safe and sustainable. Where are the assessments and evaluations for the failure of “Love Our River Campaign”?
Despite spending RM7 million to re-launch the campaign in June with a new focus on preserving river environment, there are no targets set except for empty publicity. How much taxpayers’ money will be spent on glossy advertisements and landscaping river banks instead of treating river pollution?
(3) Rampant illegal logging
Have the BN government learnt their lessons from the massive flooding caused by poor forestry management and excessive logging in the Southern part of Peninsular Malaysia in December 2006 and February this year? Although scientific evidence shows that the abnormal rainfall during massive flood was caused by global climate change, it also demonstrated the lack of ability of the BN government to deal with the consequences of the climate change.
Forest vegetation acts as a sponge during rainy season by absorbing and releasing water slowly which moderates water run-off, prevents floods and maintains water in streams. Illegal and uncontrolled logging caused the destruction of the vegetation and buffer zone along the river causing severe flooding. The central government must monitor the performance of the state government in forest resources management in order to stop illegal forest logging.
Sustainable economic development requires both economic development and environmental protection to co-exist. DAP has adopted a principle that is pro-green where economic development is equally important as environmental protection, not mutually exclusive.
Environmental protection is part of the solution. The time has come for the BN government to change their mindset and stop seeing environmental protection as part of the problem when it is part of our national solution to economic progress and ensuring a living natural heritage for our children.
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP