States given power to monitor environmental issues


THE federal government has granted greater authority to state governments to better monitor and tackle environmental pollution across the country.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry (MESTECC), in a statement yesterday said it reached a consensus with state representatives to set up a standing committee in each state as part of efforts to create a more comprehensive environmental monitoring system.

The ministry said the move was made to ensure that pollution in all states can be effectively prevented through increased cooperation between the Department of Environment (DoE) and state authorities.

MESTECC has also given authority to environment state executive councillors to head joint monitoring operations on state rivers, illegal waste factories and landfills in each state. It said the transfer of power will promote tougher law enforcement on persons or parties found guilty of pollution.

The news came on the back of a series of pollution-linked episodes involving residents in Selangor and Johor as well as the government’s ongoing battle against plastic waste.

Johor Mentri Besar (MB) Datuk Dr Sahruddin Jamal yesterday apologised for the recurring pollution in the Pasir Gudang district that has affected the health of locals there since June 20.

Bernama reported him as saying that there was indeed room for improvement in addressing the incident.

“As the head of the state government, I humbly apologise to the people of Pasir Gudang and pledge to work on overcoming our weaknesses,” he was quoted as saying at the Townhall Session on Current Issues at Pasir Gudang, at the Pasir Gudang Municipal Council Indoor Stadium.

According to Dr Sahruddin, the state government had already taken various measures to ensure that all affected residents receive proper protection and to ensure the safety and health of students.

“We deeply regret and saddened by the fact that all those development projects planned for this town did not take into account the sustainability and long-term impact on the people in Pasir Gudang.

“Let’s not play the blame game because it won’t solve the problem. From today onwards, we will take the responsibility to find the best solution to this problem so that it will not recur,” he said.

However, the MB said the problem could not be solved overnight, as the solution must be designed with great care in the interests of all parties for the benefit of future generations.

Meanwhile, the ministry is expected to engage with the DoE to increase the fine on illegal plant operators by amending the Environmental Quality Act 1974. MESTECC said it will gather feedback and review the legal framework on environmental protection in order to revise the Act.

At the same time, state governments are expected to direct their focus towards improving the quality of river waters, including to identify and manage sources of wastes discharged into waterways.

On the regional front, MESTECC along with the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry and the Foreign Affairs Ministry will hold a joint committee on environment with the Thailand government to address trans-boundary environmental issues.

Malaysia, Singapore, and parts of Thailand and Indonesia are currently experiencing a spell of haze as the latter grapples land and forest fires in the Riau and Jambi provinces in Sumatra and southern parts of Kalimantan.

Six provinces in Indonesia have declared a state of emergency, while areas in Malaysia including Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negri Sembilan and Penang have already been affected by the haze due to the fires in Riau.