Govt urged to table higher penalties against polluters soon

AWER suggests 2 immediate actions and 5 long-term solutions including raw water tariff based on raw water quality and a closed looped chemical database

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by TMR FILE

THE government should table an enabler clause in the existing Environmental Quality Act 1974 to allow the affected parties, including domestic consumers and businesses, to claim compensation due to water pollution.

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) president S Piarapakaran (picture) proposed the government to include the clause and table it in the next parliamentary sitting, so the law can be enforced by January next year.

He said it is obvious to everyone that the low penalty fees did not deter offenders from causing pollution despite being caught before.

“The Department of Environment (DoE) may utilise the clause to approve the claim and the penalty that should be addressed to the polluters,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Piarapakaran said this enabler clause may allow the DoE to freeze the assets of the wrongdoer, equivalent to the total amount of money they owe to the lawsuit.

Additionally, the clause would make the claim processes simpler and effective as it could be delivered by the court, together with imposing penalties and clean-up costs on the culprits.

Last week, up to five million users or 1.2 million households in the Klang Valley suffered an unscheduled water supply disruption due to a pollution incident at Sg Gong, Selangor.

The King, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, decreed that those involved in causing the pollution be taken to court and, if convicted, be punished with heavier penalties.

“His Majesty has also expressed sympathy to the people who had to queue up to get a pail of water every time the water supply is disrupted,” Comptroller of the Royal Household of Istana Negara Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said in a statement on Monday.

AWER has also submitted letters to the prime minister, members of the Cabinet and the chief secretary to the government on a few immediate solutions (by this year) and long term-solution (in 12th Malaysia Plan) for their immediate action.

Piarapakaran said AWER suggested two immediate actions and five long-term solutions including raw water tariff based on raw water quality, a closed looped chemical database and for the local government to develop mechanisms to detect the type of waste produced.

“Local government must assist in the verification process for the chemical database. With training from the DoE, local authority officers can assist to establish the type of waste produced by a business entity (solid, liquid or gaseous).

“The immediate target zones are all drainage and rivers that lead to main rivers which are source of raw water for drinking and agriculture activity to be carried out between 2021 and 2022. Followed by two more phases to cover all rivers by 2025,” he said in a statement yesterday.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said it has opened an investigation paper to determine whether there is any element of corruption, including in the enforcement agencies.

As of yesterday morning, water supply to 1,156 areas or 89.47% of the 1,292 affected by unscheduled water cuts in the Klang Valley has been fully restored.

Lawyer Lim Wei Jiet said affected companies can file a suit against the polluting factory under the tort of public nuisance.

He said if they are successful, they can claim damages for the inconvenience suffered.

“However, if the aim is to recuperate the business losses resulting from the water cuts, it may be difficult to establish a cause of action against the polluting factory.

“Instead, they may sue Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdb Bhd and/or the Selangor state government if it can be proven they had been negligent in handling the matter after the pollution had occurred,” he told TMR.