Special task force formed to tackle environmental crimes

Amendments of environmental laws will see harsher punishments imposed on offenders, says minister


A SPECIAL task force has been established to look into environmental crimes committed in the country and to set out justifiable punishments for the culprits.

Environment and Water Minister Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (picture) said the environmental crimes unit, which is a collaboration between the Home Affairs Ministry (KDN), Department of Environment, National Water Services Commission, Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) and Department of Biosafety, is expected to commence enforcement next month.

The task force permits PDRM to take immediate action on environmental criminals as it has been granted the power to arrest under the Environmental Quality Act 1974 and the Water Services Industry Act 2006. Previously, PDRM only had the power to enforce the Biosafety Act 2007 against polluters.

“The complexity in environmental enforcement requires structural changes within the government as the agencies need logistical and forensics support, adequate enforcement officers and tighter laws.

“From the meeting between KDN and the Environment and Water Ministry (yesterday), an environmental crimes unit was set up which involves several agencies under the ministry,” Tuan Ibrahim said at a press conference in Putrajaya yesterday.

He said additional funds will be requested from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service Department to increase the number of enforcement officers, based on the urgency of the cases reported and investigated by the task force.

Tuan Ibrahim said the amendments of Malaysia’s environmental laws will see harsher punishments imposed on the offenders.

Among the proposed amendments are higher compound rates, stern action in suspending the culprits’ business licences and putting the cost of the cleaning process for river pollution on the offenders.

“We will raise the amount of compound issued to the culprits as the rate that we have right now is too low.

“The ministry will also make sure that the cost of the cleaning process for river pollution is at the expense of the factories responsible for waste dumping.”

He said the process of amending the Environment Quality Act 1974 and the Water Services Industry Act 2006 is currently underway and that the amendments are expected to be brought to the Parliament during the next session.

The Sungai Gong pollution early this month was the latest fiasco after discharged effluent was found in the river, causing disruption in water supply to 1.2 million people.

Four managers of a factory in Rawang, suspected to be involved in the industrial waste dumping at the river, have been remanded.

PDRM submitted its investigation papers on the incident to the Attorney General’s Chambers last week.

Tuan Ibrahim said the offenders of the Sungai Gong pollution could be charged under Section 43 of the Environment Quality Act 1974.

“Under the Act, we could take action against the company’s CEO, managers, directors or officers who are involved in the crime.”