Knee-jerk reactions won’t help, says environmentalist Shariffa Sabrina

The Association for the Protection of the Natural Heritage of Malaysia (Peka) says a special task force to prevent environmental crimes is long overdue but the government must be more proactive in keeping the environment clean.

It also says putting the environment ahead of profit is a must or nothing will work.

Environment and Water Minister Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man earlier today said an elite environmental crime prevention unit will be set up.

The task force will comprise personnel from the Department of Environment, Water Services Commission (SPAN), Biosafety Department and the police.

“The only way Malaysia can help the environment is if the authorities stop letting economic benefits override environmental safety measures,” said Peka president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil.

“There should also be larger fines and harsher punishments for those who harm the environment, otherwise, this (task force) will not deter the polluters.

“There has been so much talk in the past but not much action,” she said, referring to a series of cases involving dumping in rivers with the latest two weeks ago.

She added that when pollution happens, the public is never compensated while the polluters get off with a slap on the wrist.

A total of 1,292 areas in the Klang Valley, Petaling, Klang, Shah Alam, Kuala Selangor, Hulu Selangor, Gombak and Kuala Langat involving some 1.2 million consumer accounts, were affected by the unscheduled water cut when four Sungai Selangor water treatment plants had to suspend operations on Sept 3.

Investigations revealed a factory had allegedly released solvent into Sungai Gong which flows into Sungai Sembah – one of the main tributaries of Sungai Selangor.

Four factory managers were subsequently remanded. Tuan Ibrahim said today investigation papers were submitted to the Attorney-General’s Chambers last week.

“The fines these culprits pay are minuscule compared to their profits. What incentive is there then for them to stop doing it?” Shariffa Sabrina asked.

“They would rather pay a small fine or in some cases, bribes, and go on polluting the environment,” she said.

She added no one has solved the root of the problem – the issuance of licences and permits to set up factories near rivers.

On the task force, Shariffa Sabrina said: “It may serve as a temporary solution.

“A long-term strategy must be in place to ensure the root of the problem is addressed. The proposal to amend the Environmental Quality Act (EQA) 1974 must also be revisited.

“A new EQA with a wider scope, better investigative and enforcement powers, deterrent sentences, and compensation for victims is needed. Empowering the public to appoint local government officials by way of an election also enables some form of check and balance.”

She added Peka wants an adequate allocation in the 2020 budget to ensure sustainable growth, protection of primary forests and all watercourses. There must be transparency on how the funds are allocated.

“It is quickly becoming a situation in Malaysia whereby there is water everywhere, but there may soon not be a drop that is safe to drink!”

Here’s the round-up of The News Normal today.

KL EATERIES, CONVENIENCE STORES CAN OPEN UNTIL 2AM AFTER ALL

Kuala Lumpur City Hall has confirmed that eateries and convenience stores can operate up to 2am beginning today.

City Hall had earlier announced it wouldn’t adhere to the National Security Council’s directive on the timing and instead stick to the midnight closing time for the Recovery Movement Control Order.

PUPPETS IN THE SHADOWS AS THEY ARE BEING PRESERVED

The absence of several wayang kulit puppets, including Maharaja Rawana, Hanuman Kera Putih and Sita Dewi at The Malay World Ethnology Museum, has raised eyebrows.

But its curator explained the artefacts are being preserved.

CHANNEL YOUR INNER SYLVESTER STALLONE

Remember the movie Over the Top? It starred Sylvester Stallone as a trucker who becomes an arm-wrestling champion to bond with his son.

Well, now you can channel your inner Stallone by competing in the Super 16 Armwrestling tournament on Saturday at Residence Inn, Cherating.