KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 — The federal government must amend the Environmental Quality Act 1974 as it is “inadequate” to handle modern-day pollution issues, said Johor’s Department of Environment (DoE).
According to Berita Harian, state DoE director Wan Abdul Latiff Wan Jaafar said the problem was also exacerbated by loopholes in the law that made it difficult to pursue polluters.
“Most importantly, the past Sungai Kim Kim dangerous chemical waste tragedy has revealed that the DoE had no powers including to investigate or monitor for the presence of dangerous chemical gasses in the Pasir Gudang surrounding areas,” he was quoted as saying.
Wan Abdul Latiff said the Act did not even provide for acceptable levels of chemical gas emissions, including acrolein — one of three toxic gasses found in the Johor area — and effectively prevented his department from taking further action.
The Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) needs to update existing laws to incorporate such parameters, he added.
In a separate report yesterday, Berita Harian also reported academic Dr Norzila Othman as suggesting that the country’s laws governing the environment be amended to allow for stiffer penalties and fines against polluters.
On Johor DoE’s plans to address pollution matters in the meantime, Wan Abdul Latiff said the Permanent Committee on Environment headed by Johor Local Government, Urban Well Being and Environment Committee chairman Tan Chen Choon will convene a meeting soon to discuss this.
According to him, the meeting is to coordinate related agencies on water pollution, air pollution as well as scheduled and toxic waste control issues in the state.
“The exco and I will monitor the relevant committees to ensure they begin their work to contain the pollution in the state primarily the Pasir Gudang and Straits of Johor.
“The meeting will commence as soon as possible to discuss the role of the respective committees and list down other agencies which could be involved in carrying out enforcement roles,” he said.
In June, dozens of students in Pasir Gudang, Johor, fell ill due to suspected air pollution, triggering fresh concerns in the area that was hit by illegal chemical dumping barely three months earlier.
The two incidents forced Putrajaya to re-evaluate existing laws and apparatus meant to detect and prevent such environmental disasters after both episodes caught authorities by surprise.
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