KOTA KINABALU: The proposed amendment to the Environmental Quality Act 1974 is expected to be tabled in Parliament next year.
Department of Environment (DoE) deputy director-general (operations) Wan Latif Wan Jaffar said the amendment would see the Act to be known as Environmental Protection Act.
“We are expecting the amendment to be tabled next year as we already have a draft of it.
“The amendment would see jurisdiction of (DoE) being widened with increases in fines and penalties,” he said after launching a two-day seminar on Environmental Quality Act 1974 here.
Also present was Sabah DoE director Amirul Aripin.
On May 2, Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin had said that the government aimed to replace the Environmental Quality Act 1974 with a new Act, which would see greater enforcement powers as well as stiffer punishments for those who pollute the environment.
Her statement came two months after a big pollution incident in Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang, Johor.
In that early March incident, almost 6,000 Pasir Gudang residents were affected when illegal dumping of chemical substances into Sungai Kim Kim led to the release of toxic fumes. Many victims who fell sick were schoolchildren.
Since then, three people have been charged at the Sessions Court. They were charged under Section 34B(1)(a) of the Environmental Quality Act 1974, which carries a maximum of five years’ jail and a fine of not more than RM500,000 upon conviction.
On a related matter, Wan Latif said the DoE is working with experts to study the carrying capacity of industrial areas in Pasir Gudang.
“In that study, the experts would see the requirement to relocate industrial areas or other public institutions so that there is safe distance between industrial areas and public institutions.
“However, nothing is being finalised. But, once it is done, the outcomes will be presented to the government (for further actions),” he added.
Meanwhile, Amirul said the state had recently halted operations of a palm oil factory in Beluran which had polluted Sungai Segaliud by discharging effluents.
Other than that, the department had also fined a plantation in Sandakan RM60,000 for open burning.