KUALA LUMPUR: The government aims to replace the Environmental Quality Act 1974 with a new act, which would see greater enforcement powers and stiffer punishments meted out to those who pollute the environment.
Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the new law would focus on boosting enforcement and legislative powers, given that current laws were insufficient to tackle environmental issues.
She said the bill was being drafted and once completed, could resolve environmental pollution issues, such as that in Sungai Kim Kim, Pasir Gudang, Johor, by providing heftier punishments.
“If we look at the Sungai Kim Kim incident, we can see that the act is insufficient. This is because the act was formulated in 1974 when the industry, housing and development were not at the pace they are now.
“Things have changed. We need a new act and we hope we can table it by the end of the year,” she said yesterday.
In early March, almost 6,000 Pasir Gudang residents were affected by toxic fumes caused by the illegal dumping of chemical substances into Sungai Kim Kim.
Three people were charged at the Sessions Court 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.
Yeo said her ministry would discuss the proposed law with stakeholders, including members of parliament, in the second quarter of the year before seeking approval from the attorney-general for it to be tabled in Parliament.
She said under the new law, the government aimed to streamline the enforcement and legal processes to make it easier to punish those who committed crimes against the environment.