Penang exco calls for environmental and social impact reports to be independent

PLANMalaysia director general Datuk Rokibah Abdul Latif speaks to reporters after the conference in George Town February 19, 2019. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
PLANMalaysia director general Datuk Rokibah Abdul Latif speaks to reporters after the conference in George Town February 19, 2019. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Feb 19 ― Penang state executive councillor Jagdeep Singh Deo wants environmental impact assessment (EIA) and social impact impact assessment (SIA) reports to be conducted by independent bodies instead of by project developers.

The state local government, housing development, town and country planning committee chairman proposed to the Town and Country Planning Department (PLANMalaysia) to  look into making it a requirement for independent bodies to submit EIA and SIA reports.

He said currently, EIA and SIA reports are prepared by developers of the projects which can be “catered” to fit the projects.

“The state exco recently discussed this issue and the need for EIA and SIA to be independent documents to ensure that the reports are independent,” he said.

He said asking a developer to prepare the reports for their own projects will lead to abuse.

“We hope PLANMalaysia will have a discussion on how to overcome this,” he said.

He added that if the EIA was not impartial and the project was approved, if any mishaps were to happen such as a landslide that caused deaths, the blame will fall on the government.

“When such incidents happen, the state government will have to answer to the people, I have to answer to the people, the chief minister has to answer to the people,” he said.

Later, in a press conference, PLANMalaysia director general Datuk Rokibah Abdul Latif agreed that independent bodies should be appointed to conduct EIA or SIA for all projects.

“The issue we face is in the funding, who will fund these independent bodies to conduct the EIA and SIA, so we are still discussing how we can do this,” she said.

She said EIA and SIA must be independent and fair reports prepared by an impartial body.

Jagdeep said there were models in other countries to address this issue.

“In terms of funding, if a developer engages a consultant, the developer will pay the consultant so it will not be impartial,” he said.

He referred to jurisdictions overseas where the developer has to pay the state and the state will have a fund to engage independent consultants to pay for the preparation of EIA and SIA.

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