GEORGE TOWN, June 20 — The RM2,000 fine imposed on a landowner for illegal dumping was a mere slap on the wrist compared to the environmental damage and the dangers it caused, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) said today.
SAM president Meenakshi Raman said the fine was way too low and does not commensurate with the dangers it posed to the environment and the communities living nearby.
“Prosecuting the offender with the municipal bylaws is the wrong way to go as the punishment imposed is too paltry for an offence like this,” she said when commenting on the fine meted out on a landowner in Bukit Mertajam today.
She said there are other laws that could be used to carry higher sentences such as the Environmental Quality Act 1974 which should be taken by the Department of Environment (DoE) instead of the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP)
Section 24 of the act stipulated that no person shall pollute any soil or surface of any land failing which they can be fined of up to RM100,000 or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both and a further fine not exceeding RM1,000 a day for every day the offence is continued after a notice requiring him to cease the action that contravened the law.
“It is time that these types of environmental crimes should be taken more seriously. Otherwise offenders get away with light sentences,” she said.
According to a MPSP statement issued today, the landowner of a 6ha piece of land that was used as an illegal dumpsite pleaded guilty to a charge of illegal dumping under the Collection, Dumping and Disposal of Waste Bylaw (MPSP) 1994.
The maximum penalty under the bylaw is RM2,000 and MPSP said it would charge the same landowner with another offence of allowing the land to be turned into dumping ground, causing nuisance and turning it into a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes.
“We would push for a maximum RM1,000 fine on the owner in court and the Magistrate can also issue a Nuisance Order under the same bylaw,” it said in its statement.
The illegal dumpsite, filled with municipal waste and rejected okra powder from China, was uncovered on a piece of land inside an oil palm estate in Machang Bubok back in March this year.
According to MPSP, a sawmill factory next to the dumping ground was charged for violating the Licencing Fees Bylaw (MPSP) 1980 as it was operating without a valid license.
The company owner pleaded guilty to the charge and was fined the maximum of RM2,000.
MPSP President Datuk Rozali Mohamud, when contacted, said the council is still collecting more evidence to charge the landowner and company owner under other laws with heavier penalties.