Penang wants prison time for illegal waste disposal

Penang exco Phee Boon Poh speaks to reporters during a press conference on plastic usage in George Town July 1, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang exco Phee Boon Poh speaks to reporters during a press conference on plastic usage in George Town July 1, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, July 1 ― Penang will seek to jail and more heavily fine those who illegally dump refuse in the state, exco Phee Boon Poh said today.

The state welfare, caring society and environment committee chairman said a deterrent was needed to stop illegal dumping.

“We are looking for a way to bring those who illegally dump wastes to justice by not only seeking for a compound but to make sure that they serve time in jail,” he said.

He said there were legal provisions, especially under the Environment Quality Act 1974, that prescribes imprisonment or a compound or both.

“We will push for imprisonment and compound, not only a compound, so that these people will toe the line,” he said.

He added that the drivers of lorries found dumping waste illegally will also be hauled in along with the major shareholders of the companies instructing the drivers to dump the waste.

“The major shareholders of these companies are often the ones giving the instruction so they too will face the law,” he said.

Phee said at the federal level, the state’s legal advisors are meeting with the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to come up with new laws to govern the “zero plastic bags” and “no single-use plastics” programmes which will be rolled out nationwide in stages.

“The legal advisers are meeting tomorrow to discuss coming up with an act on this but it will take time, one step at a time as other states are slowly implementing these programmes,” he said.

He said it could be a separate federal law on its own or it could be an amendment to an existing law, depending on the discussions with the relevant ministries.

He said even the Environmental Quality Act 1974 has tough punishments but some of its compounds can be increased to RM500,000 through amendments.

Meanwhile, Phee said Penang will form a special committee to conduct a survey on the waterways quality in the state.

“This special committee will build a data baseline for the waterways in Penang which includes the rivers and seas in and around the state,” he said.

He said the survey will also look on land such as fertilisers and pesticides used in farms as there is surface runoff that leads into the waterways.

“We will look at the discharges in the aquaculture and agriculture industries, we will also look at the feedmeal used in fish farms and other land farms,” he said.

He said Penang will also work with Kedah on this as Penang obtains most of its water supply from Muda River which flows down from neighbouring state.

“If we study the water flow, what was used in Kedah will have an effect in Penang,” he said.

He said the river flowed through Yan and Merbok and that there was iron ore mining in Yan which could possibly leach heavy metals into the waterways.

He said there were recent reports of higher iron in fish and seafood so there is a need to conduct this survey.

“We have to take samples and do lab tests to create our data baseline,” he said.

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