PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has been ranked poorly in terms of environmental democratic rights, coming in 69th of 70 countries surveyed worldwide.
Scoring an overall 0.58 out of three points on the US-based World Resources Institute's Environmental Democracy Index, narrowly beating Haiti.
Lithuania scored highest worldwide, with an overall score of 2.42, followed by Latvia at 2.31 and Russia at 2.25. The global average score is 1.42.
In Southeast Asia, Indonesia came out tops with a score of 1.8, followed by Thailand at 1.38 and the Philippines at 1.35.
There was no score given for Singapore and Brunei.
The index tracks a country's progress in coming up with national laws to promote transparency, accountability and public engagement.
It measures how well these laws are in giving the public information, allowing public input in decision-making and the seeking in enforcement of environmental laws or compensation for damages.
Malaysia was given very poor mark marks in transparency and public engagement, with only a fair score where justice was concerned.
The index said Malaysian government agencies were not obliged to give the public a chance to take part in an early stage of environment decision-making.
Authorities were found as not obligated in making environment and public health information available to the public.
In an example, it alleged that drinking water quality for Kuala Lumpur was not made public.
It said that state government agencies were not required to account for public comments in decision-making.
"The public is provided with the right to participate in environmental decision making in only a limited set of circumstances," it said.
Malaysian law, the index said, failed to provide for timely enforcement of criminal, civil and administrative decisions on the environment.
"...The public is not granted broad standing to file environmental claims in court," it said.
The index added that the Malaysia's score may not reflect the full extent of access rights given to citizens in a federal country.
This, it said, was because Malaysia had state laws that could affect rights covered by federal law.
The Star learned that the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is in the midst of drafting a reply on the matter.
For more information, visit http://www.environmentaldemocracyindex.org/country/MYS