THE Penang government wants independent bodies to conduct environmental impact assessment (EIA) and social impact assessment (SIA) studies for future development projects, instead of relying on developers to prepare them.
State Housing, Town, Country Planning and Local Government Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said he believeddevelopers preparing those crucial studies for projects could be open to abuse.
In making the suggestion to the Town and Country Planning Department (PLANMalaysia) at federal level, he said, at present the EIA and SIA studies prepared by project developers “could be catered to fit their projects.”
“The state executive council recently discussed the need for EIA and SIA studies to be doneby a separate entity, to ensure that the reports are trulyindependent,” he said at the Penang 2030 Social Impact Assessment seminar at Olive Tree Hotel in Bayan Lepas recently.
He stressed that if an EIA study is biased and the project gets approved, the state government could end up being blamed if any mishap such as a fatal landslide were to happen.
Jagdeep called on PLANMalaysia to consider getting the respective states to engage their own consultants to conduct EIA studies.
“The developer could contribute toward a common fund for the state to engage independentconsultants to prepare EIA and SIA studies for projects,” he said.
PLANMalaysia director-general Datuk Rokibah Abdul Latiff concurred that independentbodies should ideally be appointed to conduct the EIA or SIA for all projects.
“The problem we face is in the funding, as to who will fund these independent bodies to conduct the EIA and SIA. So, we are still in discussion as to how we can do this.
“The EIA and SIA must be independent and fair, with reports prepared by an impartial body,” she said adding that the department was looking at the optionof having the respective states engage their own consultants to conduct such studies.
Rokibah said at present, states were required to form their own committees to review SIA reports for small projects within theirterritory.
“This was following the amendment made to the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 requiring the submission of SIA for such projects.
“Each state will need its own committee to deliberate the SIA for small projects involving not more than 100 acres,” she said.
Earlier in his speech, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the state government planned to emulate New Zealand in approving only projects that scored well on the ‘welfare of the people’ test.
“Environmental and social impact studies are important but consideration must be given to the welfare of the people.
“If the project does not improve the welfare of the people, it should not be implemented.
“Similarly, at the state executive council level, the test on thepeople’s welfare will be implemented with regards to the Penang 2030 policy.
“It is a high standard we are placing upon ourselves,” he said.
Chow called for the Federal Government to ensure that all high-impact projects in the country be put through intense scrutiny.
“We do not mind being put under the microscope too, as it shows our commitment to comply with whatever requirements that the Federal agencies impose on Penang,” he said.
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