Come down hard on culprits


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  • Thursday, 23 Aug 2018

The skyline over Miri at the peak of wildfires last week. — Stephen Then / The Star

MIRI: There are claims that certain unscrupulous landowners are using the current hot weather as an excuse to set fire to clear the forest-vegetation on their unused vacant land in Sarawak.

The latest forest-fires in Sarawak had contributed to air pollution over the past week or so in numerous districts.

One of the badly-hit was Kuala Baram district, located 25km north of Miri city.

Kuala Baram is a big district stretching from Miri city outskirts all the way to the Sarawak-Brunei border.

There are 11 mega landowners in Kuala Baram district alone.

They own all sorts of companies involved in development projects in Kuala Baram and other parts of Miri.

They have vast areas of land under their possession in Kuala Baram and Miri.

There are claims that some of them resort to open burning to clear their vacant land.

Of course, none had ever been caught red-handed setting fires on their land.

There are also claims that their ground workers are the ones setting off the fires.

There are also claims that illegal farmers and squatters are the culprits setting off these fires on purpose.

Whatever it may be, the state authorities such as the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) must be extra strict with these landowners and make sure they are not indulging in open-burning activities on their land to clear agriculture wastes.

These landowners must be held responsible for any big fires on their land regardless of how these fires started or who set them off.

The Department of Environment too must flex their muscles in this issue since the forest-fires are causing health concerns, not just environmental woes.

Kuala Baram has notched up a notorious reputation for haze. The Air Pollutant Index there two years ago at one point reached more than 450 before dropping to about 300 plus.

All open burning permits must be revoked. The NREB is the one issuing these permits. Stop giving out such permits to these landowners.

There are greener methods to clear agriculture wastes without using fires that is threatening the health of the public.

The Sarawak government, NREB and DOE must show no mercy on these open-burning culprits, especially the mega-landowners on whose land are causing the choking haze.

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