PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has suggested stiffer penalties, including a jail sentence, against those who disregard the environmental laws for profit.
He said that unless the law was changed to include a jail sentence against greedy developers, such acts like the levelling of hills in Cameron Highlands would continue unabated.
“The law will be effective if there is a provision for stiffer penalties, including a jail sentence. If the provision only provides for fines, it will never be effective,” he told reporters after opening the Taman Botani in conjunction with Putrajaya's second anniversary as a Federal Territory here yesterday.
He said the Government would also look at how environmental laws under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment could be made to apply on state governments which governed land matters in their respective states.
It was reported that the Cameron Highlands district office had lodged a police report on Saturday against contractors for illegally using heavy machinery to clear and develop an eight-hectare piece of land on the hill station.
In his opening speech, Dr Mahathir said he was disturbed when he read about the use of heavy machinery to level hills in Cameron Highlands.
He said the activities and the felling of trees had reduced the area to look no different from other flatland.
Dr Mahathir said indiscriminate levelling of hills on the highlands had not only affected their environmental beauty but would also cause the temperature to increase.
“We are very sad with what happened in Cameron Highlands as the area now looks more like a flatland rather than a highland. This is the work of greedy developers who are only concerned with profits.
“I don’t understand why they chose a hilly area to develop their projects,
level the hills and cut down all the trees. If that is what they planned to do, then they should just stick to areas that have already been levelled.
“People go to highlands to enjoy the beautiful scenery but if all the hills and trees have been cut, there is no longer any difference between such areas and other areas in the country,” he added.
Dr Mahathir said a smart developer would try to retain most of the natural beauty and environment of the area it planned to develop as that would guarantee a very good value for the property.
Praising the good work of Putrajaya Holdings in balancing the need to protect the environment and the development of land, Dr Mahathir said:
“With the sensitivities shown by Putrajaya Holdings in planting trees to replace most of the oil palm trees that needed to be cleared for development, Putrajaya has remained green.”
He said that with 13 public parks, including Taman Botani, Putrajaya held the record for having so many parks although it spanned only an area of 4,500ha.
On the garden, Dr Mahathir said it could be turned into a learning centre for the people, especially those who were not well versed about the country’s rich source of flora and fauna.
“Ours is a tropical country boasting of many types of plants, but sadly some have become extinct. This garden can provide an avenue for people to learn about the abundant plant species that we have,” he added.
In Kuantan, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob said the company had repeatedly flouted conditions stipulated by the Cameron Highlands land office concerning the clearing of the slope.
“In fact the company had been fined RM2,000 for violating the conditions by bringing heavy machinery and not covering the slope with tarpaulin to prevent soil erosion,” he said.
The company bought 26ha of land from another company and 11ha had been cleared to plant tomatoes.
“However, after flouting the conditions for the second time, the land office issued an immediate stop-work order on Jan 30.
“This order is supported by the Pahang Government until further notice and work will only be allowed to resume after the conditions are met,” he told reporters yesterday.
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