MIRI: Jolted by the haze and forest fire scare here during the past week, Sarawak will invoke a tough law to punish landowners for open burning even though they may not have started the fires on their land.
The Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) would invoke Sect 30C of the NREB Ordinance whereby landowners would be deemed criminally liable for all open burning on their land even if the fires were started by outsiders.
NREB assistant state controller (enforcement) Dania Goyog said the board had to resort to very strict measures to curb open-burning on private land because the incidence had become rampant.
“Under this section, if a fire occurred on land of a private owner, and the owner did not take any action to douse the fire, we will immediately presume they are responsible for the offence (of open burning).
“We can take legal action against the landowners on-the-spot,” he said.
NREB normally acted against those directly responsible for starting the fires such as managers and workers of sawmills or plantations who blatantly burned their waste products in the open.
NREB has increased the sentences for open-burning offenders – fines have gone up ten-fold to between RM20,000 and RM500,000 and there is now a mandatory jail term of up to three years.
Meanwhile, most of the fires in the Miri Division have already been extinguished by firemen and the cloud-seedings have brought rain over the past two days. The air quality in Miri Division has returned to a healthy level.