PETALING JAYA: It is difficult to stop open burning in the Johan Setia peatlands as the sites are deserted when enforcement officers arrive to investigate, said Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.
The Natural Resources and Environment Minister said the officers would then have to identify the land owner before they can start the investigation and prosecution process.
“Frequently, fires are found to be raging in road reserve land which do not have any owners so no prosecution can be carried out,” he said.
Wan Junaidi said that the real cause of open burning in Johan Setia is an economic issue.
“The people here break the law because they are trying to survive (by making an income through farming),” he said.
From 2011 to 2017, 47 investigation papers were opened and 43 cases filed in court for open burning cases. The remaining four are currently under investigation.
A total of RM78,400 in compounds and penalties have been charged for the cases in the Johan Setia area.
On extinguishing the fires, Wan Junaidi said that the Fire Department faces a lack of water resources for the task.
"The Department of Environment has been looking into ways of obtaining groundwater through a study conducted by the Minerals and Geoscience Department,” he said.
He added that they will also implement the Peatland Fire Prevention programme by constructing five dams in Johan Setia to irrigate the areas and keep the peatland wet.
He added that the ministry also carries out the Open Burning Prevention Action plan by patrolling the area daily with a Pollution Monitoring Team.
The operations involved the Klang City Council, Department of Environment, police, Justice Department, Land Offices and Immigration Department.
Wan Junaidi hoped the construction of the proposed LRT 3 project from Johan Setia to Bandar Utama will spur development in the area and gradually stop the open burning.
However, he said that “not every single action is fruitful” and the issue of open burning at Johan Setia was recently tabled at a State Legislative Council meeting.
"The state government has committed to implementing the seizure of the land from owners who are repeat offenders and have been convicted of recurring open burning offences," he said.