Sarawak comes down hard on open burning culprits


KUCHING: Open burning offenders in Sarawak will face stiffer penalties following amendments to the state’s Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance.

The proposed penalty for illegal open burning is increased from a fine of RM20,000 or three years’ jail to RM100,000 fine or five years’ jail.

For a continuing offence, offenders will face a further fine not exceeding RM1,000 per day under the amendments passed by the state legislative assembly yesterday.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the increased penalties would serve as a more effective deterrent against environmental offences.

The amendments also expanded the regulations covering open burning, particularly those related to commercial farming, to facilitate better compliance with environmental needs and practices.

“The government has decided to regulate open burning activities on native customary land areas involved in commercial farming.

“This amendment aims to minimise haze pollution from local sources and is consistent with the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil certification requirement for smallholders to comply with local environmental regulations,” Awang Tengah said when tabling the Natural Resources and Environment (Amendment) Bill.

However, he said this would not affect traditional slash-and-burn farming practised by Sarawak’s rural communities.

“For slash-and-burn involving (an area) less than 40ha, such activities can be permitted and controlled by the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) via an order issued under Section 10(2) of the principal Ordinance.

“Therefore, smallholders involved in this activity will not be required to apply for a permit each time they wish to carry out slash-and-burn as they are given blanket approval under this order.

“However, we will not allow any open burning, including backyard burning, when the air pollutant index exceeds 100 and the fire weather index exceeds seven as well as during haze. If they do, we will go after them,” he added.

The Bill also provides for the protection of informers and incentives for individuals who come forward to report irresponsible acts that cause land degradation and water and air pollution.

“This would encourage more people to come forward to provide crucial information to the authorities, which is essential for a more successful enforcement of state environmental laws,” said Awang Tengah.

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