Polluters to feel full force of the law

A cafe at Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur have to close over the water distrubtion. -YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

PETALING JAYA: The Environment and Water Ministry has made it clear that there is no compromise for offenders who pollute water sources.

In fact, Minister Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said that amendments to existing laws would be hastened so that heavier penalties could be given out to these wrongdoers as a lesson to them.

The amendments would involve the Water Services Industries Act and the Environmental Quality Act.

“These laws can be used to hit the river polluters hard so that millions of people do not have to go high and dry every time there is a pollution,” he said.

The ministry would not compromise in laying down the provisions of the laws on these culprits, he said in a statement yesterday, in reference to the latest case of pollution which led to a massive water cut on Thursday.

The water cut impacted 1,292 areas in seven districts of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

Charles Santiago, the former chairman of the National Water Services Commission (SPAN), said the Federal Government must hit the river polluters hard.

“It’s really about hitting them where it hurts. Imposing a fine of RM60,000, for example, doesn’t stop big companies from polluting waterways,” he said.

Their operating licence, he said, must be revoked and they should not be allowed to operate for the next five years.

Santiago said the latest water disruption had burdened the people who were already troubled by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This adds even more financial pressure on people and companies that are already facing economic hardship due to Covid-19.

“The government needs to act now to send a strong message to look at managing waste in an efficient manner or companies won’t stop polluting rivers and water sources.”

Santiago reiterated his idea of making rivers fall under the purview of national security and ensuring there is a security buffer on both sides of the river.

“I suggested this when I was in SPAN. I am willing to work with the government on this idea again if it will be for the betterment of the people,” said Santiago.

Lawyer Derek Fernandez, when contacted, said SPAN which comes under the Federal Government, had powers to bring offenders to book.

He cited the Water Services Industries Act, which allows SPAN full powers to investigate and prosecute water pollution offenders.

“It authorises SPAN to hold a public inquiry if it suspects there is water pollution. SPAN can also investigate and obtain a warrant to search and enter with powers of investigation as provided under the Penal Code.

“They can exercise all investigative powers like the police under the Criminal Procedure Code.

“Under the Act, SPAN can obtain a warrant to enter and search any premises based on information of an offence of water pollution.”

He noted that Section 121 of the Act made it clear that it was an offence to contaminate any form of water supply.

The culprits could face a penalty up to RM500,000 or a maximum of 10 years’ jail or whipping or all three together, he said.

“No one has ever paid this penalty for such a crime despite pouring down toxic waste in water sources and shutting down supply to about half a million of households again and again,” said Fernandez.

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