Lam Thye: Make water polluters pay

PETALING JAYA: The latest water disruption caused by the pollution in Sungai Semenyih brings to sharp focus the “Polluter Pays” principle, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (pic).

The Alliance for Safe Community chairman said the principle is a well-established maxim, that those who cause pollution should bear the cost of managing it to prevent damage to human health and the environment.

"It stands to reason that before the polluter can be asked to pay, he must first be identified.

"So, the question is ‘Why weren’t the polluters identified earlier?’, ” he said in a statement on Monday (Oct 5).

The latest incident, which is affecting more than 300,000 water account holders in 273 locations in Selangor, only came to light after the authorities received reports of a "foul smell, similar to that of a carcass", emanating from the river, he added.

"This incident comes fast on the heels of the recent Sungai Gong pollution, which also necessitated a shut down of piped water service, causing misery to countless account holders for the umpteenth time.

"In both these cases, the authorities only acted after the fact, not before as they should have," he added.

However, Lee commended Air Selangor for activating its emergency response plan to provide assistance to affected consumers.

"It’s fine to take the polluters to court later, but what about the consumers and their suffering for which they receive no compensation, and not even an assurance that it will not happen again. Enough is enough," Lee lamented.

The authorities should do more to prevent such cases from happening, he added.

"They have to be vigilant and proactive.

"It is not difficult to identify factories and activities along the rivers - upstream, midstream and downstream - and then conduct regular checks on them to ensure compliance with existing rules and regulations," he said.

Lee also called on the authorities to relocate the illegal factories and licence them if such a move is necessary.

"Stop saying you are investigating after an incident has happened.

"The rakyat would like the enforcers to act before incidents happen.

"It’s too late to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted.

"Put in new SOPs (standard operating procedures) if necessary to identify and rectify possible flashpoints to prevent yet another disruption," Lee said.

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