THE recent announcement by the Science, Technology and Environment Minister that all environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for development of highlands and islands are to be approved solely by the Federal Government is most welcome and long awaited.
Sadly, the sensitive ecosystems of Cameron Highlands, Pulau Tioman and Pulau Redang have already borne the consequence of poor evaluation of EIAs at the hands of the states.
Nevertheless, centralised approval for EIAs is the first step towards a more concerted national conservation agenda.
The Federal Government should now revisit the approval of land and related development matters currently residing with state governments and their municipal councils for such areas.
Pulau Redang is a case in point where even as a federally gazetted marine park, the Federal Government is not involved in the approval of the development plans.
Enforcement against land violations can only be carried out by the various state units. Also, turf issues often arise between the state departments, which clutter the effectiveness and swiftness of action.
If the objective of a marine park is to conserve the marine assets and acknowledging that what happens on land affects the water, shouldn’t the matters pertaining to development of the islands fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Marine Parks as well?
If the states are unable or do not have the resources or expertise to manage the conservation agenda of the nation, they should rightfully leave it to the Federal Government.
Enforcement should also be centralised under one unit within the Federal Government. Often, what falls under the Department of Environment, Marine Parks or other departments is not clear.
Conservation of our natural resources cannot always take a back seat. While money can be made in other ways, we have only one chance with nature.
I hope the Federal Government would continue with its push for the centralisation of environmental management as well as making conservation a key agenda for the nation.
THE DUGONG DUDE,
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