Get tough with the enforcers

  • Letters
  • Friday, 15 Mar 2019

Consequences: A notice being posted announcing SMK Pasir Putih’s closure following the chemical spill.

I BELIEVE that the mega pollution incident at Sungai Kim Kim in Johor will not be the last. This is how sceptical and cynical I have become.

It will happen again and again if our enforcement agencies are inept and corrupt. It is wishful thinking to leave the preservation of our environment to the good conscience of individuals.

We must understand simple economics: No one has the inherent interest to preserve the fish in sea, the trees in the forests or to keep the rivers and catchment areas pristine and clean. The market mechanism will not be able price in pollution and charge those who committed it to pay accordingly.

Unless the state puts its foot down, over-fishing our seas, stealing and over-harvesting timber from our forests, and creating pollutants in industrial processes are the “natural” things to do by individuals. They accrue benefits to themselves but pass the costs on to be borne by society at large. Ask yourself who is paying the RM6.4mil needed to clean up Sungai Kim Kim now, the one who polluted the river or us, society?

If we continue with our present way of doing things, the situation will only become worse as the country becomes more populated and industrialised.

I have said this before, please allow me to say it again: It is time to hold enforcement agencies and their respective ministers/excos accountable for all the baloney that is going on, such as stealing state land and over-harvesting timber and overfishing and massive pollution.

When toxic wastes are released into the rivers or atmosphere affecting hundreds of people, there must be sources of these wastes.

What do our enforcement agencies do? Do they monitor and check all the factories or do they just sit around and wait for pollutants to be released into the rivers or atmosphere first?

When state timber was being stolen, why was it so difficult to notice? Could no one see giant timber trucks moving in and out of the forest areas?

When state lands were being illegally occupied for the cultivation of crops, why was it so difficult to notice? Are enforcement agencies blind and deaf?

Not to worry, I can expect some ready answers why our enforcement agencies are so ineffective – “lack of manpower and difficulty in detecting all illegal activities”.

But do we not have the most bloated civil service in the world? Why is it always “tak cukup kakitangan” (not enough manpower)?

And why is it so difficult to detect thefts and sources of pollution? For goodness sake, these are incidents of mega stealing and massive pollution, not stealing a chicken or buffalo from a kampung.

Let’s cut a long story short. Enforcement agencies and their ministers/excos must be held responsible. They cannot claim ignorance or innocence each time a major fiasco happens on their watch.

For example, we want to know who the officers in charge of the environment in Pasir Gudang are. Disciplinary and legal actions must be taken if they are found to be negligent or corrupt.

I am sure the situation will improve if we are persistent in holding the enforcement agencies accountable. Otherwise we can carry on talking and sighing every few months.


Taman Tun Dr Ismail,

Kuala Lumpur

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