Powers of NREB to be enhanced

The Natural Resources and Environment Board ought to be empowered to allow better enforcement.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, who is also Second Minister of Urban Development and Resources, tabled the Bill at the August House here yesterday.

The Natural Resources and Environment (Amendment) Bill, 2019 aims to enhance the provisions relating to penalties and powers of NREB for better enforcement of laws and a more effective deterrent to combat noncompliance of environmental laws.

“Lack of accountability and poor compliance from various parties in particular the developers are the main causes of local haze pollution, water contamination and land degradation,” he said in when tabling the Bill yesterday.

“As such a deterrent penalty should be enforced on habitual offenders who intentionally cause environmental pollution, by imposing nine higher penalty for offences on illegal open burning, land and inland water pollution.

Awang Tengah urged that maximum penalties be increased for certain offences with the objective of deterring repeat and future offenders.

“To further enhance the enforcement of the NREB, the Bill also provides for protection of informers as well as provisions for rewards.

“Therefore, this proposed amendment aims to provide adequate protection and incentives for public and individuals who come forward in reporting and providing information on any irresponsible acts that caused land 10 degradation, water and air pollution,” he said.

Awang Tengah viewed that the amendment would allow more people to come forward to provide crucial information to the authorities, which are essential for a more successful enforcement of the state environmental laws.

“For the information of this August House, ‘Environment’ is not listed in the Federal, State or Concurrent Lists of the Federal Constitution.

“As such, Sarawak has the residual power to legislate on matters relating to the environment. As the government continues with its transformation agenda towards achieving a developed state status with a high-income economy by 2030, environmental issues are also becoming more complex and diverse,” he said.

He opined that the tabling of the new Bill was timely in ensuring that the implementation of planned socioeconomic transformation projects and development programmes be carried out in a sustainable manner.

“With this amendment, environmental agencies like the NREB will have the necessary regulatory power, adequate resources and capacity, leveraging on green technologies to mitigate these environmental risks and to ensure ecological sustainability.

“This amendment is necessary to help prepare the NREB, under MA63: Devolution of Powers, to accept additional responsibilities in managing the environment,” Awang Tengah added.

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