Sustainable development state’s priority agenda

KUCHING: As the government continues with its agenda of turning Sarawak into a developed state with high-income economy by 2030, it is mindful of its moral and social responsibility to safeguard the environment and to sustainably manage and conserve the natural resources.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg stated this yesterday at the 9th Sarawak Chief Minister’s Environmental Award (CMEA) 2019/2020 presentation ceremony held at Imperial Hotel here.

The event was live-streamed on the Facebook page of the Sarawak Public Communication Unit yesterday (Sept 13).

“The Sarawak government has emphasised that sustainable development is its priority agenda and it is committed to striking a balance between the need for development and safeguarding the well-being of the people.

“Our ultimate goal is to have an environment that is decent and with the highest quality and respect for all living creatures.

“Thus, on July 22, I launched the Post Covid-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) 2030 with the objectives to prosper the state and our people whilst simultaneously protecting the environment and staying true to the state’s sustainable development goals,” said Abang Johari.

“Our emphasis on environmental sustainability is to pave the way for more investment flows into Sarawak that will co-create solutions, more green jobs and business opportunities to drive our economy in a sustainable manner,” he added.

To strengthen environment management, the chief minister revealed that the Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance had been amended.

“The amendment of the Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance (Amendment) Bill 2019 has enabled the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) to strengthen the regulatory mechanism for sustainable management of natural resources and the protection of environmental quality in Sarawak.

“With the amendment, open burning activities on Native Customary Land (NCL) for commercial purposes are now regulated to ensure that the implementation of socio-economic transformation projects and programmes in the state are carried out in a sustainable manner,” he said.

He explained that the amendment had also increased the penalties to RM100,000 for all environmental offences on land pollution, inland water contamination and open burning.

“The amendment of the Ordinance also includes categorisation of the NREB staff as public officers within the meaning of the Environmental Quality Act (EQA) 1974 to enable transfer of enforcement power from the Federal Department of Environment Malaysia.

“This revision is necessary for the state to accept — under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) – Transfer of Autonomy — additional responsibility in managing environmental matters under the current Federal Environment Quality Act 1974,” he said, adding that this was another success of the state in its MA63 negotiation.

Sarawak now, he pointed out, had complete control in managing its environmental matters.

In this respect, Abang Johari urged NREB to be better prepared and to plan strategically to chart its direction for the next 10 years, with adequate resources and competent manpower, supported by effective and adaptable legislation, regulations, guidelines and rules and equipped with technological cutting-edge systems in order to effectively play its mandated roles and responsibilities.

“Unlike other areas where efforts can be ad-hoc and piecemeal, matters on the environment have to be well-planned, consistent and concerted.

“For this reason, all sectors of industries, the government, and local communities have to rally their support and work together to ensure that everyone complements each other’s efforts in caring for the environment for the benefit of the present and future generations,” he stressed.