PETALING JAYA • Stiffer penalties of up to RM5 million (S$1.65 million) in fines will be imposed for environmental offences under a new Act that is currently being drafted.
A trust fund is also being set up to reward whistle-blowers and for effective enforcement.
These moves come in the wake of the recent toxic waste dumping into Johor's Sungai Kim Kim, which at its peak sent more than 4,000 people to hospitals in Pasir Gudang.
The recent controversy over illegally imported plastic waste has also prompted work on the new Act.
Among other things, there will be hefty fines for offences across the board, much heavier than those imposed under the current Environmental Quality Act 1974.
For instance, failure to carry out an environmental impact assessment report will result in a fine of up to RM1 million or a maximum five years in prison, or both.
Culprits will also face a daily fine of RM5,000 for as long as the offence they have committed continues after the issuance of a notice.
Previously, offenders were liable to a fine of not more than RM500,000 or a prison term of up to five years.
Provisions, which deal with restrictions against air, noise, land, inland waters and marine pollution, as well as open burning, will also see heavier fines.
These range from a maximum RM5 million fine for discharging oil into Malaysian waters to a RM100,000 fine for open burning offences. Most of the pollution offences come with up to five years in jail and additional fines on a daily basis.
There is also a suggestion to restrict placement, disposal, delivery or transit of scheduled waste without government approval. Should this happen, jail time of a maximum five years and a fine of up to RM1 million will be slapped on the culprit.
On May 2, Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry was in the process of drafting the new legislation to replace the current Act.
She said that, among other things, the drafting of the new legislation would look into the existing provisions for penalties and who could be brought to court for pollution offences.
The proposed law would require those involved in factories such as palm oil or in the storage and recycling of scheduled waste to apply for licences under Section 17. This would involve their vehicles and ships too.
Public feedback on what would constitute the new laws is being sought and the consultation period will end on June 4.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK