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Nik Nazmi must put his house in order

He must pull up the Department of Environment for leaving work-site safety in the hands of developers.

Ravinder Singh
2 minute read

The Department of Environment is a baby of Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainabilithe Ministry. 

All major projects must get an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) done. EIA is scrutinised by DOE and approvals are not blank  cheques but tied to conditions set down by DOE.

DOE which lays down the conditions is also responsible for monitoring the projects to ensure the conditions are complied with. Any non-compliance is supposed to be nipped in the bud.

Over the years, numerous work-site "accidents" have taken place taking innocent lives away or causing injuries and other losses. There is no end in sight to this.

The most recent case of non compliance taking place in Penang is at the construction site of the bypass connecting Air Itam to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway.

This was highlighted by PRM Penang last year but apparently nothing was done by DOE to ensure the violations are stopped. 

Recently, rock blasting at the site had sent rocks flying into apartments and damaging some cars. The rains washed tonnes of mud floods onto the roads in Air Itam. 

DOE's response to the complaints was that the developer is required to send reports to DOE every three months. Now, will any consultant paid by the developer to prepare those reports put the rope around his employer's neck?  

Years ago, the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) took up the issue of work-site accidents  and questioned the ineffectiveness DOE's enforcement action.  

DOE's response was that it now practises the policy of self-regilation, whereby the developers' own consultants must ensure compliance with all the safety procedures and conditions set by DOE for approval of the projects. 

This is because it does not have enough enforcement officers to be stationed at every site!

The reason given by DOE to leave things in the hands of the developers is untenable. It is just an excuse to close an eye to corner-cutting by developers.

Why is DOE not making real surprise visits to construction sites to see the actual situation? Its protocol now is to make scheduled visits by appointment once in every 12-18 months. 

When this modus operandi is employed, of course DOE will not see any violations.

It behoves Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad to summon DOE. 

When there is any violation in DOE-approved projects, DOE officers responsible for monitoring must be put on the stand. 

If need be, heads must roll to make DOE an effective enforcement agency. It cannot give approvals and close an eye to violations as it then becomes an accomplice to the developers' corner-cuttings to save time and cost.     

Ravider Singh is vice-president of Parti Rakyat Malaysia Penang.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.