Thursday, June 6, 2013

Make EIA approval mandatory before project commencement

Thursday June 6, 2013

KUCHING: Approval of environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies must be made mandatory before the commencement of projects, Sarawak PKR said.
Its vice-chairman See Chee How said EIA reports submitted to the state’s Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) did not have to be approved prior to project commencement.
“Work on the project can start and along the way they will try to comply with the EIA recommendations. But EIA reports submitted to the Environment Department (DOE) must be approved before you can commence the project,” the Batu Lintang assemblyman told reporters here.
See called on Special Functions Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem to propose amending the state’s environment ordinance to make EIA approval mandatory.
“We hope this will be made consistent with the DOE’s requirement,” he said.
Concurring, state PKR chairman and Ba’Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian cited the proposed Bario-Ba’Kelalan road as an example of a project for which EIA approval was important.
“This is because the project will affect the water catchment area, therefore the EIA should be prepared first and its approval a prerequisite before the commencement of the project,” he said.
He added that amending the relevant laws would be in line with Adenan’s stand on environment which he declared during his winding-up speech at the state assembly recently.
Adenan had said that he had spoken about the need to protect the environment 30 years ago as a backbencher.
“In fact, I asked why we chose to murder our rivers and ecological system. Now that I am in the position to do something about it, I will do something about it,” he said.
On another matter, Baru disagreed with Adenan’s advice to native landowners not to claim native customary rights (NCR) “from sunrise to sunset, from the foot of the mountain to the top of the mountain and the whole river valley” but to be reasonable in their claims.
Baru said claims over large areas of land were based on the adat (native customs) and laws of the state.
“Therefore we are of the opinion that they have the right to make their claims.
“It’s up to the state government and the court whether the claim is consistent with evidence in accordance with the adat and the law,” he said.
On the issue of the perimeter survey, he said the problem lay in the definition of NCR land, whereby the government only recognised temuda (farming land) but not pemakai menoa (communal land) and pulau galau (communal forest reserve).
“The intention of the perimeter survey is to demarcate the boundary between NCR land and state land. But then it would limit NCR land to temuda only. But it’s up to the people to accept the perimeter survey or not,” Baru said.
~ The Star

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