Awang Tengah: NREO amendment will empower state environmental laws, tackle complex issues

Awang Tengah tabling the proposed amendment bill.

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By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, Nov 5: The amendment of the Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance (NREO) will enable Sarawak tackle environmental issues that are becoming more complex and diverse amid its developed state transformation agenda by 2030.

Second Urban Development and Natural Resources Minister, Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, said the Sarawak government needed to strengthen the regulatory mechanism for sustainable management of natural resources and protecting environmental quality in Sarawak.

“The word ‘environment’ is not listed in the Federal, State or Concurrent Lists of the Federal Constitution. 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 when tabling the Natural Resources and Environment (Amendment) Bill, 2019, at the DUN sitting here today.

Awang Tengah said the emergence of issues such as accumulative impacts, carbon footprint of mega and sensitive projects, air pollution such as trans-boundary haze and greenhouse gases (GHG) emission, as among the diverse and complex environmental issues that needed to be looked into.

This included management of voluminous biomass from land development, management of waste and leachate, sustainability of oil and gas exploitation and subscribing to international principles and standards require proactive and strategic measures.

“Therefore, the tabling of this NREO amendment Bill is timely in ensuring that implementing the planned socioeconomic transformation projects and development programmes can be carried out sustainably, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

Awang Tengah added that with this amendment, environmental agencies like the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) will have the regulatory power, adequate resources and capacity, leveraging on green technologies to mitigate these environmental risks and to ensure ecological sustainability.

The amendment is necessary to help prepare NREB, under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) devolution of powers, to accept additional responsibilities in managing the environment.

“The two main objectives of this amendment are to enhance the provisions relating to penalties and powers of NREB for better enforcement of laws and a more effective deterrent to combat non-compliance of environmental laws in the state.

“Secondly, to expand the law relating to open burning particularly those related to commercial farming to facilitate better compliance with current environmental needs and practices.” — DayakDaily