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Stop closing the stable door after the horse has bolted

November 21, 2017

It is time to punish regulators and enforcement agencies which fail to detect pollution right under their nose as it can only mean they are inefficient or corrupt.



By TK Chua

I refer to the news reports “River pollution: Johor palm oil mill suspended for 3 months”.

Are we supposed to feel happy that a palm oil mill in Johore was ordered to suspend operations for three months after causing massive pollution to the water treatment plant?

True, the environment is the responsibility of all. Rightly, all must do their part to ensure that our water catchment areas remain free from contamination.

But I disagree that the public should not point their accusing finger at the authorities each time a massive contamination has taken place. On the contrary, I think the public has every right to do so.

It is the job of the regulators to ensure continuous compliance of all industrial players in the state. Rightly, the authorities must prevent and preempt contamination. What is the point of taking action after the whole treatment plant has been contaminated?

With rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, there must be adequate laws and enforcement of all regulations governing pollution and environmental preservation. We have so many agencies (federal, state and corporations), but why are we so ineffective in monitoring violations that have occurred so frequently nowadays?

When a factory is approved for operation, do we not look at the effluents and the mechanism put in place to handle it? Do we not have a periodic inspection of the factory?

It is really difficult to understand why we must wait for massive contamination, affecting thousands of consumers, before preventive measures and drastic punitive actions are taken. To me, this is a very inconvenient and expensive way of handling the problem.

When regulating and enforcing agencies fail to detect pollution, especially in factories situated near water catchment areas, it could mean two things: they are either very inefficient or very corrupt. For me, it is impossible for them not to know.

I agree it is time to get tough with the factory operators. But I think it is even more timely to get tough with enforcement agencies. It is time to punish agencies that fail to detect pollution right under their nose.

The environment is the responsibility of all, but I maintain that the government has greater responsibility. Factories are not the custodians of public interest, but the government is.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.


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