Government considering law to make polluters pay for clean-ups

The scene at Sungai Kim Kim, Johor, which was hit with chemical pollution earlier this month. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The government is looking into the possibility of introducing a law to compel those who pollute the environment to pay for the cost of clean-up operations and other damages caused.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the law would be part of the proposed amendment to the Environmental Quality Act 1974.

She said instead of only focusing on individuals who commit the crime, the new law will also look at punishing companies that fail to monitor their scheduled waste movements.

“Polluters must pay for the mess, but what if the culprits are lorry drivers? How do we force them to pay millions in damages? They will be declared bankrupt and the government will still have to pay for the mess.

“What we want to look at with the new law is how to make the companies who don’t monitor their waste pay for it,” she told a press conference after attending the Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Research Bhd Green Conference here today.

Asked when the new law would be introduced, Yeo said her ministry is working on the matter and has been in close contact with Attorney-General Tommy Thomas.

“Reviewing the law will take some time but what happened in Pasir Gudang will surely help to speed up the tabling of that law in Parliament,” she added.

It was reported that the Johor state government had to spend RM6.4 million on clean-up work and financial aid for victims of toxic fumes due to chemical waste dumped in Sungai Kim Kim, Pasir Gudang.

Many quarters said the polluters should be made to pay for the mess instead.