SPAN wants stiffer jail terms, fines over death penalty for water polluters

SPAN chairman Charles Santiago says no death penalty has been imposed because no deaths have occurred as a result of water contamination.

PETALING JAYA: The National Water Services Commission (SPAN) says the death sentence for those who purposely contaminate water sources is not practical and has proposed stiff jail sentences and fines for offenders instead.

The Water Services Industry Act (WSIA) 2006 provides for the death penalty to be imposed for pollution of rivers, streams and creeks, seas, lakes, groundwater, dams, reservoirs, ditches and drains, or imprisonment of up to 20 years.

If death is not caused, whipping can be imposed.

SPAN chairman Charles Santiago acknowledged that the death penalty was not the solution, and proposed life imprisonment instead, given the debate in the country over whether the death penalty should be abolished.

He also proposed more severe jail sentences and higher fines, saying the sums meted out by the courts today were “affordable”, whereas fines running into the millions would be a deterrent.

Recently, environmentalist Saha Deva had said poor enforcement was to blame for cases of water contamination or pollution, besides corruption and the focus on profit over sustainability.

He said he had not heard of the death penalty being imposed despite WSIA being an “extremely powerful law” which could make a difference in protecting the country’s water resources.

Saha also accused government agencies involved in environmental matters of lacking the will to pursue such matters.

Santiago, who defended SPAN against criticism of its enforcement policies, said no death penalty had been imposed because no deaths had occurred as a result of water contamination.

He said there were strict requirements under the law and each case must be proven based on facts.

He also said SPAN would seek to introduce education on water conservation in primary and secondary schools as well as start a massive awareness programme to educate people on water conservation.