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Government Mulls Taking Over Land On Which Fires Burn Unchecked

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PUTRAJAYA – The Human Resources and Environment Ministry proposes to have the government take over land on which fires are allowed to burn unchecked.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the Attorney-General’s Chambers would be asked to draw up legislation in the matter.

Wan Junaidi said the incidents involved private land and estates where open burning was carried out that contributed to air pollution and haze.

“Existing laws are seen as unable to prevent open burning…so we want firmer action. In Sarawak, we call it ‘re-enter the land’ where the land is handed over to the government,” he said at a press conference here Wednesday.

Wan Junaidi said 109 fires were reported on agricultural land from April 1 to 25, while in March, 188 cases of fire on agricultural land were recorded, making it the highest number of cases reported so far this year.

“This is happening because of certain people who do not see it as their responsibility to look after the environment to prevent haze as part of the joint responsibility of all, regardless of whether they are small or big farmers,” he said.

Wan Junaidi said the ministry was considering introducing fines on a graduated scale for open burning offences.

“At the moment, the maximum fine is RM2,000. I want to suggest that it be on a graduated scale so that it is commensurate with the effects of the burning,” he said.

From January to April 25, there were 1,460 cases of open burning including in forests, undergrowth areas, construction sites, garbage disposal sites, and agricultural and industrial land.

He said that from 2014 to April 2016, some RM1.213 million was collected in fines for open burning offences.

Under Section 29(A) of the Environmental Quality Act 1974, those found guilty of open burning can be fined up to RM500,000 or imprisoned up to five years, or both. – BERNAMA

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