VII. ISSUES AND PROBLEMS: SOME POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
D. Strengthening institutional capacity
Institutions constrain the choice of policies. The policy mix must be weighed not only against the efficiency of its approach but also against ability to implement. Weak institutions often lack the technical skills and the political authority to change the behaviour of firms and households. Weak enforcement is often the result of lack of information (such as emission data) and insufficient capacity to implement policy. Weak legal and administrative procedures such as the requirement for EIA studies in projects exceeding 10 hectares undermine the ability of City Hall of Kuala Lumpur to enforce environmental safeguards on land use for development purposes. More sector-specific training on environmental assessment needs to be provided for task managers and policy formulators. Increasing the implementation capacity of key agencies such as City Hall will go a long way in contributing towards achieving greater sustainability in the long term.
While political commitment to protecting the environment is increasing, especially with the role of the media in highlighting unscrupulous and irresponsible behaviour that generally harms the environment, it is at the level of implementation (i.e., monitoring environmental impacts and enforcing regulations) that City Hall seems to be weakest. The ability of the Environmental Management Unit of City Hall to set standards and analyse policy as well as perform actual monitoring and enforcement needs strengthening. In fact, it would benefit greatly by inviting broader participation by the private sector, NGOs and community groups in environmental assessment and other activities. The quality of project design, environmental assessment and implementation can be considerably improved by increased consultation with, and participation by, those affected by a project. Consultation refers to the process in which interested groups can express their opinions at discrete points during project design while participation entails a broader involvement. Encouragement of public participation through the promotion of education, mass media coverage, NGO involvement and consultation with community-based groups should be actively promoted.
At the same time, City Hall of Kuala Lumpur should be given the mandate to be responsible and accountable for the environmental management of the city so that it can coordinate its planning and monitoring of activities on a more systematic basis. To ensure that the concerns of related agencies, such as the Department of Environment, are taken into account they could be represented in the management mechanisms of City Hall. That would result in a reduction of functional duplication and a more integrated approach while at the same time making specific agencies responsible and accountable for any subsequent issues.
The decentralization to City Hall of the monitoring and enforcement authority for the urban environment and industrial pollution is a positive trend. However, it can be only effective if City Hall is provided with adequate resources for implementing its responsibilities, as well as receiving the support of the federal authorities and being made locally accountable in achieving its mandate. Similarly, the decentralization of fiscal and planning authority for local infrastructure investments can bring public expenditures more into line with local environmental concerns.