I. STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT IN MALAYSIA
B. Overview of national development policies
5. Environmental policy
The passing of EQA in 1974 represented a new chapter in national efforts to improve the quality of life of the population, and "the prevention, abatement, control of pollution and enhancement of the environment, and for purposes connected therewith". A study of the provisions in EQA shows that the Malaysian approach to environmental management is wide-ranging in scope and is concerned not with pollution per se but with pollution that affects the beneficial use of, or is hazardous to, the general use of the environment. Beneficial use involves "a use of the environment or any element or segment of the environment that is conducive to public health, welfare or safety and which requires protection from the effects of wastes, discharges, emissions and deposits". EQA further declares that pollution consists of "any direct or indirect alteration of the physical, thermal, chemical, biological or radioactive properties of any part of the environment by discharging, emitting or depositing wastes so as to affect any beneficial use adversely, to cause condition which is hazardous or potentially hazardous to public health, safety, or welfare, or to animals, birds, wildlife, fish or aquatic life, or to plants or to cause a contravention of any condition, limitation or restriction to which a licence under this Act is subject".
The general scheme of EQA, in relation to the preservation of the environment, leans more towards controlling pollution. That "control" of pollution is done through the licences issued by the Department of Environment. EQA authorizes the minister concerned to prescribe the level of "acceptable conditions" and it is only pollution over and above that permitted level that attracts liability.
Criminal sanction is provided for in several sections of EQA. A maximum fine of M$ 10,000 or two years' imprisonment or both is imposed for offences related to "emitting or discharging any waste into the atmosphere, polluting the soil or surface of any land and emitting, discharging or depositing any wastes into any inland waters in contravention of acceptable conditions". A further maximum penalty of M$ 1,000 per day is imposed for every day an offence is continued after a notice from the director-general is served on the offender, requiring him/her to cease the action. An offender is liable to a maximum fine of M$ 5,000 or one year of imprisonment and a maximum fine of M$ 500 a day for every day of continuation of an offence related to emitting or causing any noise greater in volume, intensity or quality in contravention of acceptable conditions. A maximum fine of M$ 10,000 or two years of imprisonment or both is also imposed on persons "discharging wastes (whether liquid, solid, gaseous or radioactive) into Malaysian waters in such volume, composition or manner as to cause an alteration of the environment". An offender is liable to a maximum fine of M$ 25,000 or two years imprisonment for offences related to "the discharge or spill of any oil, or mixture containing oil, into any part of the sea outside the territorial waters of Malaysia if such discharge or spill will result in oil or mixture containing oil being carried, spread or washed into Malaysian waters".
Environmental impact assessment
The drive for economic growth in both developed and developing countries is now greater than ever. That trend is underscored by the current upsurge of interest in the financing, planning and implementation of a wide range of development projects. In many cases, there have been harmful consequences for human health and environmental quality as a result of both the scale and nature of resource-based and industrial developments. At the same time, many established industrial areas now face major pollution problems. Many attempts have been made to develop mechanisms that encourage optimal resource allocation, in order to minimize potential adverse impacts of development and maximize benefits. One such mechanism is environmental impact assessment (EIA), which aims to provide decision makers with an appraisal of the environmental, health and social implications of alternative courses of action.
In Malaysia, the mandatory system of EIA was introduced through the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (EIA) Order, 1987, under powers conferred by section 34A of the Environmental Quality (Amendment) Act, 1985, that specifies which activities are subject to EIA. Nineteen categories of activities are prescribed: agriculture, airports, drainage and irrigation, fisheries, forestry, housing, industry, infrastructure, land reclamation, mining, petroleum, ports, power generation, quarries, railways, resort and recreational development, transportation, waste treatment and disposal, and water supply. Many of the activities related to those 19 categories are defined in terms of project size (area) and capacity (quantum), while others are not defined by any unit of measure.