Environmental law: Safeguards for water resources to be enhanced

The Department of Environment (‘DOE’) and the Selangor Waters Management Authority (‘LUAS’)  have separately announced proposed enhancements to the existing legislation for the increased protection of water resources within their respective jurisdictions.1
Department of Environment
The DOE announced the following proposals: 
  1. to increase the maximum punishment for the offence of illegally dumping scheduled wastes into Malaysian waters under section 34B(1)(a) of the Environmental Quality Act 1974 (‘EQA’) from a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years and a maximum fine not exceeding RM500,000 to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years and a maximum fine not exceeding RM10 million; in this regard, the DOE has suggested that it is possible that a term of imprisonment may be made mandatory; and 

  2. to increase the maximum compound under section 45(1) of the EQA for an offence under the EQA from RM2,000 to an amount not exceeding 50% of the total maximum penalty provided in the EQA for the relevant offence. 
The DOE added that the Bill to effect the above amendments, together with other amendments to improve the emission standards involving air, noise, soil, water and discharge of oil and waste into Malaysian waters, is expected to be tabled during the October 2022 meeting of the Malaysian Parliament.
The DOE also clarified that the amendments to the EQA will be carried out in phases. The first phase seeks to enhance compounds, penalties and standards as aforesaid, and the second, to strengthen the EQA. According to the DOE, the second phase is expected to be completed in 2025 after engagements with all stakeholders, including government agencies, non-governmental organisations, project developers and industry players.
Selangor Waters Management Authority
LUAS separately announced that it is considering expanding existing regulations to stop direct and indirect water pollution in the State of Selangor and is looking into making it compulsory for all developments in Selangor to comply with regulations when discharging pollutants into water resources, regardless of the distance of such developments from water reserves.
The Selangor Waters Management Authority Enactment 1999 (No. 2) (“LUAS Enactment”) currently regulates the management and protection of water resources within Selangor. Furthermore, the LUAS Enactment confers LUAS with the responsibility of regulating and controlling all water resources, and any public authority or private operator given a similar responsibility are required to coordinate its activities with LUAS.2
LUAS has indicated that these proposed amendments are in the midst of being reviewed and will eventually need to be passed by the Selangor State Legislative Assembly.
It is commendable that the Ministry of Environment and Water and the DOE are taking concrete steps to enhance the provisions of the EQA to safeguard the environment. It is hoped that the proposals outlined by LUAS will come to fruition given the recent spate of water supply interruptions due to pollution incidents in Selangor.3
Alert by To’ Puan Janet Looi (Head) and Francine Ariel Paul (Senior Associate) of the Environment Practice Group of Skrine 

1 ‘More bite against water polluters’, The Sunday Star, 21 August 2022.
2 Section 40 of the LUAS Enactment.
3 See for instance the unscheduled water supply disruption that affected about five million consumers in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur in 2020 as a result of a pollution incident occurring at Sungai Gong, Rawang, Selangor (‘Sungai Gong pollution: Two company directors to be charged tomorrow’, malaymail.com, 2 November 2020).

This alert contains general information only. It does not constitute legal advice nor an expression of legal opinion and should not be relied upon as such. For further information, kindly contact skrine@skrine.com.