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No compromise on EIA: Masidi

Published on: Monday, January 06, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: State Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said there can be no compromise where companies undertaking development projects break the rules like going ahead with land clearing even before the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is approved.

"My stand is very clear. No company is above the law.

No one is exempted from requirement of EIA if it is expressly provided by law," Masidi said, in reference to a second compound of RM30,000 plus second Stop-work order issued in late December against a contractor who began clearing huge swathes of pristine estuarine mangrove forests for a 3,000-acre (originally 4,000 acres) aquaculture shrimp farm project around Sg Telaga in Pitas.

The EPD (Environment Protection Department) issued the first compound and Stop-work order on Sept. 23 but the company apparently ignored it for three months.

The Environment Protection (Prescribed Activities) Environmental Impact Assessment Order 2005, under the umbrella Sabah Environment Enactment 2002 provides in Paragraph 6 in Schedule 2 a list of Prescribed Activities that require EIA.

It cites Fisheries and Aquaculture in wetland forests as a prescribed activity which requires EIA, which reads: (i) Conversion of wetland forests into fisheries or aquaculture development covering an area 50 hectres or more, or (ii) Creation of lakes or ponds for fisheries or aquaculture development covering an area of 50 hectres of more.

EPD's definition of an EIA means a report or series of reports which provide a detailed assessment in quantitative terms wherever possible and qualitative term of the likely environmental impacts of a development activity and measures required to prevent, mitigate and abate any adverse impacts, or to protect the environment, in addition to a monitoring programme required to ensure compliance with the mitigation measures ad to monitor residual effects.

The law also empowers the Director of EPD to serve a Stop-work order on any developer who starts work without an approved EIA.

Meanwhile, Masidi said he would involve the Department of Wildlife to take charge of protection measures, including the preparation of the EIA which entails Detailed Assessment and Survey of all the Fauna, Flora and Social Aspects of the project.

This follows claims of more proboscis monkeys being sighted in the vicinity, besides crocodiles and Kingfishers.

"I will let the Wildlife Department handle the protection of the wildlife," he said. "The Environment Protection Department (EPD) and the Wildlife Department will have to work together at the same time," Masidi said.

A villager who has been vocal about the project, Mastupang bin Somoi , 49, claimed he spotted some 100 Proboscis monkeys roosting on tree branches on the banks of Sungei Eloi at 5pm Saturday.

Mastupang whose Mykad states that he is from Sg Eloi, contrary to claims that he is from another village, said the sighting of proboscis monkeys had been a daily event "for as long as I can remember."

"So I find it surprising why King Wong (CEO of Sunlight Inno Seafood, a joint venture partner in the RM1b project with a state agency) told newspapers in KK that he hadn't seen any, even though he had been in and out of Pitas for months," Mastupang said.

Wong had promised to help the Wildlife Department protect the Proboscis if any were found.

The proboscis is the official mascot for Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

In a 2008 survey of the distribution of the proboscis monkey in Sabah carried out by John CM Sha, Henry Bernard and Senthival Nathan, the three authors clearly cited Pitas as one area having them although they did not specify the exact location.