KUCHING: In rare show of solidarity, an opposition leader and a state government minister have called for stern action to be taken against timber companies which pollute rivers and water catchment areas.
Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian said stern action must be taken against timber companies and loggers who are polluting rivers and water catchment areas that are vital water sources for the natives.
“When licences are issued to timber companies, there are certain safeguards that must be observed. And if such safeguards are not implemented, then the timber companies should be penalised,” Bian said.
He was asked to comment on a FMT report about a timber company’s logging activities which had polluted the water catchment area, which is a source of drinking water for Uma Beluvo’s 115-door longhouse at Long Panai, Baram.
The Kayan natives have reported the matter to the police and medical authorities, but so far there is no response.
“River pollution is a common feature in the rural areas because of indiscriminate logging by timber companies.
“Even the constant flooding in Sibu is due to logging activities upstreams,” Bian said, pointing out that the government’s sustainable policy on timber appeared to be good.
“But the problem is implementation. It is because of the lack of enforcement by Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) that these companies have disregarded the rules,” he said.
State Land Development Minister James Masing said the government had rules and regulations through the NREB pertaining to timber operations.
“These rules are there so that natives who live within the vicinity don’t suffer from polluted drinking water.
“But the timber companies don’t heed the NERB rules. And when they flout the rule, they must be taken to task,” he said.
Last week, Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment criticised the NREB for its lack of transparency in dealing with issues related to environmental impact assessment (EIA).
Its national coordinator Raymond Abin said the NREB 1994 ordinance must be amended to ensure that the board was more transparent and to allow the participation of the public before the EIA report was approved.