KUCHING: The Department of Environment (D0E) is optimistic that all oil palm mills and factories in the state will comply with the Environment Quality Act 1994 by next year.
Its director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan said this was based on the fact that now only five per cent of the 69 mills inspected were found to have breached certain rules and regulations related to environmental issues.
“This is a remarkable achievement and we hope by next year we can achieve 100 per cent of the existing mills complying with the environmental rules and regulations,” she said.
She revealed this to reporters after closing the environmental seminar and presentation of licences to palm oil project participants and presentation of Model Oil Palm Mill Award 2013/2014 here yesterday.
She said the department had been monitoring the mills at all times to ensure they strictly comply with environmental rules and regulations and those found breaching the law would be summoned and ordered to rectify the problems.
She added that those who failed to improve their shortcomings would be issued with notices and if they still did not change then they risked having their factory licence suspended.
“Last year one mill had its licence suspended after it failed to address the environmental problem they had caused despite repeated notices issued against them.
“The suspension was however lifted three months later after we were satisfied with the rectification measures taken by the company,” she said.
She disclosed that this particular mill was booked for failing to prevent its effluent from going down into the river after its anaerobic ponds faced some problems.
“We are very concerned with the discharge from the mills because if not well managed they can affect the quality of the environment,” she stressed.
Halimah explained because of that, before any oil palm mill is set up and approved the site would first be thoroughly assessed to ensure that it will not bring any negative impact to the surrounding.
“Only when we are satisfied that the site is okay that we will allow the company to set up the mill and after that we will come again to check whether the equipment and facilities are all in place.
“Only when we are satisfied that everything is in accordance with the rules and regulations that we will issue them the permit to operate,” she said.
Earlier, in her speech Halimah said the department expected to face greater challenges in safeguarding rivers and streams in the state as more and more land had been planted with oil palm.
“With more and more land being planted with palm oil we are also anticipating that there will be at least between 100 and 150 mills going to be set up throughout the state to cater for increasing demand and if not well maintained they can cause serious pollution to our river system,” she asserted.
However, she said plantations, which were often alleged to have caused serious pollution to certain water catchment areas in the state, were however not under them.
“If you talk about plantation it is not under us. That is under the purview of the NREB (Natural Resources and Environment Board). That is a state matter,” she explained.
Also present at the event yesterday were state DOE director Ruslan Mohamad and several other senior officers.