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Problems and perspectives in Malaysia

Environmental Impact Assessment Review
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0195-9255(91)90028-i
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Law
  • Political Science


Abstract In Malaysia, recent amendments to the Environmental Quality Act (1974), Prescribed Activities (EIA Order, 1987), have now made it mandatory for environmental impact assessment (EIA) to be carried out for specific activities. Current legislation thus requires EIA for economic endeavors ranging from mining, housing, and industrial installation to infrastructure development prior to the granting of approval by the Department of Environment (DOE) for implementation. Although the need for EIA was first recognized during formulation of the Third Malaysia Plan (TMP) in 1976, full implementation of the EIA Order was only realized in April 1988. This legislation is thus significant in environmental control because mandatory requirements for EIA have finally materialized after a gestation period of more than a decade. Industry, however, has a different view of EIA and sees it as another obstacle to overcome within an already complex bureaucratic setup. Ironically, the government's policy, which encourages rapid economic growth, and concomitant lax environmental control during the last decade have been largely responsible for industry's attitude towards EIA. Even if such assessments are conducted, it frequently occurs that project initiators seldom provide consultants with any real option or alternative to work with because potential site(s) and/or plans have been already decided or finalized. The environmental impact statements (EISs) thus produced are therefore project-biased and tend to accommodate projects by considering only the impact of project implementation without addressing other alternatives. Although a large number of voluntary EISs have been submitted to DOE, it is impossible to examine the variation in quality and comprehensiveness of such reports because of their confidentiality. Despite of such inherent problems, Malaysia has taken a major step forward in environmental legislation in recognition of the problems of public lands, the “commons”. Twenty years ago, Garrett Hardin alerted us to the tragedy of the commons. The commons worldwide is being assaulted at an ever increasing rate. Nowhere is this trend more alarming than in developing countries. EIA may be one way to rationally manage such resources.

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