Make impact reports public

LETTERS: Sahabat Alam Malaysia calls on the federal government to make public impact assessments such as social impact assessments (SIA), traffic impact assessments (TIA) and radiological impact assessments (RIA), and seek feedback prior to their approval.

An SIA and TIA are required for projects prior to the grant of planning permission under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (TCPA), and an RIA is needed under the Atomic Energy Licensing Act 1984 in dealing with radioactive waste, prior to the granting of a licence for keeping such waste.

None of these impact assessments is made public or require public feedback prior to approval by the authorities.

Although the SIA process does involve consultations with those likely to be affected by the project, how these concerns have been taken into account and addressed in the impact assessment is not made transparent.

These impact assessments must follow the procedures of environmental impact assessments (EIA) under the Environmental Quality Act 1974, where public participation and feedback are required for major projects with serious impacts, prior to any approval.

Carrying out impact assessments but not making them public for comments beforehand is not good governance and does not augur well for transparency in decision-making.

Take the case of the Light Rail Transit in Penang, a major controversy in the state. The SIA or the TIA are not public and citizens cannot view the findings and conclusions of these assessments.

How can the authorities expect the public to have confidence in their decisions if these assessments are not subject to independent scrutiny?

The controversy over the Kampung Bohol flood retention pond in Kuala Lumpur is another case in point. The SIA and TIA for the proposed housing project in the area should be made public so that there is independent scrutiny of the impact on nearby communities.

In the case of an RIA involving radioactive wastes, which have grave and serious implications on human health and welfare, it is imperative and prudent to make the assessment public to assure the people that all health and safety concerns have been considered and public comments and independent scrutiny have been provided.

By doing so, public confidence in government decision-making can be maintained. We hope the federal government will heed this call and take the measures for greater transparency and accountability in decision-making.



Sahabat Alam Malaysia

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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