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A health worker conducts checks on clinical waste during Covid-19 screening at the Gombak Land and District office April 22, 2020. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
A health worker conducts checks on clinical waste during Covid-19 screening at the Gombak Land and District office April 22, 2020. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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KUCHING, Sept 13 — Indiscriminate disposal of personal protective equipment (PPE) like face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to a major environmental impact, Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said.

He said Asian Development Bank in its 2020 report stated that cities like Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi and Bangkok had experienced increases in medical waste, producing between 154 and 280 million tonnes more per day than before the pandemic.

“The (ADB) estimation is that at 80 per cent face mask acceptance rate and 27 per cent urban population suggested that Malaysia may produce 7.05 million total daily used face masks for its 32.4 million population, whilst Sarawak may produce 628,000 daily used face masks for its 2.91 million population,” he said.

Speaking at the 9th Chief Minister’s Environmental Award (CMEA) 2019/2020 ceremony here, Abang Johari said wind or rainwater may deposit the used PPE into streams or rivers and thus polluting them with the deadly virus that could possibly re-infect humans.

“Therefore, I would urge members of the public to be careful of the third wave of the Covid-19 and be reminded of the dangers of indiscriminate disposal of the PPE,” he said.

Abang Johari, who is also Sarawak Urban Development and Natural Resource Minister, said sustainable development would always be a priority agenda of the state government to strike a balance between the need for development and safeguarding the well-being of the people.

He said the amendment of the Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance (Amendment) Bill 2019 enabled the state’s Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) to strengthen the regulatory mechanism for sustainable management of natural resources and the protection of environmental quality.

“With the amendment, open burning activities on Native Customary Land (NCL) for commercial purposes is now regulated to ensure that the implementation of socio-economic transformation projects and programmes in the state are carried out in a sustainable manner,” he said. 

Besides increasing the penalty for all environmental offences in the state to RM100,000, he said the amendment also include categorising NREB staff as public officers under the Environmental Quality Act (EQA) 1974 to enable the transfer of enforcement power from the federal Department of Environment.

“This revision is necessary for the state to prepare under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) – Transfer of Autonomy to accept additional responsibility in managing environmental matters under the current EQA 1974,” he added. — Bernama

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