The Save Pengerang Taskforce and the Pengerang NGO alliance have begun reviewing the RAPID Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) which was released two weeks ago.
Due to insufficient funds, the Alliance had to raise funds to purchase the DEIA from the consultant. I represented the Alliance and was responsible in purchasing the DEIA which I passed to the Taskforce to be scanned and digitised.
The whole scanning and digitisation process took 12 men and 5 scanners and was completed in 9 working days. This process ran day and night continuously until it was completed on July 01.
The importance of information digitalisation
On 27th June 2012, during the debate session on the Environmental Quality (Amendment) Bill 2012, I pointed out the discrepancies in relation to public participation of DEIAs. They included:
1. Public review of EIAs or DEIAs is only allowed at selected offices, e.g. DoE offices, police stations, public hall, libraries and the Penghulu’s office. The public is only allowed to review the document at these offices. The public is expected to sit at these offices, read these huge reports and give comments accordingly.
The DEIA is a very comprehensive and technical report. For example, the contents of the RAPID DEIA are 3440 pages in total and in 5 separate books. To date, DoE does not provide the downloading of the soft copies of EIAs or DEIAs. This is an inconvenience to the public and hinders their right to and freedom of information. The policy of only providing for executive summaries of these reports online is considered outdated especially in this digital age.
2. The EIA or DEIA reports are complicated reports that would require an expert to understand and decipher the contents. Not everyone would be able grasp the technical details in these reports. If there is no technical person available at these selected offices to assist the public, how would you expect them to give their comments?
3. The period for the reviewing of these reports is insufficient. The period given is 4 weeks and only restricted to office hours and available through the weekend. Feedback is to be given in the fifth week. If a person has flexible working hours, these hours would be suitable to them. But, what about those who do not have the luxury of flexible hours? Hence, this review period is too short for the public to read and understand a bulky technical document as well as prepare appropriate comments.
4. The DEIA report is too expensive. The normal price for a DEIA is RM1,500 and it only can be purchased from the consultant who prepares the report for the project proponent. The high price tag for a report would deter many people from purchasing it, let alone review it. Additionally, one would need to make an order for purchase in advance. The report cannot be bought on the spot.
Based on the arguments above, in Parliament, I suggested that DoE uploaded the full EIA or DEIA on its website and allow the public to download the document(s) for free. The Minister responded that he would consider the option suggested and there was no further discussion in The House.
A “confidential” Public Review
When I requested for further information from DoE regarding the purchase of the RAPID DEIA report, I was instructed to make an enquiry with a consultant company called Integrated Enviotech Sdn Bhd. I was asked to sign a P&R document by this company prior to the release of the purchasing order. I refused to put my signature on this document as the DEIA is an official document open for public scrutiny and the consultant should not obstruct the circulation of the contents of the documents.
Even though the consultant might own the copyright of the report, the preparation of the report was done on the instructions of the project proponent, PETRONAS. PETRONAS is a GLC and is considered the property of the Federal Government. Hence, the consultant company should not request for additional funds from the people or seek to implement confidential conditions.
DEIA published for downloading
I was told by an unofficial source that the DoE will start releasing DEIAs in digital format beginning July 01, 2012 and the public would be allowed to download from the DOE homepage.
Nevertheless, DOE has not made its official announcement until today. If the source is true, we indeed welcome this as it subscribes to the rules of good governance and is in the spirit of being open and transparent.
Prior to the official announcement of the freely available EIAs online, the taskforce has decided to release the complete digital copy of the RAPID DEIA as this report concerns public interest. Besides that, we have invited experts from Malaysia, USA and Taiwan to join us in our effort in reviewing the RAPID DEIA. The deadline for feedback on the DEIA is July 16, 2012.
The full DEIA can be downloaded here
Er Teck Hwa