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Drones to help detect open burning — Lee
Posted on : 26 Jul 2017  Source of News: theborneopost.com

Cecilia Sman, reporters@theborneopost.com

MIRI: Drones will be used to beef up surveillance on open burning during this current dry spell.

As such, the public should refrain from conducting such activities as they risk being brought before the law, Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin said.

He informed that the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) had already started deploying drones in the state particularly in Miri to collect evidences on those indulging in open burning.

“Beware, don’t think that when doing open burning at night you can escape from being caught by the authorities. Drones can also take images at night and offenders be prepared for the harsh laws on opening burning.

“We don’t want Miri City and its residents to suffer anymore from this perennial problem of haze because of the few irresponsible people doing open burning,” he advised when met by The Borneo Post yesterday after officiating at the ‘Prevention and fire issue awareness programme’ at Curtin Malaysia here.

Also present were Doris Urai Langat who represented Miri Resident, assistant district officer Sharifah Rafidah Wan Razali and NREB controller Peter Sawal.

Lee added that 7,000 ha of peat soil in Miri are prone to peat fire and over the years, records showed that open burning in these areas particularly in Kuala Baram had caused much problem – from health and environment degradation to financial constraint.

“Last year alone for only two days of water bombing using Bomba helicopters, it cost over RM900,000. This is a waste of public resources just because of a handful of people indulging in open burning, as peat fire once started is difficult to control,” Lee stressed.

Meanwhile, Peter said a drone costing some RM5,000 had been deployed recently in Miri and three more will be purchased this year and another three units will be bought next year.

“For Miri alone, we need two units for effective surveillance and to beef up enforcement here although various other measures had been taken like signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last year with four major land bank owners here,” he said,

So far this year, he said one local farmer had been served with compound notice for open burning while investigations were still carried out on six cases of illegal open burning in commercial lands.

Section 30(2) of the Resources and Environment Ordinance (NREO), 1993 provides for a maximum fine of RM30,000 and imprisonment for three years on any person found guilty of cutting, destroying and burning vegetation in any area which is not Native Customary Land, without the written permission of the NREB Controller.

Those who carry out open burning of refuse or other combustible materials on any land without written permission of the Controller shall also be guilty of an offence under Section 30(1)(a) of the Ordinance: The penalty is a fine of RM20,000 and imprisonment for three years.

Earlier in his speech, Lee commended the organisers – the Miri Resident’s Office, Miri District Office, NREB – and other collaborators for organising the fire issues and prevention awareness programme.

He said the programme was a follow up to a recent meeting and also to beef up other efforts in preventing haze and open burning in Miri.

Lee hoped the participants of the programme, who numbered about 100, particularly community leaders would share the knowledge they gained by conducting a similar programme in their respective areas/villages.

“This programme will help intensify our existing measures to stop or minimise incidents of open burning and haze in Miri,” he said, adding that besides the MoU signing, other initiatives taken were building a watch tower to spot and identify peat soil fires; building a check dam to control the water level and 10 tube wells as water source to put out fires.

Other approaches included water bombing and cloud seeding; putting up signs to educate the public on the dangers of open burning; periodic spot checks and enforcement to deter illegal open burning; and freezing of open burning permits during dry season, he added.

Under the MoU, companies with big land banks are required to come up with a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the prevention or suppression of peat fire to ensure no recurrence.

The signatories of the MoU with NREB were Naim Land Sdn Bhd, Shin Yang Forestry Sdn Bhd, Woodman Group of Companies and Pantai Bayu Indah Sdn Bhd.