Malaysian water offenders beware

Published: Thursday 15 June 2006

A Malaysian water bill, due for a second review in the country's parliament, provides for capital punishment for those guilty of contaminating water and causing loss of life.

The Water Services Industry Bill says that anyone who contaminates water supply with the intention of endangering lives or causing deaths could face death penalty. The penalty would also apply to those who contaminate the water supply with any substance that could endanger lives.

The bill also proposes to revamp the country's water management system by transferring control of state water bodies and privatised firms to a single federal regulatory body.

Opponents of the law call it draconian and unworkable since it does not address the real cause of water pollution. "Most of the time, the real offenders are likely to be companies and you can't hang a company," says Charles Hector, a human rights lawyer and a coordinator with the group Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture.

Statistics show more than half the rivers in Malaysia are polluted by raw or partially treated sewage as well as industrial effluents, agricultural run-off, waste from animal husbandry and land development, and municipal rubbish.

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