PENANG: Spending RM21mil to promote Sungai Pinang as a tourist destination is a mistake, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid said.
He said officers involved in the first phase of Sungai Pinang beautification project had not checked the area whether it was suitable for tourists.
“Who wants to visit this dirty and stinking place?” he asked after visiting the tourist-cum-fishermen’s centre in Jelutong here yesterday.
He said the centre was initially meant for tourists but revised to in-clude fishermen to avoid wastage.
“I hope those involved will learn from this mistake,” he said, adding that the allocation was from the tourism budget.
The centre for fishermen and tourists costs about RM3.4mil.
“Only after the research is completed in June will we know roughly how much would be needed to rehabilitate the river from Class V (dead river that cannot sustain life) to Class II (clean enough to bathe in),” he said.
Azmi also said that there was a need to rebrand the Love Your Rivers campaign which was initiated in 1993 as it had failed to attract public participation.
“We want government, private sector, the public and non-government agencies to participate in campaigns to keep the rivers and environment clean,” he said, adding that it would cost about RM2bil to rehabilitate a dead river.
Azmi also announced that the Environment Quality Act 1974 would be amended this year to impose mandatory jail sentence on those involved in illegal toxic waste dumping.
He said the government was also looking into including private financing initiative (PFI) under the Economic Planning Unit to enable the private sector to be directly involved in river rehabilitation projects.
“We are still studying the option. We have identified Sungai Damansara and Sungai Kelang for the proposed initiative.
“We have also included rivers in Johor, Penang and Negri Sembilan in the priority list,” he said.
Source : STAR
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