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Give EMA more teeth—chairman
More “teeth” wanted. That’s the Environmental Management Authority’s position after EMA chairman Joth Singh yesterday said the EMA was limited in its ability to curb noise and in shutting down some businesses in residential areas. “If we need to meet the public’s demands, we need more teeth,” Singh added, saying he’d heard the EMA being accused of being a “toothless bulldog.”
Singh was responding to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee at the Parliament. He said the EMA had been trying to improve its situation. Government senator Jamal Mohammed had asked about the EMA’s handling of noise pollution from fetes, fireworks and vehicles which affected members of the public.
Singh said the EMA lacked broad coverage of the noise aspect since its officers were only allowed a half-hour testing period for fetes, during which organisers might have a lowered volume in force. If the situation becomes a nuisance, he said, the EMA would tell residents to call on the police, who had the power to intervene. He said because of this, the EMA tried to get police to play an effective role in the issue although they recognised the police had bigger responsibilities.
Singh said fireworks were regulated by the Police Commissioner’s division. He said while there is a role for the EMA, the agency had been advised by US bodies that noise pollution should be out of its ambit, as this was not strictly environment-related. EMA board member Michael Rooplal said the Noise Advisory Council was studying the issue to see what could be done. In the interim he suggested magistrates granting liquor licences for events should stipulate conditions to limit noise.
PAC chairman Colm Imbert and member Anil Roberts asked if the EMA could shut down industrial businesses with toxic chemicals and the like which set up shop in residential areas. Singh said the EMA couldn’t shut them down, but could ascertain if the businesses complied with the certificate of clearance it issued, and would also have to prove there was significant environmental danger and risk. He said the Town and Country Planning Division also had jurisdiction.
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