KEEPING THEM HONEST SERIES – ILLEGAL DUMPING & FACTORIES– A WAKE UP CALL TO MALAYSIA TO SACK CORRUPT OFFICIALS!

HRH Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj, the Sultan of Johor  (above) as always, very concerned and caring, for HRH’s subjects has pledged a donation of RM1 million to assist with the cleanup!

KEEPING THEM HONEST SERIES – ILLEGAL DUMPING & FACTORIES– A WAKE UP CALL TO MALAYSIA TO SACK CORRUPT OFFICIALS!

The issue of illegal dumping is not a new phenomenon!
As long as I can remember, then as a senior member of both CAP and SAM in Penang from early eighties, it was a major problem!

The last time someone counted – Malaysians produced an average of 30,000 tons of waste every day, which I suspect is a rather conservative estimate!

But did you know that only 5 percent of it is recycled.

Previously, if my memory serves me good, these two statistics were revealed by the then Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government ministry, my dear friend, Kota Belud MP, Abdul Rahman Dahlan!

I remember him sharing with that these two are causing enormous problems for Malaysia.

And us discussing how to address this challenge from both a top down and down to up approach and strategy!

He was fully committed to bring holistic change!

And I fully agreed with him having addressed the same challenge since the eighties!

We had failed to recognize the dangers and ticking time bombs in the country’s buildup of solid waste resulting in tremendous land, waterways and air pollution for the environment, health problems for communities and bottlenecks to economic growth.

We forgot that taken collectively this problem of poor waste management in Malaysia is one of the nation’s biggest issues to date.

In all fairness, we must admit that for decades local and national governments have been trying to curb the flow of garbage onto sidewalks, into landfills, over hillsides and through rivers, but Malaysia’s turbulent pace of change has made that process extremely difficult.

The ugly presence of a lack of foresight, dedication, passion, and commitment, zero tolerance for all forms of pollution and incompetence and corruption were the major obstacles!

We must admit that population increase of locals, migrants, and foreigners, their set and forms of consumption and disposal rates are escalating faster than Malaysia’s utilities can handle.

I am advised that in the 10 years from 2003 to 2013, the generation of municipal solid waste (MSW) in Malaysia increased more than 91 percent.

Urban development is largely responsible, the country’s city-dwellers (at 65 percent of the total population) being the biggest contributors to waste.

And if we combine this with a metropolitan culture that loves to buy and toss – and an infamously poor public understanding of resource conservation and recycling – and Malaysia has quite a bit of garbage to deal with.

Our silver bullet so we thought was landfills?

In 2013, about 42 percent of all MSW in Malaysia was incinerated.

Two percent was recycled, leaving the remaining 56 percent to be dumped.
Were you aware that the vast majority of landfills in Malaysia are open-air pits?

Economically this quick and dirty method is cheap, but it destroys our environment!

The dangers were that this resulted in surface and groundwater contamination through leaching, soil contamination through direct contact, air pollution through garbage burning (intentional or not), disease spread through birds, insects and rodents, uncontrolled release of greenhouse gases and of course, a very unpleasant odor.

As harmful as open-air landfills can be, they are much preferable to uncontrolled dumping, another big issue for waste management in Malaysia.

This was not the only challenge as only about 66 percent of rural area populations are covered by garbage services, so a lot of trash ends up strewn over the countryside. Giant piles of illegally dumped garbage have been spilling into rivers for years, rendering some of them unsuitable for any use at all – even after treatment.

These piles have recently begun to smolder from within, melting down hillsides and oozing toxic waste into the soil and water that local communities depend upon for farming, fishing, and sometimes drinking water.

The main culprits are Malaysians and our throw away culture!
Let us be honest by the problem is selfishness and ‘not in my backyard syndrome’!

I remember organizing nationwide environmental awareness and environmental education conferences in the 80’s for various demographics in Malaysia!

Even educating the educators!

I must confess that these awareness programs, public forums, and dealings with the whole question of corporate responsibility initiatives have failed to make a difference due to poor public response and indifference!

There are of course small pockets of strong support for recycling and inspired individuals campaigning for sustainability, but it would appear the predominant take on conservation and recycling in Malaysia is apathetic.

Then we have that criminal mind at work where industry players decide to do the unthinkable because of the weaknesses of the Environment Quality Act 1974 and stakeholders both at local and federal levels to monitor and take to task those abusing and violating the EPA!

The legislation provides for a maximum jail term of five years and a RM500, 000 fines for breaching Section 34B of the Environmental Quality Act 1974!

Now can both the state and federal agencies now go on record to state since 1974 how many violators of the legislation have been fined and jailed?

If this is not enough a challenge we have great minds importing other idiots waste from countries such as New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom!

Yes, we are the dumping ground for these!
The alleged reasoning behind the relocation was because it would be “easier and cheaper” due to geographical location, but most importantly, because Malaysia had “loose regulation”.

My foot just “loose regulation” – let us be honest!

I am certain enforcement officers and stakeholders have been compromised!

I say this because it is far too much of a coincidence that the illegal factories are closed when Department of Environment (DoE) conducts their raids!

Fast forward!

Today Pasir Gudang, in Johor is a district hit by toxic chemical pollution!

There are more than 254 chemical factories within the Pasir Gudang area!

In many parts of Malaysia, there are also illegal factories operating visible to all and sundry!

Why is this so?

This latest crisis is alleged to be the handiwork of three men already detained in relation to the chemical dumping, including the owner of an illegal tyre recycling factory in Kulai and the owner of a waste processing factory in Pasir Putih!

Now both the state and federal government have gone down to ground zero!

Our Premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad has personally arrived at Pasir Gudang – where toxic pollution from Sungai Kim Kim has affected hundreds of people and led to the closure of all 111 schools in the district – at about 6pm today.

The prime minister arrived at the Senai airport at 5pm.
He visited victims hospitalized at the Sultan Ismail Hospital in Johor Bahru!

HRH the Johor Sultan as always, very concerned for HRH’s subjects has pledged a donation of RM1 million to assist with the cleanup!

In the meantime, we are also truly grateful to the Johor state disaster management committee, the medical and security teams for handling the challenge admirably!