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Open letter to the minister on the Kepong incinerator

LETTER | I have been following up the issue surrounding the Kepong incinerator project.

It is clear that the issue is not about the technology, but about the perception of the public towards the government and the project itself, as a result of lack of trust of the people in the government ability to manage and enforce environmental standards.

I don't blame them, as there are enough examples to show the public the government incompetence in this matter where monitoring and enforcement are compromised by politics.

Hence, I say under the circumstances, the project the cannot and should not proceed in Kepong. Then what is the recourse for the Klang Valley rubbish? A pure landfill like Bukit Tagar has a lifespan. Where do we send the rubbish after the landfill is full? Whether we like it or not, an incinerator is the only way.

This brings us to the next question of where the incinerator should be located. Quite obviously, we must take into account many factors, like the presence of the surrounding population, logistic cost of moving rubbish and many more in deciding the location of the incinerator.

While it has been decided prior to recent general election, on the basis of an open tender, a public listed company is to build the incinerator in Kepong, and cancelling that would also cost the government money as this company has invested millions into doing all sort of work that led them to win the bid to build the incinerator.

Therefore, it is quite obvious that on basis of mounting rubbish and to avoid any further compensation payment, the project must go on in a different location.

The existing Kepong site, I believe, is still being used as a transfer station. Either that site is retained as a transfer station, or new site on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur is built as a new transfer station to complement the new location of the incinerator.

A dedicated rail line would probably contribute a low long-term logistic costs. The incinerator can improve the lifespan of a landfill, and also generate electricity that can be supplied to the grid. It would kill two birds with one stone.

As I understand it, the project is driven by private sector initiatives and their revenue is dependent on the rubbish and the electricity generated, it would mean that expanding the scope of work to include a new site for the incinerator, moving rubbish from transfer station to a new site would be within their project cost.

To be fair to all parties, the company must be given a certain profit margin and to share the margin in excess of a defined limit with the government. The only role of the government is to facilitate matters in land acquisition and planning.

We need to look at this matter holistically. Rubbish is piling up. We cannot say that we don't want to do anything. Landfills in the current form are not environmentally friendly and have a limited lifespan. The perception and concerns of the Kepong folks need to be managed.

From the city perspective, there is only one clear solution: the incinerator project scope must be expanded, relocated away from major population and be allowed to show that it can beat the people's perception.

I hope you will consider my suggestions.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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