Toxic pollution in Johor - throw the book at 'em

Norman Fernandez

Modified 20 Mar 2019, 3:13 am

LETTER | Let not anyone play the fool and say that they are shocked with the Pasir Gudang toxic disaster. The rivers and the isolated areas around Pasir Gudang have always been a hotspot for disposing of waste in particular toxic waste. Add to that, the waters around the Pasir Gudang port are also where oil and other residues from ship repairs are released into the sea.

So there is nothing shocking about the toxic contamination at Sungai Kim Kim because as early as 2012, the authorities had knowledge of what was happening. In fact, in 2012 the Malaysian Nature Society, Johor Chapter highlighted the drop in water quality at Sg Kim Kim and that the river was becoming devoid of fish and other marine life.

The authorities had long known of all the illegal dumping and disposal of toxic waste. This also includes other areas like Sungai Masai and Sungai Sembilan. In fact, it is safe to say that in Johor, rivers and riversides are favourite dump sites.

The dumping of rubbish and other waste materials there is cost-effective and cheaper for most factories, in particular, illegal factories. The reason why it is brazenly done is because of the lack of monitoring by all the relevant authorities.

In fact, just after the Pasir Gudang toxic incident, conveniently, there was the exposing of yet another toxic waste site at Parit Sikom, Muar. So, this dumping of toxic waste is happening all over the state.

Thus it begs the question, do the relevant authorities know how many illegal factories they are in Pasir Gudang? In fact, how did the relevant authorities allow all these illegal factories to operate?

Next, have the relevant authorities ever inspected these factories and checked and verified how their waste, in particular, toxic waste, is disposed of? Who are the authorised and appointed contractors to dispose of the toxic waste and do these contractors have the expertise to handle and dispose of toxic waste? It can safely be said that most of the appointed contractors simply collect this waste, in particular, the toxic waste, and just dump them into rivers and at the various illegal dumpsites.

To digress a little, it is also said that waste material including toxic material from Singapore is cleverly disguised and brought into Johor for disposal.

Now, even China nationals are in Johor looking for land in order to open recycling plants for waste materials as China is now extremely strict with the disposal of waste material and land there is becoming extremely difficult to obtain for recycling of waste material. The alternative choice? Johor.

It simply cannot be that members of Parliament past and present do not know or that the state exco past and present do not know or that the state assemblypersons past and present do not know or that the local councils do not know or that the Department Of Environment does not know, or the police do not know.

They all should be summoned and directed to do their jobs. Since none of them know or pretend not to know what is happening in their area, then perhaps the sultan of Johor could directly appoint a “Wakil Sultan” for each area to monitor and report directly to him on the illegal activities in their respective areas.

Johor cannot be a place for the illegal disposal of waste and that also includes toxic waste.

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

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