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Johari denies presence of illegal factories in Sungai Petani

  • Newspaper reports about illegal waste recycling and environmental pollution in Sungai Petani have been written, but the problem continues.

By Mariam Mokhtar

Most politicians are like single-use plastics. They are used only once, before being discarded or recycled. They may be small, but their impact on the environment is bad, because they end up in landfills, or at the bottom of the oceans, and continue to pollute the environment.

Last week, Sungai Petani (SP) MP, Johari Abdul, denied that he had refused to meet his constituents, who are members of the Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar Sungai Petani (PTAS). They wanted an urgent investigation into the activities of illegal waste recycling factories which are damaging their health and the environment.

A dismissive Johari said, "If they want to protest, like in Hong Kong, they can also go ahead. But I still do not understand their real cause," before agreeing to meet.

First. It is irresponsible of Johari to suggest that the residents should protest like the people of Hong Kong, where there has been an escalation of violence and vandalism. In contrast, the PTAS protests were peaceful demonstrations.

Second. To say that he does not understand the real cause of the demonstrations, is inflicting a self-wound on his reputation.

As the MP for SP, Johari appears to be clueless about the goings-on in his constituency. Perhaps, he should be given the benefit of the doubt, as he has probably been badly advised by his inner circle and aides.

When contacted, a committee member of PTAS, Dr S Tneoh said, "There are over 30 waste recycling plants in Sungai Petani. Their activities emit a foul odour and a high pollution index of around PM2.5 during the night and early hours of the morning."

Residents have complained of eye irritation, coughs, respiratory problems and skin allergies, especially among those who live within 3 km of the factories.

Tneoh added, "We would like the MP to ensure government agencies do their work to close down these factories. Factory owners must be accountable for the toxic waste from the factories, if there is poisoning of ground water, irrigation systems and the household water supply." (sic)

PTAS has few demands.

- They would like Johari to investigate and close, or move, the waste recycling factories from residential areas, or industrial parks which are meant for light industry.

- They want his office to monitor complaints to government departments and help ensure proper enforcement.

- They mentioned one particular factory which they allege, recycles e-waste in Taman Songket Indah, which is a residential area. Despite the promises of the Sungai Petani Municipal Council (MPSP) to demolish the factory by 30 September, the factory allegedly remains in operation.

Johari may claim ignorance of his constituency's concerns, but the Majlis Tindakan Daerah meets every month and is attended by 3 state committee members (ADUNs), the OCPD and various other state officials.

PTAS' Tneoh said, "The minutes of the meetings, held after May 2019 will show that the issue of illegal factories has been discussed. Johari cannot claim ignorance, because our information indicates that he attended those meetings."

Moreover, when PTAS held a demonstration on the 12 April, another committee member, Lydia Ong, WhatsApped the MB.

Casting more doubt on PTAS' concerns, Johari's disparaging remark about "no one falling seriously ill" enraged them.

Tneoh said, "Renee Ong was admitted to the ICU because of aggravated asthma. Ang Jia Thong was admitted 3 times in April and May 2019, with bronchitis. Renee Ong's case was on National TV and two ADUNs visited her in hospital.

"The two cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Many people have become ill with chronic coughs and bronchitis, but are unaware of the real cause.

"Do we have to wait until the situation is as serious as in Pasir Gudang, before Johari acts?"

Johari claimed that the Kedah government, Department of Environment (DoE), and other state agencies, had followed up PTAS' complaints. He claimed that the complaints had not been substantiated.

Tneoh said, "We have been made to understand that the DoE teams made their inspections at night, but found no pollution. There are no reports, but we suspect that the factories were informed when the monitoring would take place, or when Zuraida Kamaruddin (the Housing and Local Government Minister), or Mukhriz Mahathir (the Menteri Besar) would visit Sungai Petani.

"Miraculously, air quality suddenly improved, when they visited."

In a bid to be more transparent, and to allay the suspicions of negligence, the authorities should publish the reports and the frequency of their surveys.

To add insult to injury, a volunteer who helped to monitor the declining situation, by making note of the illegal factories in the small town, was arrested and remanded for 6 days, on 10 May, on suspicion of arson.

PTAS said, "No charges were laid. It was just intimidation."

The allegations made by the residents of SP are serious. Various newspaper reports about illegal waste recycling and environmental pollution have been written, but the problem continues.

So, are state and Federal government regulations being ignored?

Is enforcement haphazard?

Are the local enforcement officers well equipped, and have they enough man-power to monitor the mushrooming of these illegal factories? After all, the world is dumping most of its waste in Malaysia.

Are the local authorities closing one eye to these law-breakers?

Have the Customs Department been compromised? How did several container loads of dirty plastic waste, escape their attention, and enter Malaysia?

Do the MP's advisors have a conflict of interest?

When will Johari sort out this dirty mess?

(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)

Sources:

1. MalaysiaKini: Sg Petani residents outraged as MP denies existence of illegal recycling factories
2. Free Malaysia Today: Will the MP care to meet his anti-sampah constituents?
3. Free Malaysia Today: Meet me to discuss pollution grouses, Sg Petani MP tells pressure group
4. Free Malaysia Today: Canadians go undercover at Sungai Petani plastic recycling plant
5. Malay Mail: Sungai Petani environmental group pressures MP to get Putrajaya to cancel permits for plastic recycling factories
6. Free Malaysia Today: Group links rise in respiratory illnesses with air quality in Sg Petani
7. Free Malaysia Today: Now, world’s rubbish fouling up Sungai Petani

 

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