Friday, April 7, 2006

Illegal Dumps: M'sian Way Of Life?

By S.Chandravathani, Bernama.

A discarded refrigerator "standing aloof" at the dead end of a street, piles of construction debris and old tyres at a roadside as well as mounds of old furnitures in a back lane.

These are fast becoming the normal scenes in Malaysian life nowadays and at a rather startling rate!
Disgusting sight? The answer is in the affirmative but illegal garbage dumping is fast turning into a Malaysian culture.

Apart from being eyesores, garbage at these illegal dumps ruin our scenic vistas, seriously affecting the country's tourism industry. Worst of all, illegal dumping endangers the environment.

Many people blame it on the lack of enforcement or the absence of it.

Government agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have held awareness campaigns and "gotong-royong" clean-ups, but to everyone's dismay, the illegal dumping continues.

It boils down to one thing. That is bad attitude.


Alam Flora Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Mohamed Siraj Abdul Razack said thoughtless people daily discard tonnes of materials that should have been recycled or dumped at proper landfills.

He said the company spends RM4 million a year on clean-ups and other work to clear garbage at illegal dumps.

Alam Flora workers also "fish out" some 50,000 tonnes of wastes from the Klang river daily.

The wastes come from factories (30 per cent), squatter areas (25 per cent), hawkers (17 per cent), debris from surroundings (10 per cent) and individuals (18 per cent), Mohamed Siraj told Bernama.

He said 259 locations in Kuala Lumpur, mainly in Segambut Industrial Area, Taman Cheras Pertama and Kampung Kerinchi have been identified as illegal dumping sites.

There are 555 illegal dumps in Selangor that force Alam Flora to spend RM4 million in clean-ups while the cost is RM1 million for 99 dumping sites in Pahang.


Mohamed Siraj said this problem would have been solved years ago if the people make an effort to sort out and separate their garbage.

"Unfortunately, only a few realise that their die-hard habit and bad attitude has lead to "filthy" environment," he said.

University Malaya's (UM) Professor Dr P Agamuthu defines illegal dumping as disposal of wastes at an unpermitted area by irresponsible parties like building contractors, tyre shop owners, scrap collectors, factory operators, hawkers and local residents.

He said this act is also known as open, fly or midnight dumping because the materials are often thrown from vehicles along roadsides and at open areas late at night.

"These illegal dumpers invade other people's open properties as they do not like to travel to landfills or want to evade charges for using this facilities," said Prof Agamuthu, an expert in Solid and Hazardous Waste Management.

He said illegal dumps are often located near active or closed landfills, solid waste transfer stations, abandoned industrial zones, unsecured residential and commercial properties as well as construction sites.


Mohamed Siraj said a looming environmental crisis can be averted if a Solid Waste Management Bill is enacted and passed in Parliament.

Housing and Local Government Ministry had drafted the Bill in 2002. Its initial target was to have the draft ready by end of 2003 before tabling it in the Dewan Rakyat the next year.

On Jan 29 last year, the draft of the Bill which requires the public to recycle solid wastes, was sent to the Attorney-General's Chambers for some fine tuning.

Mohamed Siraj said: "The Bill enables us to set new rules and regulations regarding environmental issues.

"For example, all lorries carrying wastes must register with Alam Flora and they will be issued special stickers for collection and disposal of solid wastes.

"These lorries will bear a special registration letter "S" for sampah (rubbish). Even if 1,000 vehicles are registered with us, we can still track their movement through our system," he said.


Mohamed Siraj is looking forward for the passing of the Bill as it would be the milestone for the country's success in this aspect.

To date no offenders have been jailed despite the existence of Environmental Quality Act's (1991) Section 34B.

This section which prohibits the placing and disposal of scheduled wastes, states that any offender shall be liable to a fine not exceeding RM500,000 or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both.

Recently, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting explained the rationale behind the ministry's delay in tabling the Solid Waste Management Bill's draft.

He said the tabling had to be deferred pending the government's policy decision on privatisation of solid waste services.


Some time ago, Alam Flora initiated a reward scheme where people can take snapshots of illegal dumpers and each photograph will be paid RM50.

However, this scheme drew cold response and simply faded away.

"People constantly question our duties and responsibilities. But the public should be responsible towards the environment by disposing wastes accordingly," said Mohamed Siraj.

Prof Agamuthu said illegal dumps pose health hazards as they are easily accessible to people especially children who are vulnerable to protruding nails, sharp edges and hazardous chemicals.

He said rodents, insects and other vermins are attracted to dump sites.

Dump sites with old tyres provide ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which can multiply 100 times faster than normal in the warm stagnant water trapped in the hollow of the old tyres.

"Illness like encephalitis and dengue have been attributed to mosquitoes breeding at old tyre piles," he said.

Prof Agamuthu said illegal dumping activities have negative impacts on plants and other forms of life, while the leachate may contaminate wells and other water sources.

Mohamed Siraj said residents like to take pride of their towns and cities but illegal dumps make that very hard to do.

He said sites that are not promptly cleaned up often attract more illegal dumpers.

Hence, it is quite common for a little dump to turn into hectares of trash in a matter of weeks and people are more likely to dump at areas where trash already exists.

The presence of illegal dumps also depreciates the market value of properties as it become unattractive to prospective buyers.

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