The government is urged to comply to the international standard on the construction of incinerator in Broga and reconsider the site at Broga

Press Statement
Teresa Kok Suh Sim

(Kuala Lumpur, Tuesday): I would like to express my deepest concern towards the choice of site of incinerator at Broga and I urge the government to reconsider the new site at Broga.

If incinerators were to be used, several basic conditions for safety should be met:

(i) there must be separation of waste from an early stage; and
(ii) It must comply the international standard where no residential areas located within 7.5km radius from the incinerator site.

According to the report published in New Straits Times dated 3 December 2002 on the construction of the Broga incinerator, director-general of the housing and local government ministry, Datuk Mohamad Saib had stated that:

(i) the separation of tin, metals and glass takes place during the first stage of waste burning;
(ii) the plant's dioxin emissions of 0.1 nanogrammes of dioxin per cubic metre of emissions are within internationally-accepted limits; and
(iii) the location of the plant would be 2.5km from the nearest residential area.

Firstly, the government must ensure that priority is given to waste separation before any incineration takes place. Non-degradable materials like plastic, tin, metals and glass should be separated from the start and not after they have gone through first-stage burning at a temperature of 400 to 600 degrees Celsius as this will result in greater production of dioxins.

Secondly, the question of what is the "safe limit" for dioxin discharge is subject to challenge. Many experts have in fact seriously questioned the emission limit of 0.1ng/Nm3, arguing that in reality there is no safe dosage for dioxin intake. If there is indeed no safe dosage, then we should not assume that there is a safe dioxin emission limit.

The most recent report on dioxin by the United States Environmental Protection Agency released in 2000 had revealed that the risk of getting cancer from dioxin is today 10 times higher than reported in 1994 and it now considers dioxin to be carcinogenic to humans. That is why the danger of dioxins to human health should never be underestimated, especially as they are the most toxic chemicals on the planet.

Thirdly, the very real health threat posed by dioxins makes it imperative that any incinerator be built as far as possible from residential areas. This is to ensure that human exposure to dioxins is reduced and minimised. As such, the stipulated 2.5km distance of the Broga plant from the nearest residential area is not good enough.

According to the United States EPA Clean Air Act, the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Kingdom Department of Environment, the requirement of impact assessment of an area should be within a 7.5km radius. In view of this, the government should make sure that that the Broga incinerator is sited at least 7.5km from the nearest residential area, especially as the exact location has yet to be determined.

Besides, in view of the burning of plastic and chlorine-based materials produce dioxin, I urge the government to learn from Bangladesh and ban the use of plastic and replace plastic wares with bio-degradable materials before building incinerators in all parts of the country.

As substitute for plastic, bio-degradable bags should be popularised like what is being practised in developed countries to promote a more environmentally-friendly and conscious consumption behaviour. At the same time, efforts to promote recycling should be step up so that we can achieve the 50% recycling rate in developed nations.


* Teresa Kok Suh Sim, DAP MP for Seputeh