by Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP National Publicity Secretary
on Monday, 16 September 2002
in Kg Bohol, Puchong
DAP Says 'No' to Kg. Bohol Incinerator, the Puchong Cancer
In January last year, the Cabinet approved the construction
of a solid waste thermal treatment plant or incinerator (fluidised bed type),
estimated at about RM1.5 billion, to treat municipal waste on a 20ha site at Kg.
Bohol, Mukim Sungai Besi (near Puchong 6th miles) after the completion of an
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Many residents and non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) voiced their fears and concerns over the health effects of
such an incinerator, caused by the emission of toxic gases, which are hazardous
to children, adults and the elderly.
Residents staying within a 5-7km radius from the plant
would be exposed to the dangerous fumes emitted. Among the areas affected by
this "Puchong Cancer Factory" are Bukit Indah, Salak South, Taman OUG,
Bukit Jalil, the entire Puchong, Bukit Gasing, PJ Old Town until Section 14, PJ
Selatan (including Taman Dato Haron and Taman Medan) and Sunway. It is estimated
that the incinerator will affect 1 million people although the authority has put
the figure as only slightly more than 200,000 people.
The release of toxic gases, especially dioxins, is
hazardous to heath. Although assurance has been given that the level of dioxin
emissions will be within the permissible limit, the danger of dioxin should not
be underestimated. According to the World Health Organisation, dioxins can cause
cancer. These chemicals remain in the environment for years and can travel long
distances through the air, so even people living far from the plant would eventually suffer. Dioxins contaminate soil,
plants and water sources and then enter the food chain and become concentrated
in people's bodies.
Dioxin is a by-product of the manufacture, moulding, or burning organic chemicals and plastics that contain chlorine. Dioxin made headlines several years ago at places such as Love Canal, where hundreds of families needed to abandon their homes due to dioxin contamination, and Times Beach, Missouri, a town that was abandoned as a result of dioxin. About a year ago, Malaysian government had to withdraw all infant milk powders from the market due to suspected dioxin contamination. Dioxin is also one of the main toxins found in Agent Orange spraying in Vietnam during the war.
The EIA report contains many flaws, which raise serious
health concerns to the local community. The CAP (Consumer Association of Penang)
has rejected the entire EIA report after an in-depth study.
The report provides only for a 500m buffer zone and fails
to take into account residents staying within a 7.5km radius as per
international standard. The fact that the report recommended the relocation of
the nearby Kinrara Army Hospital and Army Residential Area clearly shows the
danger posed by the project.
The data in the report are based on similar treatment
plants in Japan which are capable of treating only 100-240 tonnes of waste per
day, whereas the proposed incinerator (one of the biggest in the region) will
treat 1,500 tonnes per day. In fact, the report admitted that there are no
existing data for a plant of this size in the world. The technology that will be
used for the gasification and ash melting system of the plant is also an
The report also admitted that from official records
obtained, there are serious respiratory-related problems amongst adults and
children in the area. The incinerator would only worsen an already unhealthy
The Housing and Local Government Minister Dato Seri Ong Ka
Tin should stop the construction of the mega-incinerator in Kg. Bohol, which is
potentially a health hazard. His ministry should follow the footsteps of the UK
government, which had recently disallowed the proposed expansion of the Edmonton
incinerator in North London on environmental and health grounds following
massive protests from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Londoners.
More than 300 incinerators through Japan must be taken
offline by the end of this year when tighter dioxin emission standards take
effect. Toxicity experiments on animals show that dioxin is 1,000 times more
lethal than potassium cyanide," noted Masatoshi Morita, a senior researcher
at the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan.
Instead, the Housing and Local Government minister should place emphasis on other means of waste management/disposal that are less of a health hazard such as landfills, recycling, waste minimisation by industries and composting. Incinerator should always be a last resort. Even if one were to be built, it should be located safely away from residential areas with strict monitoring of the level of dioxin.