Media statement 
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 Factory 

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 unproven one. 

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 area! 

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.