Threat From Sungai Kim Kim Fumes May Not Be Over Warns Wan Junaidi


Former natural resources and environment minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar says the government should table a new environment bill to tackle water pollution matters more effectively.PETALING JAYA: Former natural resources and environment minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has called on Putrajaya not to underestimate the situation in Sungai Kim Kim, Pasir Gudang, as noxious fumes travel from one place to another
He said the hot weather could worsen the situation as unseen toxins dissipate easily into wider areas in Pasir Gudang
Wan Junaidi told FMT he was informed that the Johor state authorities were aware of the recent illegal waste dumping into the river but no action was taken to dispose of the toxic waste
“Money or cost is not an excuse, especially when it involves human lives,” he said, referring to the more than 2,700 victims who have received treatment after inhaling the toxic fumes
He urged the health ministry to study the short- and the long-term effects of exposure to the chemical pollution
Wan Junaidi said even though illegal dumping of chemical wastes was not widespread, it was regularly carried out by smaller companies who wanted to cut costs
He urged the government to table a new environment bill, similar to the one drawn up by him to replace the 1974 law, so it will have power to act on river pollution matters, which currently fall under the state governments
“The federal government can then correct the weaknesses of the states in protecting the environment,” he said
Meanwhile, an environmental activist has described Malaysia’s efforts to clean up the rivers as “20 years too late” as the majority of them are highly polluted with plastic, household and factory wastes
Andrew Sebastian, chief executive of the Malaysian Ecotourism and Conservation Society (EcoMy), said a tragedy similar to the Sungai Kim Kim crisis could strike any time
“Rivers have been used as dumping grounds for decades and no one really bats an eye on the level of pollution unless tragedy strikes
“It is not just the failure of the state. It is from the man on the street walking along the rivers and does nothing to alert the local authorities, and the local councils having very little resources to monitor the rivers
“Our country is full of rivers but people do not report pollution and state governments do not take action, causing companies to blatantly dispose of waste,” he told FMT
Sebastian said stiffer penalties and better enforcement were needed “because people do not seem to care where the factory waste ends up”

“Orang Asli kids have been victims of polluted rivers in Cameron Highlands but not much attention has been given because they are a marginalised group. The Sungai Kim Kim incident is a serious wake-up call for everyone,” he said. - FMT

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