Sungai Petani environmental group pressures MP to get Putrajaya to cancel permits for plastic recycling factories

A container with imported plastic waste is seen in Port Klang May 28, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
A container with imported plastic waste is seen in Port Klang May 28, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

GEORGE TOWN, Sept 30 — An environmental group, which has been actively protesting against plastic recycling factories in Sungai Petani, has called on MP Datuk Johari Abdul to pressure Putrajaya into cancelling the licences and approved permits (AP) issued to irresponsible plastic waste recycling factories.

Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar Sungai Petani (PTAS) President Lydia Ong ticked off Johari for not taking action to assist his constituents who were affected by pollution from the factories.

“Instead of saying that the local government had tirelessly closed them down, he should find out why, despite being sealed, these factories continue to operate freely in defiance and cause so many problems to his constituents,” she said in a statement issued today.

She advised him to write to the Housing and Local Government Ministry to cancel all APs and licences issued to these irresponsible factories instead of avoiding the issue.

Johari was previously reported as saying he was only an MP and not in charge of approving permits while telling the group to take it up with the ministry.

Ong accused Johari of being “conspicuous by his absence” in all of the events PTAS had held in protest of the plastic waste recycling factories in Sungai Petani.

She said he did not seem interested in defending and helping his constituents with this issue.

“PTAS is not against recycling clean local plastic that has been in existence for more than 15 years,” she stressed.

She said the group is only against newly established plants that import foreign waste illegally.

Ong claimed that it was recently revealed in the Canadian media that many of these factories, which are China-owned, mislabelled waste as clean plastic to import waste illegally while operating in atrocious conditions.

“This is the source of our problems and not the recycling factories processing local waste,” she said.

She claimed despite numerous complaints and demonstrations held by the group, Johari had failed to show an interest in his constituents’ plight.

“We are disappointed about an issue that severely effects Sungai Petani. He is waiting for an invitation from our organisation to take an interest,” she said.

She said the fact that he was elected as the Sungai Petani MP on May 9 last year was the “open invitation” for him to deal with problems faced by his constituents.

PTAS had lodged numerous reports with the police and Department of Environment (DoE), held press conferences and organised at least five demonstrations since April this year.

She said at least three children and a teenager had fallen seriously ill due to air pollution from the factories.

“We also have figures from a private hospital to show a 15 to 30 per cent increase in hospital admissions from May to August 2019 compared to the same months in 2018,” she said.

Ong added schools near Bakar Arang Industrial Area had also lodged police reports and stopped all outdoor activities for several months.

“We hope he and the local authorities will take this issue seriously long before more get sick and we become like Pasir Gudang,” she said.

She said the residents’ suffering was compounded by the recent haze episode and that the air quality reading by the DoE does not reflect the actual situation at the area.

“While the daily average air quality, monitored by a station in Taman Delima by DoE, shows moderate readings, residents in homes near the factories continue to experience foul odour and high PM10 and PM2.5 reading measured indoor especially from 5am to 7am most days,” she said.

She said the areas experiencing the noxious odour included Taman Desa Jaya, Taman Seri Wang, Taman Patani Jaya, Resort Villas, Resort Homes and Cinta Sayang Golf Club.

Ong said the group will hold a special meeting and invite Johari to attend it so that it can present residents’ complaints to him on this issue.

“We will hold the meeting at 8pm on October 5 at the Cinta Sayang Golf Club and we have sent an official invitation to him so we hope he can make it,” she said.

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