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Ecological disaster

  • The federal government must step in decisively to halt all mining activities or freeze all export permits until an effective solution is identified and the environmental degradation rectified. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily

The environmental disaster from the bauxite mining industry in Pahang has gone from bad to worse. Although the cabinet has instructed the state government to review and suspend bauxite mining activities, things still go on as usual. Bauxite-laden trucks are still moving in and out of mining sites with increased frequencies, and the operators have apparently turned a deaf ear to the federal government's order.

Pahang menteri besar Adnan Yaakob has admitted that two of the mining sites in Kuantan are illegal, and since they are illegal, why has the state government allowed them to operate in the first place? The state government has a compelling obligation for "red tide" that sweeps the coast of Pahang today.

The sudden boom in the bauxite mining industry during the past one year could be attributed to Indonesia's ban on bauxite export that has allowed Malaysia to emerge as a new major supplier to China's thriving aluminium manufacturing industry.

Malaysia has always been gifted with rich natural resources, and our iron and bauxite ores have helped the country rake in tremendous wealth. But the problem lies in the indiscriminate issuance of mining permits and poor supervision on the part of the state government, allowing bauxite-laden trucks to ply freely in our countryside, resulting in red dust over many areas. This has not only seriously contaminated our vulnerable environment, but has also impacted the life of nearby villagers. There is no way the government should sacrifice the health of our people in the name of economic development.

The establishment of the Lynas rare earth manufacturing facilities in Gebeng has already put many under the perils of radioactive contamination. Before this issue is even resolved, we now have the serious environmental degradation from bauxite mining. The highly toxic red dust particles hovering in the air have not only affected the day-to-day living and health of people in the state, more importantly large amounts of toxic ores are being washed into the rivers and the sea thanks to the monsoon rains, dyeing the rivers and sea into ominous red. Drinking water and marine products have been severely contaminated and the area affected is constantly enlarged.

Logging activities that precede bauxite mining have also adversely affected the natural state of the soil, aggravating soil depletion from erosion as well as other grave ecological consequences. As if that is not enough, the rain will wash the soil and ore dust downstream, causing clogging of rivers and drains, and eventually landslides, especially during the monsoon season.

The residents of Pahang have been subjected to the threat of the bauxite dirt for over a year now. That said, mining activities have intensified over the year. We have no way to tell whether the state government under Adnan Yaakob is actually clueless how to fix the problem, or is simply choosing to ignore it.

If the state government has failed to regulate the mining activities which have given rise to severe environmental and ecological disaster in the state, then it is imperative for the federal government to step in decisively to halt all mining activities or freeze all export permits until an effective solution is identified and the environmental degradation rectified.


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