KUALA LUMPUR: DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang called upon the Federal and Pahang Governments to undertake an extensive impact assessment on the entire environment in and around Kuantan. “This should include health checks for the at risk population such as the young and the infirm.”
“The authorities concerned should document and evaluate the extent of the damage caused by 18 months of uncontrolled bauxite mining.”
Lim, who has been suspended from Parliament as Gelang Patah MP, added that a detailed plan to clean up the affected areas – the rivers, the sea, the site of the mines – and address the health issues faced by residents has to be given and explained to the public in a transparent manner. “The total failure and inability of the state and federal governments, to control the bauxite mining activities, led to the sea off the coast of Kuantan turning red earlier this year.”
“The frustration of the people over this disaster was clearly evident when some residents set alight five lorries carrying bauxite through their areas.”
Until issues are addressed to the satisfaction of the residents of Kuantan and the nearby areas, urged Lim, not a single kilogramme of bauxite should be allowed to be mined even after the moratorium ends on April 15. “We cannot allow this ‘red sea’ disaster to drown the people of Kuantan by exposing them to untold and unknown health and environmental hazards.”
Lim was commenting on the “tremendous pressure” being exerted on the state and federal governments to allow the bauxite mining operations to resume when the moratorium, imposed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, ends after the three month period.
It’s not sufficient for the Ministry to come up with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to be followed by the bauxite miners, argued Lim. “Untold environmental damage has been done as a result of the uncontrolled mining including water poisoning and possible exposure to high levels of mercury and other poisonous metals.”
Already, he noted, Malaysian Society of Marine Sciences chairman Harinder Rai Singh has warned that the “red sea” off the coast of Kuantan could be a “dead sea” for up to three years. “The Federal and Pahang Governments must ensure that the existing pollution and environmental degradation was reversed and proper safeguards put in place before allowing even one kilogramme of bauxite to be mined after the moratorium ends.”
Malaysia had almost no production of bauxite until 2013. By 2015, it was producing 20 million tons, making the country the fourth largest bauxite producer in the world after Australia, China and Brazil.
The result of uncontrolled exploitation of resources has been serious pollution of rivers and other water bodies in and near Kuantan, the stripping of forests and earth at mining sites and the transformation of the roads and buildings in the area to various hues of red and orange.