Not in my backyard
FOR years, trash has been tipped over hill slopes at Cameron Highlands, marring the montane landscape and fouling up streams. Now, a waste incinerator has been built to deal with the waste. But not everyone welcomes the plant located on the existing dump in Kampung Raja.
They fear the health and environmental effects, as well as the project cost. Some say information on the project was not forthcoming.
“There was only one briefing for residents sometime in 2008. We had asked for more details then but no news came, and suddenly the plant was being built,” says Ramakrishnan Ramasamy, president of local NGO, Reach.
Suresh Kumar, branch secretary of Parti Sosialis Malaysia, says residents were only told of the positive effects of the incinerator – that there would be no smells and no polluting dump – but not of the risks of foul emissions. He says any possible pollution from the incinerator is especially of concern in Cameron Highlands because of the large farming areas.
Our lamentable track record in operating and maintaining trash incinerators further fuels anti-incinerator sentiments.
“Incinerators built previously were all abandoned due to the high cost of running them. They also had EIAs (Environmental Impact Assessment) then and still ended up as white elephants,” says Suresh.
A recycling scheme started by Reach three years ago has expanded to include five collection centres. Other vendors are also picking up recyclables. Hence, Ramasamy foresees a decline in trash volumes, which will ultimately affect the running of the incinerator. He says the Agricultural Department is also encouraging farmers to compost green waste.
“If all this (recycling and composting) have been given a chance and don’t work, then we can consider incineration. Incinerators should be the last choice,” says Ramasamy.
An open dump in Cameron Highlands. Incinerators are deemed the best option for islands and highland areas where land is scarce and shipping the waste to proper landfills would be costly.