By Kurniawati Kamarudin & Noor Shamsiah Mohamed
This final of three articles on rising environmental pollution in Kuala Langat zooms in on the action taken by the Selangor Department of Environment.
SHAH ALAM (Bernama) – Kuala Langat residents who have been struggling with pollution issues caused by errant factory operators are not taking it lying down.
Up to Dec 18 this year, the Selangor Department of Environment (DOE) has received a total of 114 complaints from them. Last year, it received 196 complaints and 206 in 2018.
The culprits behind Kuala Langat’s environmental woes are illegal factories that have been sprouting up in the district over the past five years.
These plants are built mainly on agricultural land that has yet to be converted to industrial status.
Selangor reportedly has about 5,600 unlicensed factories and currently, only 1,200 have applied to legalise their operations under a programme initiated by the state government in October last year to license factories and regulate their operations. The deadline under the programme is Dec 31 this year.
Selangor DOE director Nor Aziah Jaafar admitted that Kuala Langat was among the districts in Selangor “sought after” by illegal factory operators. According to a survey carried out by the Kuala Langat District and Land Office, 186 unlicensed factories were operating in the district.
It is, however, disconcerting to note that only 15 of them have applied to legalise their operations so far.
Nor Aziah said so far four applications have been approved while the remaining 11 are still being processed.
“Another 171 illegal factories have yet to initiate any action to ensure that their operations are being carried out in accordance with the established regulations,” she told Bernama in an interview at her officer here recently.
MOSTLY RECYCLING PLANTS
The authorities, warned Nor Aziah, will not hesitate to tear down the buildings of plants that continue to operate without a licence, particularly those that have an impact on the environment.
Apart from the economic factor as they do not pay any taxes to the government, illegal factories are more prone to causing pollution as their activities are not monitored, she added.
Many of the industries operating in Kuala Langat are involved in recycling used tyres and plastic waste.
“Anyway, DOE will not only be focusing on illegal factories but also licensed factories that flout the rules under the Environmental Quality Act 1974,” she said.
As of now, 884 premises in Kuala Langat are registered with DOE, out of which 596 are industrial and 275 non-industrial such as warehouses, workshops and clinics. Another six premises comprise palm oil factories while seven premises are designated as scheduled waste disposal sites.
OPERATION AGAINST ILLEGAL PLANTS
According to Nor Aziah, Selangor DOE launched an aggressive operation against illegal factories in Kuala Langat last year and raided 42 premises involved in processing plastic waste imported from other countries.
“They were found processing the plastic by liquefying it without using a filtration device which led to the occurrence of odour and air pollution,” she said.
So far, the operators of 16 of those factories have been charged in court and fined a total of RM1 million.
Nor Aziah also said that Kuala Langat was a magnet for unlicensed industries due to its proximity to Port Klang.
“Other than that, the district also has extensive areas that are still green and developing, thus making it easier for illegal factories to operate without being noticed,” she said.
Meanwhile, in view of the increasing number of complaints received from Selangor residents with regard to pollution issues caused by factories, the state DOE has set up district-level offices in Sepang, Sabak Bernam, Kajang and Gombak to facilitate monitoring efforts.
“Our officers would patrol high-risk areas at night up to 11 pm to monitor factory operations. If they notice any suspicious activity, they would enter the premises to conduct a surprise check and action will be taken if the operator is found to be flouting the law,” she said.
Nor Aziah said while Selangor DOE monitors a total of 12,604 premises state-wide, it only has 80 people to carry out enforcement work. Its enforcement team has to be mobilised four times a week or 16 times a month, she added.
Due to staff constraints, Selangor DOE has to give priority to monitoring factories against which many complaints have been lodged.
“We also focus on factories that are located close to rivers that have drinking water intake points,” she said, adding that their officers are also often harassed by gangsters.
She also urged community members who wish to register a complaint against any errant factory to provide accurate information that can be used as evidence.
“We tend to get many complaints which turn out to be baseless… it is such a waste of our resources and time to investigate such cases,” she added.
Translated by Rema Nambiar
Malaysian National News Agency
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