Forum calls for good strong governance in tackling imported waste


Plastic waste believed to be imported from foreign countries found at an illegal dumpsite in Bukit Mertajam last year. — Filepic

GOOD governance and environmental protection are important for the well-being of the people, said Phee Boon Poh.

The Penang welfare committee chairman said that without integrity, transparency, accountability and respect for the rule of law, the environment would be ruined.

“Destructive crimes like dumping waste and chemicals everywhere are seriously harming our health.

“Buffer zones must be strictly monitored to enhance the conservation of specific areas along with proper water and air monitoring,” he said at an online forum by the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) recently.

Phee added that the state government must be firm to curb the problem of imported plastic waste.

“Penang will re-export the waste to the original countries from the shipping containers.

“Penang Environment Department (DOE) has worked very hard with the Federal Government to upkeep the standard of cleanliness in the state.”

Penang DOE director Sharifah Zakiah Syed Sahab said if the Royal Customs personnel suspect scheduled waste, they would inform the DOE and there would be a joint inspection.

“If it is confirmed there is scheduled waste, we will then issue a notice to the importer to send back the waste to the country of origin.

“They will have to comply with the requirements and if they don’t comply, then we can investigate under Section 34B of the Environmental Quality Act 1974,” she said.

Sharifah Zakiah added that the repatriation of containers from the North Butterworth Container Terminal had decreased over the years from 2018 till 2021.

“We face several difficulties in repatriation including importers who try to obtain approval or other methods to release the waste after the arrival of containers.

“Sometimes, the countries will refuse to accept their waste and argue that something had happened during the shipment.

“They will demand proof or documents.”

C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel pointed out that Malaysia had suddenly become a garbage dump.

“We don’t just have to deal with our own plastic and waste but we are also getting imported plastic mainly from developing countries.

“In 2018, there was a ban by China and all of the sudden, Malaysia became the top destination for plastic waste exports up to about 800,000 tonnes.

“The waste came to various places in our country.

“When enforcement efforts started to increase around Selangor, operators, some of them illegal, moved to Penang, Kedah and some other areas,” she said in her opening note.

C4 researcher Wong Pui Yi said the ease of the illicit activity and the impunity of several groups despite causing severe environmental destruction pointed to pervasive petty corruption and complacency of regulators and businesses.

“The weakness in enforcement and oversight mechanisms in Malaysia led to criminality and intimidation of activists.

“Weak institutions and lax enforcement are consequences and causes of corruption,” she said, adding that empowerment of local government is important in anti-corruption and environmental protection.

Wong also said that a lot of collaboration was required between government agencies and the plastic waste value chain in Malaysia.

Also participating in the forum were Sungai Petani Environment Department branch head Mohammad Nazir Syah Ismail, Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar Sungai Petani former president Lydia Ong, SAM honorary secretary Mageswari Sangaralingam and SAM president Meenakshi Raman.

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