PETALING JAYA: The formation of the Toxic Waste Management and Scheduled Waste National Committee – announced by the Department of Environment (DOE) last weekend – is timely, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) chairman said everyone should support the committee, as it would help tackle the indiscriminate disposal of hazardous waste.
The committee, he said, would be the highest platform that could decide on how to better manage toxic waste, so that the Sungai Kim Kim incident in Pasir Gudang would not recur.
Lee said that besides the DOE and other relevant agencies, the committee should include experts from the institutions of higher learning and private sector.
“They must study how toxic and scheduled wastes are being handled in developed countries,” he said in a statement.
DOE director-general Datuk Dr Ahmad Kamarulnajuib Che Ibrahim on Sunday (March 31) had stated that it had completed the final draft for the setting up of the committee.
The draft will be sent to the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry for approval.
The committee, added Lee, must find ways to strengthen enforcement according to existing laws, especially the Environment Quality Act 1974 and the Environmental Quality (Scheduled Wastes) Regulations 2005.
“Despite having legislation which regulates 77 types of hazardous wastes, illegal dumping is still widespread due to the lack of enforcement, with the culprits more interested in evading disposal fees and waste levy," said Lee, who believes the Sungai Kim Kim incident to be only the tip of the iceberg.
He said that besides illegal dumping, toxic waste could also originate from rubbish dumps and landfills.
Most of the country's landfills and dumpsites, he said, were not properly designed with the proper collection and treatment of gases and leachate.
Lee said there were irresponsible people disposing hazardous waste at the landfills, even as more illegal dumpsites were being created due to increasing demand from local and foreign companies, and waste importers.
“I hope that the committee will propose an amendment to the present law to compel those who dump chemicals to pay for the cost of rehabilitating the environment and the treatment of people who suffer from their irresponsible act,” he said.