Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Malaysia Darul Sampah

Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish!
Translated by Soong Phui Jee

Like the unsettled traffic summonses and other issues, the waste management problem has long been an unsolved matter in the country.

The waste collection and disposal problem is getting more and more serious by the day. Everywhere, we see solid waste in plastic bags piling up in dustbins outsides houses or hanging on their fences. Roadsides, alleys and open spaces of residential areas are being used as dumping grounds for the solid waste. If they are not collected and left there for a week, the whole are will stink to the sky, and maggots can be seen all over the place, causing hygienic and health problems.

It is no exaggeration to say that many of our residential and commercial areas will soon become very unpleasant malodorous places if the rubbish problem is not resolved efficiently and fast.

Malaysians generally lack civic ethics, and are indifferent and irresponsible on matters of community hygiene and health. Many simply throw rubbish with nary a care for the public well-being. Hence, the drains and rivers are clogged with waste. The areas are infested with rats and cockroaches, and are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Stray dogs and cats roam the places, scavenging for food.

Meanwhile, it is doubtful that the scheme requiring the public to separate their waste before disposing them will succeed, unless there is effective enforcement, with heavy penalties for the offenders. The problem is that usually law enforcement often kicks off with a great fanfare and publicity, with ostentatious pledges by the authorities. But after just a few weeks or so, the pretentious enforcement efforts begin to tone down, and the situation is back to square one.

In addition, the waste management concessionaires are ineffective, collecting waste in certain areas only once a week. Will they be required to collect rubbish at least three times a week under the waste management scheme? The people are worried that the scheme might be used by the concessionaires as an excuse to charge addition fees.

Nevertheless, we still have to take the first step to protect the environment. The waste separation scheme has been discussed and debated for nearly 13 years. The then Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting had launched a trial scheme on waste separation in some urban areas with recycle bins being placed at public places. The authority had even sent a study groups abroad and spent millions of ringgit on publicity. However, the scheme never actually take off, and now there is talk that it will be implemented in April this year.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had also planned to introduce Japanese technology, build waste incinerators and identify the construction sites for the incinerators. However, the plan was shelved due to the opposition from the affected residents.

Since we are still adopting the old-fashioned burial method, Malaysia contributes almost zero to environmental protection and the people have no understanding of how to save the planet. Some people are engaged in recycling work just for their own interests. They do it for money, instead of to protect the environment.

Compared to foreign countries, we only know how to use the old silly way to eliminate waste, but not how to turn them into profitable resources. The accumulate waste buried in the ground would sooner or later turn into toxins.

The agencies involved and their officials will never take act on the matter if the public health and waste management actions not included in the daily agenda of government departments. The public will remain ignorant if the environment protection education in schools and law enforcement are not promoted.

It is good to implement the waste separation plan within a month. However, are they well-prepared for it? It is also good to provide free garbage bins. However, I am afraid that the garbage bins might be stolen and as a result, the implementation of the scheme might be postponed again.

If the people’s mindset remains unchanged, it is impossible for the government to teach the public how to separate waste within a month.

The government has wasted too much time and resources on discussion, planning and advocacy. It is now the time to implement it so that the country can get rid of the "waste kingdom" stigma.

Sin Chew Daily

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