Some want it, some don’t

Posted on June 2, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

The Star

THERE is an international environmental law called the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal.

Yes, I know, the title alone is enough to put anyone to sleep.

I have had generations of students do just that. Anyway, please bear with me.

This international law, which Malaysia is party to, basically forbids the illegal export of hazardous waste to countries that do not want them or do not have the ability to dispose of them safely.

It came about because it is actually cheaper for companies to ship hazardous waste to some Third World country half way across the planet.

A nasty practice that got pretty out of hand in the 80s, particularly in African countries.

So, why should we take other people’s dangerous waste products?

It is a bit odd, therefore, that this Lynas rare earth plant was even considered in the first place.

It happened before in Perak. The Asian Rare Earth (ARE) company in Bukit Merah was Japanese, the Lynas plant in Gebeng, near Kuantan, is Australian.

I wonder why Lynas didn’t just have the plant in the wide open spaces of Aus­tralia.

Is it because it is cheaper to have it here, or perhaps because the Aussies have more stringent laws with regard to radioactive wastes?

Therefore, it makes more sense to come to a country where such laws do not reach such high standards.

Instead of creating the waste in their own home country and then dumping it here, they just build the plant right here along with the waste products.

I do not blame the people of Gebeng for being very concerned because this involves their health and the future of their children. Their opposition to the plant is understandable.

Naturally, the Government and the proponents of the plant will say that it is all fine and dandy.

Speaking of the proponents of this plant, a bunch of them disrupted a peaceful protest against the plant recently in Kuantan.

They didn’t like the anti-plant people because it seems that they were scaring away tourists.

Isn’t it nice to have such tourism-minded people in Kuantan?

Furthermore, one of them was reported to have said that “this is Malay land”.

This got me confused, is it all right to have Malay land irradiated? Very odd indeed.

A review expert panel was set up and they have been meeting various concerned groups. They seem to be saying that the plant is safe.

However, opponents of the plant say that the data obtained in coming to this conclusion came from the plant proponents themselves and is therefore unreliable.

An independent third party should be called in to make the necessary investigations and data gathering.

This is a reasonable request, and one which actually mirrors the decision of the High Court in the ARE case in Perak.

The judge in that case held that analysis of the data coming from the ARE plant sources could be questioned as the neutrality of the data would doubtlessly be, well, questionable.

I am certain that those who are opposed to this plant will continue in their struggle and I hope that there will be a full and open disclosure of all the facts so that an informed decision will be made.

> Dr Azmi Sharom is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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