Thursday, October 1, 2009


I just got back from checking out how the illegal road in Kg. Pertak is progressing. Even though the contractors were told to stop work by Selangor State's Exco. member for Environment and Tourism,  Elizabeth Wong,  the road is definitely going ahead, but where it''s going is still a bit of a mystery.  Today there's a project signboard at the start of the new road, which seems to have sprung up overnight, bearing the government and ICU logos and names the contractor as Mohd. Shakir Bin Din.

The workers have already got as far as, what I call, the crocodile pool, which is about 2kms from the village.  This is a magnificent spot where another smaller river, known as Air La,  flows across the trail and joins the Sg. Luit.  Back in the 19th century the British, who were mining in the area, built a small railway that crossed the Sg. Luit at this spot, in fact remnants of the concrete pillars that held the rail track, are still visible on top of the huge boulders.   A metal suspension bridge, which is suitable for pedestrians and motorbikes only, currently spans the confluence.  It was  there that I had a chat to one of the bulldozer drivers. He claimed  the road up to the suspension bridge was phase 1 of the project.  Phase 2 is about to start on the other side of the suspension bridge and will go as far as the  main river crossing about 1.5 kms upstream.  The existing cable bridge is being left untouched, according to him.

Crocodile pool shot from the old jungle trail.

Remnants of the 19th century mining railway that crossed the Sg. Luit

Metal bridge spanning Air La

The other side of the metal bridge - phase 2, about to be bulldozed.

They have started laying a very fine aggregate on top of the stone chips but there are many places where the underlying water is still seeping through.  The drains they have installed are fed from open freshly dug ditches and there's already evidence of silting problems to come.  In one place a plastic pipe has been laid a couple of inches under the stone graveling to drain a small rivulet that flows across the road. It's hard to imagine this will last very long, especially with all the heavy construction vehicles constantly driving back and forth over it.  I'm not even convinced it's even a proper drainage pipe as the stones on top of it were damp indicating that the water was flowing freely underneath.

Fine aggregate piled up at Lubok Pusing.

Rumours are flying around that Wong Koon Mun has got his eye on a piece of land inside the jungle to build a tourist resort. You can read all about that at

Right now my biggest concern is that the road won't last very long and, if it does collapse, that the environment will be messed up even more and the Orang Asli will be cut off from their dusuns inside the jungle. Not far outside of the village there are signs that the road is already unstable on the side that slopes down to the rive  and there are now several, quite big trees, whose roots have been undermined, perching very precariously above the new road.  The fact that the road is being built so shoddily would tend to indicate that the rumour of resorts is untrue. Surely if there are plans to develop an area inside the jungle it would be completely insane not to make sure it was built to the highest standards.

I think it would be great to get an independent opinion on the quality of the road from a practicing civil engineer, so if anyone reading this has the necessary expertise and is willing to give an opinion free of charge then please get in touch with me here and I promise I'll publish your findings no matter what.

Lubok Pusing used to be a popular camping and picnic spot.

In the meantime I'm going to start badgering the Department of the Environment to find out if there was ever an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) done for this project.  Of course I'm not expecting, given that the road is illegal, in which case the DOE should investigate and take some action.

Tomorrow Senator Datuk T. Murugiah from MIC is visiting Kg. Pertak in response to a complaint about the road by a local resident so stay tuned for more news...  

Monday, September 28, 2009


The Kelau dam project involves the transfer of raw water from the Kelau river in Pahang to Selangor, by tunneling through the main range. 

Besides inundating forested land, the project also involves the unneccesary relocation of the Orang Asli (indigenous minority peoples of Peninsular Malaysia) in Kampung Temir and Bukit Cenal.

Watch the revealing video on the Kelau dam project at


Rubbish from apartments on Jalan Ampang, Selangor.

One of the things that really gets me hopping mad is the amount of garbage littering the country. No matter where you go, there’s always rubbish lying around. When I lived in Ampang Jaya in the early 90s there was a stinking rubbish skip at the end of my road which rarely got emptied. I went back there recently to see how the area had changed and could hardly get my bearings. Many of the old houses have been replaced by apartment buildings, there’s even a school on the field where the local kids used to play. Pretty much everything is different, except for the garbage skip that hasn’t moved and it's still overflowing with foulness.

More rubbish at Jalan Ampang apartments, shame on you MPAJ!

When I moved to Kuala Kubu Bharu in the mid 90s, it was the same. Open skips in various locations around town attracting flies, dogs, cats and chickens that rummage through the skip spreading the evil stuff all over the side of the road.

In 2005 I moved to Puchong where the garbage was actually collected three times a week but the area was still littered with rubbish. One day I saw a lady throw a bag of garbage onto a green area right outside her own house. When I asked her why she didn’t put it in her bin she told me to mind my own business. Okay! But in my opinion, if she’s dumping her waste in a common area, it is my business.

Now I live in a small village whose stunning natural beauty attracts a lot of visitors, especially at weekends and public holidays. But the majority of these people leave more than their footprints behind. Styrofoam food boxes, plastic bottles and bags, discarded soft drink cans even used diapers are all left littering the village and the nearby river…and this river supplies KL with drinking water.

So now I’m on a personal mission to try and help clean up wherever I find myself in whatever way I can. Sometimes I pick up a piece of garbage that someone's just thrown down in the street and hand it back to them with an innocent, “Excuse me, I think you dropped this” Most people I’ve done this to think I’m a nutcase, I can tell by the look on their faces, but most do take their litter back – though I guess most of them probably just throw it back onto the ground once I’m out of sight.

My slightly neurotic concern about garbage isn't entirely without foundation. Consider this:

Malaysians generate about 20,000 tons of household garbage a day, and a staggering third of that comes from the Klang Valley. That's more than 6 tons a day just from K.L. and surrounding areas. That's a lot of garbage. In fact, a mathematical friend of mine calculated that 6 tons of garbage would cover the whole of the Dataran Merdeka, when spread out and if it was placed in one tall pile it would replace the Twin Towers as the country's tallest building. Imagine the fuss if we did dispose of our garbage in our cities? Yet few seem to care about huge tracts of land outside the cities which are being turned into festering dumps that ooze toxic leachate into the water system, produce copious amounts of the greenhouse gas, methane, and attract mosquitos, flies, rats and other types of odious 2, 4 and 6 legged creatures.

Kerubung landfill, Melaka

According to
Alam Flora, who hold the country's biggest garbage collection concession, only 5 percent of this garbage is recycled despite the fact that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (KPKT) have a policy to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (3 Rs)

What happened to those thousands of posters the ministry printed to promote the 3Rs? One showed a young mother nursing her baby on a landfill and another featured a children's playground built on top of a mound of rubbish. I don't remember seeing them in the public domain and when I tried to find them online from the ministry's website I failed. They were powerful images that would certainly make people stop and think, and surely raising public awareness would be a great first step to take towards solving the garbage problem. It would also be in-line with the spirit of Local Agenda 21 which aims to forge partnerships between local authorities, the private sector and the community in order to plan and care for their environment.

Nice place to have tea perhaps?

Local Agenda 21 is a significant part of
the Global Action Plan Towards Development for the 21st Century that the Malaysian government agreed to abide by, way back in 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Even though the collection, disposal and treatment of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) falls under the aegis of Local Agenda 21, the government went ahead and federalized MSW. This gives the responsible ministry, in this case the Housing and Local Government Ministry, the right to veto Municipal Council plans and essentially dictate what system they should adopt. This strange sleight of hand has led to situations where government approved concessionaires, who manage many of the landfills, have the power to hold the local authorities to randsom.

I was also under the impression that the reason Alam Flora got their concession was because their waste management strategy was in line with the ministry's commitment to the 3Rs and therefore Local Agenda 21. Yet, in spite of messages on their website extolling the virtues of the 3Rs, they are still dumping the majority of the waste they collect onto landfills and the government regularly approves land deals for new landfills. It stinks!

Alam Flora trucks at the Taman Beringin transfer station.

It's fair to argue that in the past landfills were the only solution, but today green technology that allows for better waste management is locally available. So why isn't the government using it? Why instead are they promoting incinerators, which certainly aren't green or cost effective? Incinerator technology is not only expensive and it also relies on fossil fuels to combust the garbage. It's also an unpopular choice, remember the fight against the Broga incinerator? Also, because the garbage isn't sorted before it's incinerated, the ash that remains often contains toxins and heavy metals from noxious stuff that was in the garbage such as batteries and pesticide containers. This means the ash has to be specially treated or stored at additional cost. 

At the moment less than half of the incinerators, that have been commissioned are in operation due to technical incompatibility problems with the type of waste they have to deal with. This is because Malaysian waste is often much wetter than the waste the technology was originally designed for and so it doesn't perform to the required standard and is frequently taken off line for maintenance causing even more expense.

Courtesy of

So what's going on? Why is the government flouting its own environmental legislation? In fact, Why are they even interested in the content of your dustbin in the first place? Surely this is a local, not a federal issue.

In 2008 Mariana Mohamed Osman, Syarifah Norazizan Syed A Rashid and Nobaya Ahmad conducted a study at University Putra Malaysia to determine why the government had failed to adopt Local Agenda 21 in practice. They found that the government's unwillingness to act was due to the following:

political reasons

lack of funding or competence

inefficiency due to poor infrastructure and service provision

unrealistic official standards

the lack of profit to be made...

What, profit from garbage? You betcha!

As the old English saying goes, "Where there's muck, there's brass." The collection and disposal of waste is big business. A total of RM5 billion was allocated for it under the 9th Malaysia Plan. But we have very little to show for all this money. One of Selangor's flagship projects is the Bukit Tagar sanitary landfill near Rawang which is operated by KUB Berjaya Enviro (KBE) This cost the taxpayers about RM400 million to build, including land acquisition. But we also need to factor in the additional cost to the Local Authorities (and therefore the people) of transporting waste to Bukit Tagar which is in addition to the normal tipping fee they pay. This means that it could cost between RM130 to RM150 per ton to send garbage to the Bukit Tagar landfill. With a national volume of 20,000 tins per day we're talking big business.

Aerial of Bukit Tagar landfill.

The 9th Malaysia Plan also allocated RM400 million to close and rehabilitate 16 landfills nationwide though, because of a lack of transparency, it's virtually impossible to find out who has received this allocation and what tangible improvement this expenditure has created. The Taman Beringin landfill site near Kepong is operated by Cypark at a cost so far of RM38 million but this was financed by DBKL (Kuala Lumpur City Council) it did not come out of the RM400 million allocated for such purposes and I believe the company is asking for more money.

When I visited the site recently I noticed Cypark had put in ventilation pipes to extract the methane as well as a building a leachate collection pond. They have landscaped the whole area with grass and trees. Some of the residents living right up on the boundary of the dumpsite said it was definitely a huge improvement on what had been there before. "Now it only smells bad in heavy rain," they told me. But on closer inspection around the periphery of the site (it's a restricted area) I could see that the layer of soil capping the dumpsite is very shallow and that garbage is still visible amongst the vegetation at ground level and I was told by a local resident that when it rains run-off flows off the dump and into the Municipal drains that border the site. Indeed on the day I visited, there were some students at the site measuring leachate flow, they weren't specific, but they did say there were problems.

So far the only real initiatives directed at developing a waste management system that is based on the 3Rs and genuine concern about the environment, have come from private venture companies. They invariably face many obstacles securing concessions due to the fact that they are potentially destabilizing the status quo. It all smacks of bad governance to me but there are some exceptions of course. The Kajang Municipality, for example, overcame the need to find the additional cost of transporting their garbage to Bukit Tagar by sending it to Recycle Energy Sdn. Bhd. instead. This privately funded project is a joint venture between Core Competencies Sdn. Bhd. and MMC. From their plant in Semenyih, they are currently recycling or re-using 80 percent of the 700 tons of rubbish per day they receive from Kajang and neighbouring areas for processing. But the really innovative part of this method is that it is producing renewable energy in the form of Refuse Derived Fuel which is being used to generate electricity for the national grid. Hey that's more like it!

So what can we do? Local Agenda 21 empowers the community to have a big say in the environment so it's down to each and everyone of us to start taking control, to become ecowarriorz in our own right and start asking questions and making sure we get the answers.

For my part I will keep monitoring the rubbish and will keep you updated.