GEORGE TOWN: A Penang government official today revealed that the illegal dumping ground in Bukit Mertajam didn’t appear out of the blue but has been an “on-again-off-again” dumping ground for the past 10 years.
State Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said he had personally led an operation to the site in 2010 and had taken action against the landowners for allowing the land to be turned into a waste dumping ground.
He promised stern action against anyone found allowing their land to be illegal dumpsites, saying a special team had been formed to looked into it.
Recently, the 6ha site on an oil palm estate off Jalan Besar, Machang Bubok, made news after mounds of solid waste, construction debris and other garbage had been dumped by lorries on it. The site was a former illegal sand quarry, long been disused.
A heap of okra, or ladies’ finger, powder from China was found piled up there, but authorities have found there is no immediate threat to the environment.
“The dumping site had been there a long time before we came to power. In 2010, I personally led an operation there to close down the dumpsite,” Phee said, referring to the then Pakatan Rakyat coalition taking over power in 2008.
“When we took action at that time, they stopped. Now it is back again. These culprits are acting with impunity and we will not sit idle. I will promise one thing, we will not compromise,” Phee said when contacted.
He said certain landowners had become emboldened to turn their land into dumpsites as the fines were “puny”.
“They’d say ‘oh you’re going to give me compound notice? I’ll pay RM250 for it to finish the story’. For them, they have got nothing to lose.
“Some have threatened legal action against the compound notices issued to them, making things more complicated.
“We need stiffer penalties to be enacted at the federal level so it will be a deterrent,” he said.
Phee said as of now, a special committee called “Penang Bersih” comprising fellow exco members Jagdeep Singh Deo and Dr Afif Bahardin would come up with a solution to resolve the illegal dumping issue in the state.
He said besides Bukit Teh, there were “plenty more” areas turned into illegal dumps, without saying where they were.
“Our special committee will initiate immediate and long-lasting enforcement action on all these sites, together with the local governments in the nearest time,” he said.
Phee said the committee’s immediate focus was to detect how consignments from China could have landed on the dumpsite. He said checks with port authorities in Butterworth were going on.
“We want to know why unwanted foreign rubbish can end up here. We want to name and shame them, we want to reveal the shipping companies that have been doing this.”
Meanwhile, Seberang Perai Municipal Council president Rozali Mohamud said nine notices were issued on March 20 and 21 for “various offences” related to the dumping and the council had also impounded a lorry whose driver had attempted to unload waste.
He said the owners had been told to clear the site within 20 days or face legal action under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974.
“We are on constant patrol there to ensure no one else enters the site to dump more waste,” he said in a short statement when contacted.