SUNGAI PETANI: A dumping ground of mostly electronic waste (e-waste) close to the size of six football fields has been uncovered on the banks of Sungai Muda – the primary source of water for close to three million people in Kedah and Penang – here.
The 2ha site at Kampung Kemumbung in Sidam Kiri, located on former sand mining land on the edge of the river, is hidden from view by a small oil palm estate. It is about 20km southeast of Sungai Petani town.
An aerial view of Sungai Muda reveals a sea of waste stretching right to the edge of the river.
Checks at the site showed electronic waste originating from as far as Austria and other European countries, and high-end chemicals from India and municipal waste from Japan and Asean countries.
Among them are plastic parts similar to the ones found at Pinang Tunggal in Sungai Petani recently, and bags of plastic fillers, called Durethan, with burn marks on them.
It appears that scavengers may have set fire to some of these parts to extract metals from them.
Circuit boards, wires and other computer parts are also strewn all over the dumping ground.
A visit with the protem members of Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar (PTAS) Sungai Petani today showed the dumping ground may have been in existence for several years.
Members of the environmental action group said villagers had complained to the authorities, including the Sungai Petani Municipal Council, but no action had been taken.
PTAS spokesperson Lydia Ong said a major concern was that water from the river was treated for human consumption besides being used to irrigate padi fields along the river and beyond.
She said several water intakes were placed downstream from the river, which would later be treated and supplied to consumers in Kedah and Penang.
Penang draws water from its side of Sungai Muda in the west. Kampung Kemumbung, where the dumping ground is located, is 10km away from Pinang Tunggal, where Penang Water Supply Corporation’s water intake is located.
“I am worried that this dumping ground could have affected the water of Sungai Muda. The Drainage and Irrigation Department’s rule is that there must be a 500m buffer zone at the rivers. This is a clear encroachment.
She said members of the association had spoken to many villagers who claimed the dumping had been going on for as long as 10 years.
“For the dumping to be going on for more than 10 years and the authorities not doing anything is unacceptable,” she said.
Checks by FMT on Google Earth showed the site was first cleared in 2013, then in 2015 and finally, next to the river, in 2018.
Calculations on Google Earth also showed that the land clearing and dumping ground measured about 2ha.
FMT has contacted the Kedah government for comment and is awaiting a reply.