Sungai Petani residents protest over worsening air quality

Some 150 SP residents protesting against a plastic recycling factory next to Taman Songket Indah, Sungai Petani.

SUNGAI PETANI: A group of 150 people gathered at a residential area here today to protest against the “proliferation” of illegal recycling factories which they blame for the poor air quality in Sungai Petani for the past year.

The group, led by the members of the Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar (PTAS) Sungai Petani pro-tem committee, picketed for close to two hours this evening, asking the Kedah government to put an end to such factories.

PTAS spokesman Dr Sunny Tneoh said while the state government had gone to shut down a few illegal recycling factories by sealing them and cutting power supply, they appeared to be operating as usual.

“In June, a factory’s power was cut. The following day, it was business as usual. After we complained to the state government, the factory was sealed and its 20 machines were sealed.

“But voila, the next day, the factory is running yet again. Are the authorities going to say it is haunted and that is why we are hearing sounds and seeing smoke from afar?

The residents blame such factories for polluting the air.

Now, not only do we have to contend with air pollution from these illegal factories, we have to face the regional haze problem. It is a double whammy,” he said.

Tneoh, who is a medical doctor, also raised the issue of a recycling factory operating 15 metres away from Taman Songket Indah.

“It defies logic to have an industrial area so close to a taman (housing estate),” he said.

A memorandum prepared by PTAS was sent to PAS’ Youth chief Khairil Nizam Khirudin so it could be brought to Parliament by PAS MPs. In receiving the memorandum, he said this matter was beyond politics, but purely an environmental matter, he told reporters.

At the same protest, Taman Songket Indah resident Mohd Nizam Hashim, 53, brought his entire family to show a strange rash over all their bodies, which he said was caused by the air pollutants.

He said the worst-affected was his nine-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son, who sometimes would have to skip school due to “strange illnesses”.

“Can someone tell me what is wrong with my children? It has been over a year and this has been happening,” he said.

PTAS SP has been campaigning for an urgent probe into illegally operating plastic recycling factories since earlier this year. It claims they are burning plastics and causing massive pollution in town.

The group has also bought its own API reader which showed air quality levels breaching 300 on the PM2.5 scale, which is considered “very unhealthy”.

PAS Youth chief Khairil Nizam Khirudin (right) taking a look at Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar SP pro-tem committee’s memorandum.

However, the Department of Environment had found their findings to be inaccurate as it said the air quality in Sungai Petani had recorded moderate levels, based on its ambient air quality monitoring station in town.

At the recent state assembly, Kedah Environment Committee chairman Simon Ooi had said there were only 16 illegal plastic recycling factories in the district as compared to 107 in Selangor.

He had said of the 16, six had their power cut and similar action was being taken against the rest in stages.

Ooi had said there are only five legally-operating plastic recycling factories in Sungai Petani.