SUNGAI PETANI: An environmental group says illegal recycling factories here have been taking advantage of the haze to continue polluting the town with noxious gases.
Persatuan Tindakan Alam Sekitar Sungai Petani (PTAS) president Lydia Ong said the haze and these factory gases have been a double whammy for the people here.
“These illegal factories know most people would assume the smoke is caused by the haze from forest fires in Indonesia.
“The factories are operating at full capacity during this haze period. Some are even operating 24 hours to burn the piles of plastic waste
“The Indonesian haze comes to visit us once in a blue moon, smelling like burnt leaves. But in SP, we wake up daily smelling burnt wire and plastics,” she said.
Earlier, Ong and some 200 residents held a protest at an industrial park here, demanding that the Kedah government take urgent action against existing illegally operating factories.
She said despite the state government taking drastic action, such as sealing off the factories and cutting off power supply, these factories continue to run round the clock.
Ong said licensed factories appear to be operating outside the permitted hours of between 6am and 8pm.
To make matters worse, she said the Kedah government was “considering”
issuing six new licences for recycling factories, reneging on a previous promise not to do so.
She said this information was relayed to PTAS through a state executive councillor at a recent meeting.
“The plastic factories here are ‘maharajalela’ in Kedah, operating as if there are no laws, no government. A total of 17 factories closed down, but they can still continue operating as usual,” she said.
PTAS, armed with its own air pollutant index (API) monitors, claimed the API levels had breached the 200 reading on the amount of PM2.5 impurities at one point and it was always at the “unhealthy” or “very unhealthy” levels.
PM2.5 are fine particles measuring just 3% the thickness of human hair. These enter the circulatory system and have been closely linked to heart attacks, besides triggering asthma and respiratory problems, according to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
However, the Department of Environment has dismissed these findings, saying PTAS’ devices are meant to be used indoors and the DoE’s API systems are superior.
The API readings by the department’s sensors show they are below 100 and are at “moderate” levels.
However, Sungai Petani has fast become a dumping ground for the world’s plastic waste, with a few sites found with mountains of unwanted waste.
Most recently, a 2ha dumpsite was discovered operating by the side of Sungai Muda, with aerial pictures shocking many. The site has since been sealed off.
FMT has contacted Kedah officials for comment and is awaiting their replies.