PETALING JAYA: A total of 202.35ha will be carved out of the Bukit Kuantan permanent forest reserve to be converted into a multi-category industrial waste site involving a project which is shrouded in secrecy, according to an anti-graft group.
The Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Centre) said it was shocked and demanded increased transparency in the approval of such potentially environmentally sensitive projects, particularly in the case of Lynas Malaysia’s permanent disposal facility (PDF).
The Multi-Category Industrial Scheduled Waste Disposal Site (MCISWDS) project, C4 said, illustrated a lack of proper due diligence on the part of the government and insufficient willingness to engage with the public.
“Malaysians have come to expect large-scale projects in Malaysia to be shrouded in secrecy and embedded in the political-business nexus that plagues the country.
“This Lynas PDF issue highlights the risks and potential harm that the lack of transparency can bring to our environment and public health.”
Citing reports which quoted the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA), C4 said 202.35ha at Bukit Ketam, Pahang, will be developed as a MCISWDS, with Lynas to use 58.25ha, or 29% of the whole project.
It questioned how the Environment Department could consider approving the PDF facility if a similar impact assessment had not been conducted for the entire 202.35ha site.
“Without considering the cumulative impacts of both the PDF and the MCISWDS, crucial information such as the anticipated concentration of toxic compounds, the implications of construction, the impact on human health, among others, would be inaccurate,” it said.
It added that as Bukit Ketam is still listed as a Rank 1 Environmentally Sensitive Area, according to the Kuantan District Local Plan 2035, it should not undergo development without the requisite public consultations to amend the existing plans.
C4 also questioned how Gading Senggara Sdn Bhd, “a company with questionable financial viability and limited public information”, could be selected for a project worth RM400 million.
It identified financial reports, as recently as 2018, that indicated the company’s retained earnings appearing negative, with no revenue and it incurring a loss after tax.
It called for an end to opaque business practices to ensure proper environmental protection procedures are followed so as to avoid potential future disasters.
Australian company Lynas, which operates its rare earths processing plant at Gebeng, Kuantan, announced in late January that the Pahang government had consented to a site at Bukit Ketam for its PDF for water leach purification residue.