Sunday, August 14, 2016

Puchong residents face ‘haze’ from open burning

PUCHONG, Aug 13 — A Puchong resident recently spotted an open burning site just 500 metres from his housing area during an early morning drive on August 1 around nearby shoplots. This time, Brian Law was armed with a PM 2.5 air reading device to determine the damage that the open burning was doing to the air and found a reading of 226 on the Air Quality Index (AQI), which is categorised as very unhealthy. The 2015 air pollution crisis which enveloped Malaysians with haze has long passed, but the residents of Taman Putra Prima and adjacent areas in Puchong are still facing haze-like conditions due to extensive open burning in at least five sites near their homes. “We have been facing this for the past three years and we have written in complaints to almost every agency,” Taman Putra Prime Phase 8B resident association (RA) chairman Kiew Kian Chong said during a press meet today. Their complaints were taken up by Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo from the DAP
earlier this year, who then raised the matter directly with the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ).
“MPSJ set out to investigate the ownership of this land. What we discovered was that, there are at least five plots of land involved in this illegal dumping and open burning. Three of them were owned by individuals, and two of the plots are actually owned by the (Selangor) state government,” he said. Residents allege that at nocturnal hours, unidentified contractors drive their lorries into these sites, totalling more than five acres, and dump rubbish like food waste, furniture, and plastics. Then they set the separate piles on fire, just metres away from the Klang river and a nearby former mining pond. But the individuals behind the burning allegedly do not stay back to ensure the burning process is complete and there are huge piles of half-burned rubbish in the area, causing health hazards. One resident, Peter Lai, believes that his recent throat infection and the illness of his six-month old son is related to the open burning. “Our health is also being affected by this,” he said. Residents had called the Fire and Rescue Department several times in the past, but while firemen help put out the fire, it does not stop the burning, which residents say is an everyday phenomenon, from happening the next day. MPSJ, on the other hand, can carry out enforcement on individual instances when complaints are made, but is also restricted in finding a total solution to the problem. “MPSJ have enforcement powers, but what they are saying is that -- how do they keep enforcing over and over again to prevent the problem?” Gobind said following his meeting with the council. “I am disappointed with all agencies involved, be it state or federal, for they have been aware of this for three years now,” he added. Gobind specifically criticised the Selangor Land and Mines Office for their inaction. “I call upon the state to take action under the national land code if possible, in respect to the persons owning these lands, including possibly confiscating the land,” he said. “If the land office cannot solve this problem, give the land to MPSJ so that they can do something with it,” he added. Gobind said he would be seeking to meet Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali over the matter as soon as possible, as the issue not only affects the 3,000 odd people living in Taman Putra Prima, but at least 10,000 people living in the vicinity of the dumpsites. The Selangor state government had repeatedly threatened to take legal action against landowners where open burning is being conducted, especially during haze season. But now that the burnings in Puchong are isolated to one area, Gobind said no agency seemed to be taking the matter seriously enough. “When there is no haze, the federal and state governments do not care. There is a lack of response from both of them, and nobody wants to take action,” he added.