KUALA LUMPUR: The current system to monitor pollution, especially concerning chemical-based factories, needs to be improved so that future disasters can be avoided.
Experts believe that apart from having a working system in place, the authorities must ensure that each component within the system is followed through.
Malaysian Nature Society president Professor Dr Ahmad Ismail said a comprehensive monitoring system should include mobile laboratories, more experts in the chemical industry, better enforcement,as well as constant monitoring of the air pollution index and the type of chemicals used in each factory.
He stressed on the importance of having a proper air quality monitoring system in place.
“Constant monitoring of the air pollution index will enable us to identify the components of the toxic matter in the air.so that we know when it’s harmful or otherwise.
“We must know what goes in and out of each factory. What chemicals are they using in their products? What chemicals are they using when dumping the waste?
“Do we have the data on all these? We need better accredited laboratories, maybe even mobile laboratories and not be dependent on the Chemistry Department alone,” he told the New Straits Times.
Randolph Jeremiah, who is Environmental Protection Society of Malaysia vice-president, echoed a similar view, saying better monitoring would make industry players more responsible in handling daily activities at the factories.
He said a solid and functioning system would reflect Malaysia’s progress and maturity as a nation.
“We must pay attention to this. It’s happening again less than three months after the Sungai Kim Kim incident. Many Malaysians are affected and there is a concern that it could cross the border to Singapore.
“Our neighbour would not be happy if this happened, so better regulation and monitoring on what goes in and out of the factories are important.”
Nearly 4,000 people were hospitalised in March following the chemical dumping incident in Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang, which resulted in toxic gas spreading through the air.
On June 20, barely three months later a number of educational institutions in Pasir Gudang were forced to close for three days after scores of schoolchildren experienced dizziness, nausea and vomiting, believed to be from exposure to pollution.
More than 100 pupils from over 30 schools have been affected.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia senior lecturer in chemistry Dr Darfizzi Derawi said while business opportunities with such industries should be welcomed to boost the economy, clear rules and regulations must be imposed.
“Employees need to be educated. We must provide clear rules and education for everyone involved, not just factory owners.
“We may have overlooked the rules and the planning when we were eager in welcoming industry players into our country, but no more.”
Out of 2,005 licensed factories in Pasir Gudang, 250 are chemical-based factories, with all located in the same area.
Darfizzi said there were two options to resolve the problem.
“Either relocate the factories or the people have to be moved somewhere else. Of course it’s not easy. The families there have bought their houses and to relocate even one factory is a problem due to all the contracts signed before.
“But at the end of the day, we know that the people and the factories must be isolated from one another or the long-term effects could be devastating.”