Friday, June 27, 2008

Foul Smelling Smoke from Illegal Open Burning

Surrounding areas like Putra Heights is also affected by foul smelling smoke from illegal open burning. Seems like our Wakil Rakyat is aware and doing something to help ... there has been much more issues and much more often that these issues were being highlighted in the news.


Hot issue for Putra Heights folks
By Lim Chia Ying, The Star, 26th June 2008

FOR the past six years, residents of Bukit Lanchong, a neighbourhood at Putra Heights, have had to put up with foul smelling smoke from illegal open burning.

Many have got so used to the whiff that they brush it off as nothing, or just simply think that it is peat haze blowing in from neighbouring Indonesia.

Putra Heights resident Ericson Fernandez did not know how serious the open burning was until he noticed his two-year-old daughter coughing continuously and she has since been put on an inhaler.

Curious about where the smell came from, Ericson stumbled across an illegal dump site that he claimed has become a site for burning manufacturing and industrial waste.

“There was a bad stench coming from the ground. Every week there would be at least three periods of open burning, but it had slowed down in the past three weeks after it generated some interest with the authorities,” he said.

“The burning hours have also changed. It usually starts at around 11pm until about 2am to 3am, at a time when people are already sleeping so they would not notice anything.

“When morning arrives, our houses will be enveloped by a thick layer of man-made fog,” Ericson explained.

Another resident Teh Yee Wen has been following the case since moving to Putra Heights about two years ago.

“My nose is sensitive. I would bleed when the smoke gets overwhelming and it can even cause grogginess,” said Tee, who also had signatures from over hundred of residents protesting the open burning.

Other than Bukit Lanchong, another site previously threatened by similar open burning was Kampung Johan Setia along the Kesas Highway.

Chui Wing Hoe from Bandar Puteri Klang said the smoke could even be smelt from as far as his house when the burning takes place.

“Depending on the wind direction, the smoke can come up to our place and also Kota Kemuning and USJ. Although there is few cases of open burning now, there is still no permanent solution.

“We don’t know when it will come back,” Chui said.

While Bukit Lanchong reeks with the burning stench from an illegal dumpsite, it has been confirmed that the burning sites at Kampung Johan Setia were farmand that had been abandoned by the landowners and taken over by illegal immigrants.

Ericson wants to know why air pollutant index (API) readings are only conducted in the mornings and evenings when the real burning happens at night.

“Right now, I don’t think I’ll ever put this issue to rest as no long-term solution has been worked out. I’ve been exchanging numerous emails with our Kota Raja MP Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud who has been empathetic and even brought up the matter in Parliament,” Ericson said.

Dr Siti Mariah said the Department of Environment (DoE), the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ), and the Petaling District Land Office were aware of the issue.

“I’m not sure at what stage it is at now as I’ve not met up with the DoE on this. However, I understand that these culprits dig very big holes in the ground to do the burning inside, after which the holes are quickly covered up.

“The DoE will have to catch these culprits red-handed,” she said.

Dr Siti Mariah also said the authorities were left with one alternative to solve the problem at Kampung Johan Setia, which was to issue summonses to the landowners who didn’t take care of their land.

“However, the problem now lies in identifying the landowners, which can be difficult as there are no marking on the borders of the land.”

She said while the onus is on the Land Office, any action would have to be coordinated at the state level which falls under the portfolio of State Environmental Committee chairman Elizabeth Wong.

“One department cannot ask another to do something without an order from the state. We need a coordination,” she said.

Selangor DoE director Che Asmah Ibrahim said landowners had been identified for some of the illegal burning sites at Bukit Lanchong and two court cases are being prepared.

She claimed that there was no more open burning at Kampung Johan Setia except when there is a dry spell.

“However, we are continuing to monitor it. Several steps have been taken so far, like getting the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) to deepen a drain to contain water to put out fires as a temporary measure.

“Water sources were not easily available previously, making it difficult for firemen to battle the blazes,” Che Asmah said.

She added that the state government had commissioned a study on the appropriate land use for the area.

“We have a list of over 1,500 owners but no markings have been made to show which plot of land is whose. Illegal immigrants have also taken over the abandoned land and they can only be caught while in action of lighting a fire.

“We have engaged the Global Environmental Centre (GEC) to carry out a study on suitability of soil use, which should be ready by mid-July. The GEC has been involved in a lot of big study cases in many areas in this region including Indonesia,” she said.

Wong, who admitted she has yet to visit Bukit Lanchong, confirmed that the DoE has indeed filed two investigation cases on two landowners for allowing open burning.

“Since it’s private land, there’s no way for us to cordon it off. The place is quite big, but only two lots are used for the open burning.

“Ideally, the landowners should be more responsible. However, we have a lot of witnesses so we trust the owners will appear in court,” Wong said.

She said the two lots could be confiscated as a last resort.

MPSJ president Datuk Adnan Md Ikhsan claimed he was not aware of the matter, but urged the public to give him information on the site and he would then take immediate action.

“If it’s an illegal dumping site, then we will have to take action and issue compounds. If it happens to be one of our contractors, we will terminate the contract immediately.

“This is an issue I will not tolerate and will not hesitate to go all out to nab the culprits,” he said.

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