No to toxic waste treatment facility in Sarawak

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MIRI — SAVE Rivers is against the proposal made by Tokuyama Ltd. to have a scheduled waste treatment facility in Sarawak. The public has been misled in the beginning about the plans of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy or Score: the name itself is deceiving because the industries proposed for Score are not renewable energy.

Photograph: The Borneo Post

One of the industries is Tokuyama’s plans to produce polycrystalline silicon with toxic waste as a by-product.

SAVE Rivers fears the impact of such polluting industries in our state, including the treatment and disposal of toxic waste. These industries are the reason why 12 mega-dams are planned for Sarawak which would displace thousands of indigenous people. The mega-dams are built to power these industries and not to provide cheap electricity to the people who need it the most.

But rural communities are not the only people to be negatively affected by Score. People living in Bintulu and other neighbouring towns will be affected by the expansion of Samalaju Industrial Park to include new polluting industries.

Serious health concerns such as breathing difficulties, coughing, headaches, skin rashes/sores, dizziness, and asthma have been reported by the community of Balingian, Mukah where an aluminium smelter plant by Press Metal has been operating since early 2009.

Nearby rivers have been polluted, and the residents of Balingian have to resort to buying bottled water because rainwater has been affected by the toxic smog produced by the aluminium smelter plant.

This would be the reality for the people in Bintulu and other places in Sarawak where such polluting industries would be located. Currently, Mukah faces negative environment impact from the dual polluting industries of an aluminium smelter and a coal fuel-powered plant.

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Since the commencement of Score, there has been no public transparency about its secretive plans such as its intentions on how to treat and dispose huge amounts of toxic waste.

SAVE Rivers also calls for an explanation of the retrenchment of over 800 employees of Sanmina-SCI. There is grave concern that Score cannot deliver its promise of jobs when current multinational industries in the state are retrenching hundreds of Sarawakians. Score has been promoted as delivering millions of jobs yet there is great uncertainty that these jobs are neither viable nor sustainable for our people.

We are concerned that the state government is not able to stand by its people when they are retrenched by the multinational companies that the state government has brought in.

SAVE Rivers therefore calls for greater transparency in our state government, and we ask, development for whom? Score is not development for the people of Sarawak.

It is time for a real discourse on the development that Sarawakians want.

Peter Kallang is chairperson of SAVE Rivers.

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