20 FEBRUARY 2021
The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) demands more transparency regarding the approval of all environmentally-sensitive projects, in this case, Lynas Malaysia’s permanent disposal facility (PDF).
According to Malaysiakini’s investigative reports, the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for Lynas’s PDF revealed that 202.35 hectares (ha) of Bukit Ketam will be developed as a Multi-Category Industrial Scheduled Waste Disposal Site (MCISW Disposal Site). This area will be carved out of the Bukit Kuantan Forest Reserve and Lynas’s PDF will take up 58.25ha or 29% of this land.
Despite the scale of the scheduled waste disposal project and the severe risks to environmental and human health, several questions remain unanswered.
- How can the EIA report for Lynas’s PDF be considered for approval without an overall EIA for the MCISW Disposal Site?
- Who is Gading Senggara and why is such a secretive company allowed to deal with matters of national health and security?
Disregard for the law: EIA for MCISWDS a must
The Department of Environment (DOE) must not approve the EIA of the PDF before an EIA is conducted for the overall MCISW Disposal Site.
What is the disposal site for? Scheduled waste is hazardous, toxic waste from industrial processes. Without considering the cumulative impacts of both the PDF and the MCISW Disposal Site, crucial information such as the anticipated concentration of toxic compounds, the implications of construction, the impact on human health etc, would be inaccurate.
In addition, Kuantan Member of Parliament Fuziah Salleh said that the entire EIA process was wrong. That area is still listed as a Rank 1 Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) according to the Kuantan District Local Plan 2035, which means it should not be developed until public consultations are held to amend the local plan.
The company in charge of developing the PDF for RM400 million, Gading Senggara Sdn Bhd (Gading Senggara), is also the contractor for the MCISW Disposal Site.
Malaysiakini reported that the Pahang Regent Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah and Bentong UMNO vice-chief Johari Harun were shareholders of Gading Senggara as of Oct 5, 2020. But C4’s checks with SSM records revealed that by Feb 17, 2020, both have relinquished their shares in the company.
According to Lynas’s January 2020 announcement, Gading Senggara is a government-appointed concessionaire with the licence for industrial waste disposal for east coast Peninsular Malaysia. However, this company is not included in the DOE’s list of licenced scheduled waste facilities/transporters.
In financial reports for the year ending June 2018, submitted two years late to CCM in May 2020, the company’s retained earnings appears negative, it had no revenue, and it incurred a loss after tax.
As it stands, the MCISW Disposal Site project could potentially cost up to billions of Ringgit. Why was a company with questionable financial viability and limited public information selected for such a large-scale project involving hazardous waste? The obvious ties to political and royal actors also present a very real cause for concern.
Freedom of information crucial to anti-corruption
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 could bring to our environment and public health. It presents compelling evidence of inadequate due diligence and investigation by the government into the companies applying for projects, where public resources are used but public scrutiny not welcomed.
Freedom of information and transparency are pillars of good governance, crucial in the fight against corruption. Continuing to withhold or stifle information will only see an increasing erosion of public confidence in the administration.
The opaque ways of doing business in Malaysia must stop. Malaysia needs to uphold transparency and accountability to create a healthier business climate, where preventive environmental regulations and stronger enforcement can protect the people now, not after disasters happen.
Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center)
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