NGOs say no to reopening of contentious Kuala Langat battery plant

Topic: Environmental Governance

Related news: thevibes.com/articles/news/42529/ngos-say-no-to-reopening-of-contentious-kuala-langat-battery-plant

Coverage by: The Vibes

Civil society organisations are up in arms about the planned reopening of a battery manufacturing plant in Jenjarom, Kuala Langat, that was tainted with controversy years ago. 

In a memorandum to the Kuala Langat Municipal Council (MPKL), they warned that allowing the resumption of the factory’s operations, which were ordered to cease in 2019 following lead pollution, will pose a danger to the lives of residents, as well as the environment.

The group of 11 organisations (including C4 Center) said although the new factory owners have said the facility will manufacture only solar batteries, and not lead batteries like before, there is no guarantee of public safety. 

Of particular concern is that the factory is located close to two schools, a kindergarten, a mosque, five surau, and two public parks.

The groups said a high-risk heavy-industry operation like the battery plant should not be allowed in a medium-industry zone like Jenjarom.

They cited a series of past incidents involving the factory to illustrate why it should not be allowed to reopen, including a fire in 2017 that damaged 80% of the premises and caused 1,200 tonnes of raw material to go up in smoke.

In January 2018, the facility started illegal smelting processes. In November that year, Kg Jenjarom residents discovered acidic water surrounding the factory. 

The civil groups said in April 2019, the factory was ordered to temporarily cease operations for causing soil and river pollution, before the state government decided to shut it down.

However, following a change of ownership earlier this year, the facility announced its plan to reopen, this time producing only solar batteries. MPKL also recently gave the plant temporary approval to operate.

In the memorandum submitted to the council today, the groups demanded that the factory not be issued a licence to operate in Kg Jenjarom or any other location near residential areas. 

“In the future, MPKL must also invite civil groups to obtain their feedback and views on other projects that may have a negative impact on human safety and the environment. 

“The council must also submit all reports based on the findings of government agencies in 2019 that led to the factory ceasing operations.” 

Earlier today, tension flared at a town hall between Kg Jenjarom folk and the council after the announcement that the factory has been given the nod to reopen.

The Star reported that MPKL president Datuk Amirul Azizan Abd Rahim told attendees that the facility has been given a temporary three-month approval for a period of two years. 

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