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Environ laws, policies not being respected
Published on: Sunday, June 12, 2022
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Recent devastation in Pahang: Logging linked to some members of the royalty was implicated.
MALAYSIA, which is blessed as being one of the 17 mega-biodiverse countries in the world according to the United Nations Environment Programme, must do its part to protect its forests, biodiversity and nature.

Despite the existence of various national policies, including those on forests and biodiversity, as well as the National Physical Plan (NPP), it appears that decisions are being made without respect to these policies.

Activities which should not be allowed in the first place in such environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs) are being permitted. Among them are those labelled as “sustainable mining” and massive land reclamation projects in ESAs.

The disrespect for the NPP is clearly apparent in relation to the latest lanthanide mining project in Kenering in Hulu Perak near Gerik, involving an area of more than 2,000ha and includes the Central Forest Spine and areas classified and ranked as ESA 1.

Under the National Forestry Policy and the National Biodiversity Policy, forests involving the Central Forest Spine are supposed to be protected.

Development, agriculture or logging, except for low-impact nature tourism activities, research and education purposes, are prohibited in sites with the ESA 1 rank under the NPP.

We are also most perplexed as to how the Environment Department approved the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the lanthanide project in an ESA 1 area.

The proposed activity has a high risk of increasing the concentrations of ammonium and thorium in the existing environment.

The naturally occurring radioactive thorium (Th-228) of a tested soil sample from one of the land parcels reported in the EIA is above the 1 Bq/g, which subjects it to laws relating to radioactive material management.

The lanthanide ore by itself may not be radioactive, but the process of its mining and beneficiation will increase the concentration of naturally occurring thorium in the area.

Furthermore, the justification given in the EIA that “the areas will remain green” and “no changes of land use from green to mining is needed” is also grossly misleading and baseless.

First, the proposed project in Perak involves the construction of seven hydro metallurgical plants for the mining (involving an area of 40.7ha in total).

Second, according to a study on China’s ion-adsorption rare earth resources, mining consequences and preservation, although in-situ leaching does not require clearing of vegetation and forests or the removal of topsoil, about one-third of the vegetation is still cleared and a significant amount of drilling slurry is produced.

The practice of in-situ leaching in China has revealed serious environmental problems, including underground water contamination, mine collapses and landslides.

More than 100 landslides reported in Ganzhou region were attributed to in-situ mining and leaching practices, at significant human costs and losses of ion-adsorption rare earth resources.

When will we ever learn that we cannot afford to continue sacrificing the environment for the sake of short-term profits while undermining our sustainability in the longer term?

It is about time we realised that we have reached the limits of what Mother Earth can take.

And, if we continue to ignore the warning signs, we will face environmental calamites, which will be hugely costly in human and economic terms, and worse, which are irreversible forever.

Meenakshi Raman

President, Sahabat Alam Malaysia


 

- The views expressed here are the views of the writer Meenakshi Raman and do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Express.

- If you have something to share, write to us at: [email protected]





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