In addition to having 1MDB being named as the 3rd world corruption scandal of 2015 by Foreign Policy Magazine and appearing as one of the 5 countries named in TIME Magazine’s State of Global Corruption, Malaysia can add one more ‘achievement’ for 2015 – going from almost no production of bauxite in 2013 to producing 20 million tons in 2015 making the country the fourth largest bauxite producer in the world after Australia, China and Brazil!
The result of this uncontrolled exploitation of resources driven by greed is the serious pollution of rivers and other water bodies in and near Kuantan, the stripping of forests and earth at mining sites and the transformation of the roads and buildings in the area to various hues of red and orange. The total failure and inability of the state and federal government to control the bauxite mining activities led to the sea off the coast of Kuantan turning red earlier this year! The frustration of the people over this disaster was clearly evident when some residents set alight 5 lorries which were carrying bauxite through their areas.
There is now tremendous pressure on the state and federal governments to allow the bauxite mining operations to continue when the moratorium imposed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment ends on the 15th of April, after a period of 3 months.
It is not sufficient for the Ministry to come up with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which must be followed by the bauxite miners. Untold environmental damage has been done as a result of 18 months of uncontrolled mining including water poisoning and possible exposure to high levels of mercury and other poisonous metals. The Malaysian Society of Marine Sciences chairman Dr. Harinder Rai Singh was reported to have said that the “red sea” of the coast of Kuantan could be a “dead sea” for up to 3 years!
I call upon the federal and Pahang state government to undertake an extensive impact assessment on the entire environment in and around Kuantan including health checks for the at risk populations such as the young and the infirm to document and evaluate the extent of the damage caused by the 18 months of uncontrolled bauxite mining. A detailed plan to clean up the affected areas – the rivers, the sea, the site of the mines – and to address the health issues faced by residents have to be given and explained to the public in a transparent manner.
Until these issues are addressed to the satisfaction of the residents of Kuantan and the nearby areas, not a single kg of bauxite should be allowed to be mined even after the ending of the moratorium on the 15th of April. We cannot allow this ‘red sea’ disaster to drown the people of Kuantan by exposing them to untold and unknown health and environmental hazards.
(Media Statement on the Bauxite Mining Environmental Disaster in Kuantan on the 21st of March, 2016 during his one-day visit to Pahang when he would meet with Red2Green anti-bauxite walkers on the 17-day 254-km journey from Kuantan on March 12 to Parliament on March 28)