Protest Against Dumping Radioactive Waste

671

This morning, hundreds of people braving the morning shower gathered at the inland resort town of Sungai Lembing to show their outrage at the latest proposal by the Director-General of the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) Raja Datuk Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan and Pahang Menteri Besar Dato Seri Adnan Yaakub to dump radioactive waste in the disused mine shaft of the town.

Amongst those present were local residents and owners of local businesses who feared that the proposal will ruin the town’s economy and future.

Protestors holding placards shouted “Stop Lynas! Lynas Go BACK to Australia!” Members of SMSL and a number of other groups were present to show their solidarity with the people of Sungai Lembing.

“How many more communities will the Government destroy for the sake of helping a foreign company profit from an unsafe rare earth plant?” asked Haji Ismail Abu Bakar, Vice Chairperson of SMSL.

Sungai Lembing is the water catchment for Kuantan. Dumping radioactive waste in the disused mine shaft risks contaminating ground water in a limestone environment. The transportation of huge amount of radioactive waste through the highway, passing kampungs and towns will further spread Lynas’ toxic waste around.

Sungai Lembing is a former mining town which has suffered years of economic downturn and neglect since mining ceased in the 1980s. This pretty valley town has just managed to find a niche market in weekend tourism to turn around its years of economic depression and unemployment.

Haji Ismail continued, “The people of Sungai Lembing will suffer the same fate as the fishermen and the community along the coast. It is unacceptable and totally unjust to expect ordinary citizens to pay such high price while a foreign company gets to pollute our river, our sea and now our water supply and community tourism – ALL TAX FREE!”

The presence of a radioactive waste dump will essentially undermine investment and effort local people have put into the tourism trade. It will ruin their future and turn the busy tourist town into an abandoned town like Papan in Perak.

Papan is the nearest town to the permanent waste dump site of the now closed Mitsubishi Asian Rare Earth (ARE) toxic waste. ARE was closed by Mitsubishi due to the bad reputation it was getting for the increase cases of fatal cancer, birth defects and miscarriages in the surrounding area.

To date, the permanent waste dump is still facing problems for it has been leaking in the last 20 years and is still being rebuilt.

Haji Ismail concluded, “The AELB has failed to manage the radioactive waste from the previous rare earth plant. AELB said ARE was safe then.

Now, the government has just granted another licence for a foreign corporation to pollute and contaminate our country at the expense of rakyat’s health and our livelihoods.”