Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 8 Sept 2020

The Selangor State government still does not get the seriousness of the situation. Judging from today’s newspaper reports their pathetic response to the crisis simply means there will be more water pollution of our rivers in the future. That is certain. Instead of creating an urgent plan to ensure the removal of all factories in river buffer zones and that no factories are built in such sensitive and important zones, their solution seems to be to legalise the unlicensed factories already in place.

After the shocking and repeated water disruption to more than a million people in the Klang valley, we would have expected the Menteri Besar and the Environment Minister to hold an urgent press conference to assure the people of Selangor that these disasters will not recur in the future. Instead they have relied on the Selayang Municipal Council’s Communication officer to tell us what they are doing. And what are they doing?

Legalising unlicenced factories?

The Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) has revealed that according to their 2012 census, there were 308 unlicenced factories out of a total of 5,821 factories, and out of the 308, only 50 operators had legalised their businesses. That was eight years ago. They claim that in line with the Selangor State government’s directive, the municipal council was carrying out the programme to legalise their operations. According to MPS, in the case of the factory alleged to be involved in the “odour” (sic) pollution, the operators had failed to legalise their operations nor obtained approval to build structures on the land.

Is this alleged polluting factory being scapegoated?

From the MPS statement, we realise that this alleged factory had been issued a compound for carrying out business without a licence in March this year. Thus, they had not been given a compound for polluting the river as the council had earlier alleged!

MPS must clarify how they categorically arrived at the conclusion that this factory was the alleged polluter of the river and why they had given the public the impression that they were repeat offenders in polluting the river. For years, the authorities seemed unaware of the existence of these unlicensed factories in river buffer zones and suddenly, they managed to locate the alleged culprit so quickly.

It would be a grievous injustice if this alleged factory has just been made a scapegoat in this water pollution scandal since their managers and workers have now been remanded by the police.

How many factories in all the river buffer zones in Selangor?

The Selangor State Government must tell us where and how many licensed and unlicensed factories there are in all the river buffer zones in Selangor, namely, Sg Selangor, Sg Klang, Sg Langat, Sg Buloh, Sg Bernam, Sg Tengi and Sg Sepang.

The urgency of this situation demands that the state government tells us the key measures they will take and the time frame for their actions, to ensure that there will be no factories in any of these river buffer zones in Selangor as soon as possible.

The long-term health and wellbeing of the Klang valley residents especially in the middle of a pandemic, depends on us the taxpayers, being able to trust the authorities in providing consistent and potable water. Thus far we have no evidence to suggest we can. The Menteri Besar and relevant state departments must act NOW and legalising unlicensed factories in these river buffer zones is not a solution.

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