Sunday, May 20, 2012

Another Environmental Disaster in the Making

Lynas is not the only issue concerning the environment. Now Najib Razak has initiated a mega-project, which is part of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) that aims to transform southern Johor into a refining and petrochemical hub centered at Pengerang and dubbed the Petronas Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid). Learning about this opportunity, the Taiwan state-owned Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Coaccepted the invitation to establish a naphtha cracking plant and petrochemical complex.

Apart from Petronas and Kuokuang, German chemical company BASF SE, Dutch company Royal Vopak, local company Dialog Group Bhd and Johor state government have also invested in the project.

The Kuokuang project was initially planned to be constructed in the Dacheng Wetlands in Taiwan’s Changhua County. It was rejected by their President Ma Ying-Jeou last April, after local residents and environmental impact assessment teams raised concerns that the complex will consume too much water and generate high levels of pollution in the ecologically sensitive area, which is also the habitat of the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins.

Najib doesn’t have such concerns. He really couldn’t care less about disrupting people’s lives, threatening their livelihoods and disfiguring their environment. Rapid will eventually gobble up some 22,500 acres of land, affecting up to 15 villages in Pengerang. The first phase of project development, which is yet to kick off, will lead to the relocation of some 3,000 residents or about 1,000 households.

The project has sparked protest from local residents, mostly comprising of fishermen. Last month, 578 of them filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for land reclamation work in connection with the project.Najib has, of course, smooth-talked locals and told them not to worry as all the necessary compensation would be paid to them. To Najib, just pay and everything will be alright!

To date, a total of RM4.1million in compensation have already been given to affected fishermen. Once completed, the project will be bigger than the existing facilities in Kerteh, Gebeng and Malacca, with the capacity to produce nine million tonnes of petroleum products and 4.5 million tonnes of petrochemicals a year.

I only reached HELP in time for the last one-third of the meeting but I had to be there because two Sunway University Toastmasters (i.e. Marilyn Lai and Zheng Lin) delivered their CC speeches # 1 and # 2 respectively at the Joint HELP-Taylor’s University Toastmasters Meeting on Saturday. Even so, I knew it was a high-energy meeting because the second I stepped into the meeting room, I was immediately consumed by the enlivening enthusiasm that had quickly enveloped me! Here are a few photos I managed to snap:

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