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ios developer account:COMMENT | Enforcement, the Malaysian way, puts islands in jeopardy

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COMMENT | A craving for Malaysian-style corn in a cup, drenched with condensed milk and swimming in cholesterol-laden Planta margarine had us literally chasing the corn seller down the road. Note though, he was not running away from his customers but from municipal council enforcement officers. It made us wonder, are the enforcement guys on their kapcai motorbikes missing the forest for the trees? In a pandemic, as the B40 struggle to eke out a living, should the main concern be whether they have a license to operate? That is the problem with Malaysian-style enforcement – it’s all muscle but merely a performance fulfilment, meanwhile, the true problem remains under the plush Turkish carpet. While we are locked up and lucked out on holiday options, the islands of Malaysia are busy healing themselves from our callous and careless ways. One study in 2010 found that Malaysia’s islands produce 400 tonnes of solid waste a day. Of these, 60 percent were collected and disposed at landfills, 35 percent burned, and five percent dumped into the sea.

Taking it a little further, what happens to our bodily waste flushed down the toilet? Have you seen an Indah Water Konsortium logo near any of the resorts you’ve been to? Poor sewage treatment is affecting the marine ecology at islands, but it is often kept on the back burner, an untouched problem.

Instead, enforcement officers from the various government agencies fulfil their monthly, quarterly or annual Key Performance Index (KPI) by sniffing out undocumented migrant workers at resorts, establishments serving alcohol without a license, checking up on resort license renewals, and whether the kitchen staff have had their typhoid jabs. They have found their trees, but the forest misses their mark.

So, no one checks if the resort’s septic tank capacity matches its room capacity. No one checks if the resort is maintaining its sewage treatment system in compliance with the regulations, as they claim islands are too far off and a lack of manpower and budget does not justify a site visit for this. Funds there but untapped Interestingly, however, funds have been allocated by the government for marine conservation under the Department of Fisheries. However, these funds are yet to be tapped into. Given that the untreated sewage from resorts ends up contaminating the waters around the islands which are predominantly marine parks, funds can be obtained from this source to ensure that proper sewage facilities are employed. A proposal to set up a centralised sewage treatment plant on Perhentian and Redang Islands was mooted under the 10th Malaysia Plan circa 2011 for RM117 million and has been brought forward to the current 12th Malaysia Plan, due to budget constraints. These proposals were raised by Indah Water Konsortium via the National Water Services Commission. It remains unclear if the plant will even be constructed under the 12MP as the Sewage Services Department, in charge of executing the plan, said it does not have a timeline for commencement, but the project is likely to begin before 2025, the end of the 12MP period.

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