Thursday, August 20, 2009

New homes in radioactive - waste dump site

Write up in MalaysiaKini -

About 1,000 squatters from the demolished Kampung Chekkadi in Ipoh have finally been offered new homes. The catch is that these will be in Papan

The town is about 2km from a site in the Bukit Merah area, used by the Japanese-led Syarikat Asian Rare Earth to bury low-level radioactive waste from its itrium extraction operations in the early 1980s.Although the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) had, on April 28, 2006, given its assurance that the site is safe from radiation leakage, this has not convinced everyone.

The Kampung Chekkadi residents have been waiting almost 30 years for new homes, occupying temporary premises in the interim.On Feb 29, 2008, Kinta district land officer Razali Othman wrote to them, stating that they would be relocated under a resettlement scheme.

As there was no further information, they contacted DAP Buntong assemblyperson A Sivasubramaniam who found out where the housing scheme would be located. Papan is a 25-minute drive southwest of Ipoh.He told a press conference at state DAP headquarters today that the Barisan Nasional (BN) state government is sending the residents to “certain death” because of diseases associated with radiation exposure.“A detailed study on the effects of radiation leakage at the dump site found that it is dangerous for people to reside in the Bukit Merah area, as there is a possibility of radiation leakage,” he said, citing a newsletter (July-August 2008) of the Consumers Association of Penang.

When contacted, former BN exco member and MIC state chief G Rajoo said: “In 2006, I was informed by the AELB that the area is safe for resettlement.“As a precautionary measure, about 20ha of the 160ha has been set aside as a buffer zone between the proposed housing scheme and the dump site.”Responding, Sivasubramaniam pointed out that the dump site was last inspected for safety in 2006.“Why put the lives at risk when there are about 16ha of vacant land in front of the Buntong police station that can house the 200 families of Kampung Chekkadi?”

‘Blueprint required’

DAP national vice-chairperson M Kula Segaran, who was at the press conference, claimed that the BN only made the offer for political mileage.“It is a ploy to deceive the residents. The BN government has no political will to solve the housing problems in the state,” he said.Former mentri besar Tajol Rosli Ghazali had set 2000 to achieve a squatter-free state, but current mentri besar Zambry Abd Kadir has shifted the deadline to 2012, he noted.“What we need is a blueprint and political will by BN state government to resolve the squatter problem.”

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