Public awareness is the key to fight pollution

Public awareness is the key to fight pollution

POLLUTION in the most basic form – littering of rubbish or clogged drains – to that of higher level such as dumping of hazardous waste and illegal logging, is chiefly attributed to lack of public awareness, so contends Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid.

As Malaysia joins the ranks of industrialised nations, pollution is fast becoming a menace that the country has to cope with. This is where Azmi strikes the right chord by stressing that preservation of the environment is no one-man show where everyone expects the government to take the lead in policing and enforcing the law all the time.

`No amount of law can succeed in deterring people from polluting the environment so long as they are unaware about the adverse consequences of their action,’ he tells Malaysian Business.

`Although we have come down hard on the culprits, we can never be satisfied as we keep on raising the bar by benchmarking against developed nations in the likes of Japan, Sweden and New Zealand where every citizen is fully aware of their role in environmental preservation,’ Azmi adds.


Once a source of drinking water, many rivers in Malaysia have become dumping grounds for various types of hazardous wastes. Of all natural resources, water is the most severely threatened by pollution in this country.

Generally, water pollution in Malaysia is caused by point and non- point sources. Point sources comprise sewage treatment plants, manufacturing and agro-based industries as well as animal farms. Non- point sources are made up of diffused sources such as agricultural activities and surface runoffs.

Last year, the Department of Environment (DOE) identified 18,956 water pollution point sources consisting of mainly sewage treatment plants (47.79%), manufacturing industries (45.07%), animal farms (4.58%) and agro-based industries (2.55%). In the same year, from a total of 1,064 water quality monitoring stations along 146 river basins, DOE found 619 (58%) to be clean, 359 (34%) slightly polluted and 86 (8%) polluted.

`Domestic sewage discharge in the form of treated sewage and partially- treated sewage remain a large contributor of organic pollution load with an estimated biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) load of 883,391.08 kg/day,’ Azmi notes. `This is not surprising given that the number of sewage treatment plants under the management of Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd (IWK) has risen 3.2% to 9,060 in 2006 from the previous year.’


Air pollution is another type of common pollution in Malaysia. Sources of air pollution in the country can be divided into three main categories, namely industries (including power stations), motor vehicles and open burning. In the cities, motor vehicles which include passenger cars, taxis, buses, motorcycles, vans and lorries are the major contributors to air pollution. In 2006, the number of registered passenger cars increased by 7.24% to 6.94 million while motorcycles saw a rise of 6.42% to 7.46 million.

`Particulate matter (PM10), which is the general term used to describe respirable particles of less than 10 microns in size, continues to be the dominant pollutant in many areas. They are from motor vehicle exhaust, heat and power generation, industrial processes and open burning activities,’ explains Azmi.

According to the Malaysia Environmental Quality Report 2006 (MEQR 2006) published by DOE, the overall air quality for Malaysia deteriorated slightly in 2006 compared to the previous year. Moreover, Malaysia experienced short periods of slight moderate haze from July until October mainly due to transboundary pollution.

The land and forest fires in several provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan, Indonesia as reported by the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre, coupled with the direct influence of south- westerly winds, contributed to the deterioration of air quality during these periods.


Marine water quality monitoring plays an important role in the conservation of marine resources, which in return, contribute to the stability and diversity of the marine ecosystem. Pollution from land- based sources as well as from the sea can pose threats to these invaluable resources.

From a total of 1,035 samples from 229 monitoring stations analysed by DOE in 2006, the main contaminants of coastal waters of all states that exceeded the Interim Marine Water Quality Standards (IMWQS) were total suspended solids (75%), Esherichia coli (55%), and oil and grease (35%).

Total suspended solids are derived from agricultural activities, tourism-related development, coastal reclamation, logging and road construction; E. coli from untreated or partially treated domestic and animal wastes, and oil and grease from vessel discharges (during tank cleaning or in the event of leakages).


Based on notification received by DOE, a total of 1.103 million metric tonnes of scheduled wastes were generated in 2006, up 101% from 548,916 metric tonnes the year before. The sharp increase is due to a new waste category such as e-waste introduced and controlled under the Environmental Quality (Scheduled Wastes) Regulations 2005.

In 2006, gypsum, oil and hydrocarbon, dross, heavy metal sludge, mineral sludge and e-waste were the main categories of waste produced in the country. Of the total wastes produced, 110,814 metric tonnes were treated and disposed at Kualiti Alam Sdn Bhd, 9,360 metric tonnes (0.8%) at Trinekens (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd and 11,364 metric tonnes were incinerated at licensed off-site facilities.

The bulk of 297,001 metric tonnes of scheduled wastes were recovered at off-site facilities, an estimated 495,631 metric tonnes were treated on- site while 173,480 metric tonnes were stored on- site at waste generators’ premises.

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