The Sarawak government seems unperturbed by villagers claims on YouTube of polluted rivers and health hazards as a result of emissions from the aluminium smelting plants in Mukah and Similajau.
KUCHING: An activist here has slammed a local Barisan Nasional leader for claiming that the effluence from the aluminium smelting plant in Balingian, Mukah is not hazardous to health.
Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) activist and spokesperson Matek Geram said Mukah MP Leo Micheal Toyad was in denial when he said “Balingian is doing well”.
In his Facebook posting Geram said several health experts had indicated that the health problems suffered by the communities living near the plant was because of the pollution emitted by the factory.
Geram further challenged Toyad’s denial of any connection between the smelting plant in Mukah and the mystery illnesses plaguing the residents in the past year.
Geram posting titled “Why are more and more people living near the smelting plant in your constituency getting physically sick, Rt. Hon. Michael Leo Toyad?” drew the curiosity of Radio Free Sarawak which took it up as its focus issue on air.
It interviewed one resident Donny Ambong who claimed he was always coughing and suffering from constint constipation as a result of him working in the Balingian plant. He claimed others too had such symptoms
Last week, FMT reported on a group of independent documentary makers, ‘People’s Documentary’, who published several videos on YouTube alleging that pollution from the Press Metal Sarawak aluminium smelter plant in Balingian had severely affected health conditions of many residents in the surrounding areas as well as those in another plant in Similajau, Bintulu.
In the latest video uploaded on Sept 1, an Iban man from Balingian claimed he had to spend at least RM500 every month to treat both his children and his wife’s medical conditions. He alleged that the family constantly suffered from cough, diabetes and headache problems purportedly because of the pollution from factory.
“We got the diseases from the water we drink. Our drinking water is from the polluted rain water. Yes, I am sure it was due to the polluted water caused by the factory. The water was polluted by powder emitted from the factory”, claimed Ngam Benang.
Toyad in denial?
Another earlier video, an Iban woman claimed she was suffering from a mysterious chronic kidney condition.
Geram, who was also featured one of the People’s Documentary video, claimed that four to five Iban longhouse residents in areas adjacent to the aluminium smelter plant in Mukah had been diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer.
Meanwhile in Toyad continues to refute these claims.
Last Saturday in response to the videos, he alleged that claims by locals that fish had died and numerous people here were sick because factories have contaminated the Balingian River were “false”.
He asserted that he had seen caged fish remaining alive after being placed in the river overnight.
“If Balingian River was seriously polluted as alleged, all the fish in that cage would have died,” he reportedly said.
This is the second time Toyad has dismissed the notion that the Balingian river is polluted, and the factories operating in the area were polluting the river and the local environment.
Aluminium smelting plants are currently teh biggest takers of Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s Sarawak Corriodr for Renewable Energy (SCORE)
Incidentally Taib is also the state assemblyman for Balingian which is within the Mukah parliamentary constituency.