KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government is reviewing an RM846 million (US$205 million) environment quality early warning system that failed to activate during a series of pollution incidents in Johor this year, environment minister Yeo Bee Yin said on Wednesday (Jul 24).
According to a Malay Mail report, the Environmental Quality Monitoring Programme (EQMP) did not alert authorities to the illegal dumping of toxic waste at Sungai Kim Kim in March as well as the more recent environmental incidents.
“The Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) has since been reviewing the performance and efficiency of the system, the legal aspects, and renegotiating the terms of the agreement, with the possibility of early termination,” Ms Yeo was quoted as saying in the report.
“The hefty cost charged by the concessionaire makes up almost 30 per cent of Department of Environment’s (DoE) annual budget, depriving the department from critical expenditures on transportation, tools and most of all human development for enforcement activities,” she noted.
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The nationwide EQMP is a public-private partnership project between the federal government and Pakar Scieno TW Sdn Bhd.
The company was awarded a concession to operate the programme between July 2017 and January 2032 at the cost of RM846 million.
The programme was supposed to provide a real-time data collection for air and water quality, as well as serve as a command centre for analysis. It is also an early warning system to prompt immediate response following pollution incidents.
The agreement indicated that there will be 82 stations set up to monitor air quality nationwide. New and upgraded air pollutant index stations are able to measure fine particles that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter.
Additionally, 1,387 stations to check water quality in rivers and another 405 stations to monitor marine water have been set up.
Despite the equipment being deployed, Pasir Gudang, Johor has been hard hit by a series of pollution incidents.
In March, hundreds of students suffered breathing difficulties after the illegal dumping of chemicals in Sungai Kim Kim.
Last month, hundreds of students reportedly experienced breathing difficulties and nausea.
The recurring cases of students falling sick, even after schools were closed from Jun 25 to Jun 27, prompted the authorities to monitor the air quality closely and carry out enforcement actions against the factories.
A fresh bout of air pollution hit last week, with at least 39 students experiencing breathing difficulties and vomiting.
On Wednesday, Ms Yeo added that the matter has been reported to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
“MESTECC has offered its full support to the anti-corruption agency’s investigation,” she said.