|Rubbish dumped outside the waste incinerator on Tioman Island, which has yet to start operating|
MALAYSIA - After a delay of over three years, the waste incinerator in Tioman Island is finally built; but it remains unopened, leading to smelly trash being strewn all over.
Whenever Supardi Mastra opens his kitchen window, a mass of flies invades the space. It is inevitable - his house in Kampung Air Hantu of Tioman Island opens up to a view of garbage spilling over a hilltop.
"We usually keep the windows open when we cook. That's when hordes of flies swarm in," says the 42-year-old boat skipper. Compounding his misery is the foul smell that emanates from the garbage.
Rubbish that is collected from seven villages on the island is dumped there, in front of a waste incinerator that was completed last December but has remained non-operational.
The new incinerator is to replace a smaller and older one which broke down a few years ago. However, the delay in its completion - by over 1,000 days - resulted in trash being carried by barge once a month for disposal in the mainland.
"Rubbish gets even more during peak seasons when there are many tourists. What's the point of constructing a multi-million dollar facility that does not function like it is supposed to? It's just sheer wastage," says Supardi.
Another resident, Aini Latif, also questions why the new incinerator lies unused.
"We have an old incinerator that is no longer usable and a new one this is still untouched. It makes me wonder if such facilities are up to par and if we are trained to operate them."
She is appalled by the sight of trash tumbling down the hill, which she spotted after visiting her grandmother's grave at a cemetery nearby.
"I had to wade through the rubbish to reach the grave. When it rains, foul wastewater will seep into the ground but we don't have proof to say how bad (the pollution) is. It's shameful if tourists were to see this eyesore. I'm sad to see this happening at Tioman," moans Aini.
The company Sumur Mutiara is the main contractor (builder and designer) of the Tioman incinerator, as well as another one in Cameron Highlands.
The technology provider for both plants is XCN Technology.
The Tioman incinerator has a capacity of 15 tonnes per day, at a cost of RM520.70 ($206) per tonne.
Reef Check Malaysia programme manager Alvin Chelliah, who is based in Tioman, raises concerns over public health.
"The last thing we want is a disease outbreak. With the imminent arrival of the monsoon season, bad weather conditions might prevent the barge from hauling the trash to the mainland."
Daily waste disposal is about four tonnes but grows to between six and eight tonnes during peak tourist season.
Each barge trip is said to cost RM25,000; that equates to an annual RM300,000 being forked out by the Tioman Development Authority.
In addition to that, there is the RM200,000 paid yearly to contractors to collect rubbish from villages. An agency official says given the high cost, it cannot have the barge make more frequent trips.
To reduce the foul stench, he says odour control sprays are used at the dump once or twice a month after garbage has been picked up by the barge.
The new incinerator is built at the site of the old one. Previously, there was space to hold the rubbish before it gets incinerated.
The new incinerator, however, occupies a larger space. The officials say there is no more land for a temporary dump pending the opening of the incinerator.
The incinerator project is under the National Solid Waste Management Department of the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry.
A department spokesman says the new incinerator has yet to start operating due to a delay in the issuance of the certificate of completion and compliance (CCC) by the consultant.
"Our department has already issued a letter of agreement to the appointed operator (Sumur Mutiara) and it has to start operating the facility when the CCC issue is ironed out."
A new contractor will be appointed after two years through open tender.
Aside from Tioman and Cameron Highlands, there are also trash incinerators in Pulau Pangkor and Pulau Langkawi. Both are designed, built and operated by XCN Technology.
The company was also awarded the contract for an incinerator in Labuan but it might not proceed due to a change in the location.
Though anti-incinerator emotions are not strongly felt in Tioman, the issue has been contentious in the Klang Valley with the public opposing an incinerator in Taman Beringin, Jinjang Utara.
Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming has pointed out that the National Audit Report 2012 had highlighted the late delivery, high construction cost and poor maintenance of those incinerators.
In relation to the high cost, Ong divulged that the plants in Langkawi, Pangkor and Cameron Highlands operate at a cost of RM207, RM249 and RM363 per tonne, respectively.
The capacity for the Langkawi incinerator is 100 tonnes per day, Pangkor is 20 tonnes and Cameron Highlands, 40 tonnes - which equates to annual expenses of RM7.4mil, RM1.7mil and RM5.2mil respectively.
He also questions if dioxin emissions (a toxic gas that results from the combustion) are properly monitored and regulated.
"Instead of incinerators, what should be in place is an integrated waste management plan that includes the separation of waste, recycling, re-using and reducing," he says.