Thursday 26 July 2012

'Pengerang project may shorten lifespan of M'sians'

Citing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study, a group of Taiwanese environmental activists have urged Malaysia to be wary of the damage that may be caused by the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid) project in Pengerang, Johor.

The EIA study, conducted by Taiwan Chung Hsing University's Environmental Engineering Department professor Tsuang Ben Jei in 2010, showed that the average life span of the people islandwide will decrease by 23 days if the Kuokuang petrochemical project was to be launched.

taiwan environmentalist giving talks pengerangThis gave rise to a huge anti-Kuokuang movement, which led the Taiwanese government to scrap the controversial project in 2011.

Since then, the state-owned Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co had announced that it would consider reviving the project in Malaysia.

Speaking to reporters in an joint interview on Tuesday, Taiwan anti-Kuokuang activist Chen Ping Heng warned that that the project may be more harmful to Malaysia as the size of the Rapid project in Pengerang is much bigger than the shelved Taiwan Kuokuang project.

Kuokuang is only one of the investors in the Rapid project, which is estimated to acquire some 22,500 acres of land, affecting up to 15 villages in Pengerang.

"Taiwanese were estimated to have their life shortened by 23 days because of the air pollution, but the project here is much bigger than in Taiwan which means the damage will be more serious," said Chen.

Chen is currently visiting Malaysia with five other Taiwan environmental activists under the invitation of Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH).

The other five are Grace Kan, Shy Yueh Ing, Chien Yu Chun, Lin Jin Lang and Cai Jia Yang. They are scheduled to visit Pengerang and share their experience with Malaysian civil society before heading back to Taiwan.

Based on the EIA study, Chen said the people who live nearer to the petrochemical plant would see their lifespan even shorter than the average estimation.

Racial divide

Sharing his story, he said the EIA study had united all the Taiwanese, regardless of political beliefs against the Kuokuang project, an experience that can be learnt for the Malaysian anti-petrochemical movement.

"Though Taiwan does not have many races like Malaysia, we have very intense political confrontations, which led to us facing some obstacles in the anti-Kuokuang campaign.

taiwan environmental activist record statement in pengerang"But since the EIA study, many intellectuals and scholars who previously supported the government, raised their voices against the Kuokuang project," said Chen.

He added that Malaysians too can come together across racial divides to surmount big obstacles when they fight for public issues like health.

According to a news report dated July 4, 2010 in Taiwan's China Times, Tsuang had estimated that the yearly deaths in Taiwan will increase by 339 people if the Kuokuang project was to be launched.

He had reportedly said in the EIA report that the emissions of particle pollution (PM2.5) from the plant will result in the average lifespan of the people islandwide to be reduced by 23 days.

However, according to another news report in Taiwan news portal Coolloud Collective, the then Kuokuang chairman Chen Bao Lang had downplayed the EIA report by saying every industry also produces PM2.5.

He had also reportedly said that Tsuang's findings was "a bit over" and would scare the Taiwanese.

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