I can understand Kota Samarahan Municipal Council (MPKS) chairman Datuk Peter Minos’s disappointment with residents who take the easy way out by indiscriminately dumping garbage in undesignated spaces such as open or vacant land, especially near housing estates.
The unlawful disposal of waste by some irresponsible people has made life miserable for residents in Kota Samarahan.
My relative who has been staying in a housing estate there is contemplating leaving the division and moving to Kuching. A civic conscious person, she is a hygiene freak who will go to great lengths to keep her home and surrounding area clean and hygienic.
She wouldn’t hesitate to lecturer her neighbours – many of whom lack civic consciousness – for disposing of refuse at roadsides and drains. When the drains get clogged, stench from the stagnant water can be unbearable.
Lately, my poor relative has had to put up with abuses from the neighbours for advising them to be considerate about the environment. She has been told to mind her own business. Perhaps, the hostile neighbours could have prompted her to decide to move out of Kota Samarahan.
Early this month, I was entering a residential area in Kota Samarahan to visit a colleague and I had to cover my nose with my handkerchief to avoid inhaling stench from refuse strewn all around an open piece of land.
Any visitor would have puked, but the residents nearby appear to be immune to the stench. Perhaps their olfactory sense could have been affected after years of living near the illegal dump site.
I talked to some people who said the foul smell worsened whenever it rained.
“We can no longer bear the stench, especially after a rainfall. My children refuse to take their meals as they say they feel like vomiting after taking their food.
“We hope the authorities will introduce a proper system to clear the refuse. The council (MPKS) should enforce the laws strictly and bring the culprits to book,” said a lecturer of a nearby educational institution who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Some areas seem to have been turned into permanent dumpsites. Residents complain that people would emerge from their residence at midnight under cover of darkness to dump their garbage and trash.
There are cases of people who throw food waste in the dumps; since the food waste rots quickly, the stench becomes very unbearable.
For Minos, his patience has waned. Numerous appeals and friendly advices from the MPKS chairman have fallen on deaf ears. Last month he announced that his council would come down hard on illegal dumping.
“The culprits will face stern action without any compromise. Indiscriminate dumping is an eyesore and provides breeding grounds to mosquitoes, rats, insects and snakes. Such unlawful action is deplorable.
“We are trying very hard to catch the culprits but they are very elusive and cunning. But if MPKS catches them, they will get a trashing and fines will be issued outright on the spot,” he said.
Thanks Datuk. May I suggest that you go a step further. Shame these culprits publicly; yes, show them no mercy.
Apart from fining them heavily, have their names and addresses published and displayed prominently in their housing estates. Petrol kiosks could be one of the premises as these outlets are frequented by people.
I know this action is harsh. But do we have a choice? Or if there is enough evidence to determine that they are the culprits, collect the trash and dump it in their house compounds. That would certainly teach them a lesson not to dump rubbish unlawfully.
Compounding the culprits might be one way, but will it actually stop these irresponsible fellas? The authorities should come up with effective long-term measures.
One immediate solution is to install CCTV cameras at known illegal dumpsites. MPKS could seek funds from the Local Government and Housing Ministry to appoint a local contractor to install these cameras.
This will surely deter people from throwing rubbish indiscriminately; these un-civicminded fellas will know they are being watched. Another step is to educate residents, as Minos has suggested, to change the people’s mindset and instil a lasting culture of cleanliness, whereby keeping Kota Samarahan clean will be an integral part of the residents’ lives.
It is learnt that MPKS is seriously working with UNIMAS to end illegal and indiscriminate dumping in Kota Samarahan. The collaboration will focus on education to change the people’s attitude and mentality.
Minos said the culprits must see with their own eyes the environmental nuisance they have created.
“The collaboration will be buttressed by physical actions through activities like gotong-royong and public talks to raise awareness about cleanliness and hygiene as it is an eyesore to sustainable city development.
“It is entirely up to the people themselves whether they want Kota Samarahan to be a clean or dirty place. People must be responsible for their waste and refuse. It cannot be left to MPKS alone to upkeep the cleanliness of the urban environment.”
I am confident Minos will succeed in his plan to change the mindset of Kota Samarahan residents.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.