If Ruthless lynas is not stopped Mass exodus, frenzy and fear in PEKAN AND GEBENG will be forever

Really, it would make more sense for the Lynas CEO to meet with the anti-Lynas group than the CM of Penang, as Penang has no say or jurisdiction towards the project in Pahang State.

The fact that AELB approved a TOL for Lynas to operate, even when a storage facility was yet to be unidentified has come as a shock to the people . Four government ministries has been roped in to help Lynas find a suitable storage site in the country is not only amusing but downright deploring. The statement by the international trade and industry minister that the radio active wastes will be disposed of overseas, even though it may break international laws is really not very assuring.

THE PROPOSED RARE EARTH PROJECT IN GEBENG NEAR. …. LOCATED ON THE BANKS OF THE PAHANG RIVER 50 KM SOUTH OF KUANTAN, PEKAN IS THE ROYAL TOWN

Talk of the low level radioactive wastes to be dumped into the Sungei Lembing mines has only served to infuriate the people even more.

 
I do not want to talk about lynas..
I just want to talk about myself..
I have a daughter which is diagnose with metabolic disorder which is suspect due my previous job which might have expose me to the mutation of my gene.
My girl birth to be a happy and normal baby, just after 3 months the entire neurotransmital system shuts down.. due to her body unable to create this neuro transmital checmical.. she becomes floppy and unable to move hand, legs and head… for a few months with all the blood test and scans unable to find out the real cause.. until the doctor retrieve “sum sum tulang” and sent to Europe for analysis only we get the real cause of her genetic disorder.. now she is on medication everyday, with all the pyhsio and speech therapy… which eat me up every month at least 2k of my salary… which u pour in every month to help her with an unknown rate of return whether she will be cure or get better…. so people out there… even with a 0.00000001% i dont think is worth to take the risk…

On the left is the photograph of Ghazala on Eid in 1984. Just a few months later, she lost her vision and the toxic gas turned this bubbly and beautiful girl into permanently ill individual.Despite doing their best to get her treated and in process selling off whatever they had, her parents–who were also gas affected, died.Ghazala is just one of the innumerable individuals who lost their dreams forever on gas tragedy. The irony is that there are similar stories in thousands of households in Bhopal. Death Toll in Chernobyl [Russia]: 56
 Death Toll in Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Over 25,000 until 1990
when govt stopped counting the deaths due to gas and its after-effects.

What is worse that even relief and rehabilitation was denied to majority of the survivors. Today, not just the after-affects linger, the diseases are passed on to next generations. More over, the huge toxic waste that hasn’t been cleaned up in and around factory, has poisoned the soil and water. The contamination level is a whopping 60 times more in these areas.

The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) assured Malaysians today it will shutter Lynas Corporation’s rare earth plant in Kuantan if the Australian mining firm violates conditions on the disposal of radioactive material.

Japanese leaders did not know the extent of the damage in the wake of the nuclear crisis after the massive quake and tsunami hit the Pacific nation even as they tried to play down the risk in public, an independent investigation is set to report.Naoto Kan, the then-prime minister, and his staff began referring to a worst case scenario that could threaten Japan’s existence as a nation around three days after the quake-triggered tsunami on March 11, and even secretly considered evacuating the capital, Tokyo, the report by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation
A nation that cannot uphold its law cannot preserve its order. When THE CORPORATE TITAN NICK CURTIS OF LYNAS CORP  to be smuggled out to safety, the authority of state abandoned the responsibility of state. Excuses, evasions and lies have shifted over years; this central truth has not.

Why do we say “law and order” rather than “order and law”? Simple. Law comes before order. Law defines the nature of order. Law is the difference between civilization and chaos. Law is evolutionary: the edicts of tribes, chiefs and dynasties lifted human societies from scattered peril to structured coexistence. The laws of democracy have vaulted us to the acme of social cohesion, for they eliminated arbitrary diktat and introduced collective will. The divine right of kings is dead; it has been reborn as the secular right of an elected Parliament.

According to Star Online, the regulator reminded at its weekly media briefing today that that firm had already struck an agreement with local authorities here for it to return any radioactive waste to Australia if it fails to set up a permanent disposal facility here.

This, said AELB director-general Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan, is despite Lynas’s pledge that all residues from the plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, would be recycled into products that can be sold.

“The board has approved a temporary operating licence (TOL) to Lynas but we have not issued it.

“Whether Lynas can proceed with its operations in June (as claimed by Lynas) remains to be seen,” the English daily quoted him as saying during the briefing.

Putrajaya recently said the Sydney-based Lynas Corp had sent a letter of undertaking to the government, promising to send its rare earth processing residue abroad if it cannot find a suitable waste disposal site in Malaysia.

But in response, anti-Lynas group Himpunan Hijau scoffed at the undertaking and demanded International Trade Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamad reveal which foreign destination would accept such large amounts of toxic waste.

“Where exactly is ‘abroad’? Identify and prove to us which country outside of Malaysia is willing to accept this massive [volume of] toxic waste. Tell us which third world country Lynas will invade and pollute next. We want to know the full details,” the group’s chairman, Wong Tack, had asked.

The anti-Lynas lobbyist also demanded to know how much radioactive waste the miner plans to accumulate as well as the duration these would be stored at a temporary dumpsite before being shipped out.

He claimed in his statement that the proposed local dump is located in an unsuitable swamp area in the Gebeng industrial zone, on the outskirts of coastal Kuantan.

Really, it would make more sense for the Lynas CEO to meet with the anti-Lynas group than the CM of Penang, as Penang has no say or jurisdiction towards the project in Pahang State.

The fact that AELB approved a TOL for Lynas to operate, even when a storage facility was yet to be unidentified has come as a shock to the people . Four government ministries has been roped in to help Lynas find a suitable storage site in the country is not only amusing but downright deploring. The statement by the international trade and industry minister that the radio active wastes will be disposed of overseas, even though it may break international laws is really not very assuring.

THE PROPOSED RARE EARTH PROJECT IN GEBENG NEAR. …. LOCATED ON THE BANKS OF THE PAHANG RIVER 50 KM SOUTH OF KUANTAN, PEKAN IS THE ROYAL TOWN
Asian Rare Earth Sdn Bhd – a joint venture involving Mitsubishi Chemical Industries Ltd (35%), Beh Minerals (35%), Lembaga Urusan dan Tabung Haji or the state-owned Pilgrims’ Management Fund Board (20%) and other bumiputra businessmen (10%) – began operations in 1982 soon after Mahathir Mohamad became prime minister. It took the residents of Bukit Merah more than 10 years of unrelenting struggle to get this lethally hazardous operation shut down. In the process, community leaders at the forefront of the protest against ARE were even arrested and detained under the obnoxious ISA by order of the vindictive home minister, Mahathir Mohamad…

 Malaysians are wondering why Lynas is transporting concentrated ore from Australia to Malaysia. Many think they know the answer. I’ve made up my mind too, but it’s not because of the science/technology behind Lynas. It’s because I believe the old saying: fish begins to rot from the head; more on that later.

Do you think there are any other companies which transport ore out of Australia?

The answer is YES! There is a company listed on the Canadian stock exchange which operates a mine-cum-concentration plant in Western Australia and ships out lead ore, mainly to China.

Why do they ship ore out instead of processing it at home?

I suspect the main reason is the world commodity price of lead. The cost of building and operating a refining (smelting) plant must be balanced against the uncertainties of price and the very real possibility that the lead ore deposits will run out before the investment can be recovered.

There’s also the issue of getting workers who will work in remote areas, with heavy and restrictive masks and garments. And the heightened sensitivity of a population which is unwilling to accept risks which are tolerated in other countries.

The same population will clamour for the benefits of lead. Do you know that lead-acid batteries account for 80 per cent of global lead consumption? Do you know that lead is the most reclaimed metal in the world? Do you know that lead poisoning is accepted by many poor people in Third World shipwrecking yards because this work at least enables them to have and feed families for several years?

The population will also clamour for return on investment in their stocks in mining companies. Mining is a capital-intensive and risky business, with governments having the power to instantly shut down mining and related operations. Pension funds expect good returns from their investments in companies which supply metals essential for our enjoyment of cars and protect us from electric power outages.

Magellan Metals in Australia is owned by Ivernia, a Canadian company. Magellan operates a mine located near Wiluna town, almost in the centre of Western Australia.

After raising funds from various sources, investigating technology and obtaining approvals from government agencies, Magellan began sinking money into the project. Magellan cut roads, built equipment, put up buildings and commissioned them.

In October 2005 Magellan began to operate its open-cast mine and processing facility and commenced to ship concentrated ore about 1,000km by land to the port of Esperance and thereafter by sea to China.

In March 2007 Magellan had to suspend operations because it was discovered that lead dust had leaked while being transferred at Esperance port.

It was birds who signalled the problem. A parliamentary inquiry later concluded that about 9,500 birds had died due to poisoning by Magellan’s lead carbonate.

The Magellan mine resumed production and shipment after conducting a root cause investigation, developing a solution and testing its effectiveness.

The root cause was found to be the method of transporting the lead concentrate. The solution was to develop and prove a method of transporting the concentrate in wet form, within water and dust proof bags, within sealed containers.

The method — a demonstration of persistence and ingenuity — was approved by the regulators. The solution also included inspection and certification by independent auditors at various stages of the process.

Shipments resumed, beginning with stockpiles stored near Wiluna.

In September 2009 the first shipment left Fremantle port. Yes, Fremantle about 1,000km from Wiluna, not Esperance. Fremantle gave Magellan approval in February 2009.

It’s been reported that the containers travelled by rail through 22 areas of relatively high population density before arriving at the port to commence the sea journey to China.

Despite best efforts to design the packaging to be spill-proof, despite the monitoring by independent auditors of each package and container, despite public release of lots of inspection data — including audit reports — to the general public on Magellan’s website, the result was not what was expected; sometimes the bar is set too high.

On December 15, 2011 Magellan informed the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) of lapses in its management plan. Among other things, the plan required Magellan to inform the EPA within 12 hours of discovering any loose lead in the containers. Magellan said it had failed to do so. Further investigation revealed loose lead may have been detected as early as October 2009.

On December 31, 2011 the Australian environment minister ordered Magellan to stop shipments of lead concentrate between the Wiluna mine and Fremantle.

On February 23, 2012 the ban was lifted: after a review concluded that 28 monitoring results for air quality in transport containers did not exceed prescribed limits. The review was conducted by an independent Sydney-based scientist who had formerly worked for the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation). [We too have had experts review Lynas.]

What can we learn from the Magellan experience? What do we learn about Australia? What do we learn about technology and the need for continuous improvement? What inferences can we draw about Malaysia’s potential experience with Lynas?

We learn that life is never free of risk. We learn that to satisfy our “needs”, other people often work in “bad” situations: that’s the history of estate workers and tin miners in the making of Malaysia. We learn that investment is needed, and those who invest expect to make a profit. We learn that countries need to share risks.

We learn that we cannot anticipate all problems, we have to take calculated risks — often through periods of trial with extensive monitoring: remember the temporary operating licence for Lynas. We learn the importance of regulations, regulators and political will. We learn we must be vigilant.

In my first paragraph I said fish begin rotting from the head. In nations, when it comes to issues of policy and regulation, the head is the government of the day.

We live in Malaysia: where civil servants are subject to the Official Secrets Act; where civil servants are reminded to be “grateful” to Umno-BN for their education; where the political leanings of civil servants are assessed by the government; where the prime minister and his associates make “money deals” to buy votes; where people are detained for wearing yellow T-shirts; where ministers who are involved in unseemly ways with cows are protected; is the head rotting?

It’s not about Lynas. It’s about industry. It’s about the independence and courage of regulators. It’s about political will. It’s about a nation which estimates that in 2005 it produced close to 600,000 tons of toxic and hazardous waste. Is the body rotting? Will the civil servants wake up? Can we stop the rot?

[courtesy of Shanthini Venugopal]

And now, under the nefarious Najib Razak, history is about to repeat itself…
unless we topple this lethally hazardous, ecocidal and utterly corrupt BN regime!


Talk of the low level radioactive wastes to be dumped into the Sungei Lembing mines has only served to infuriate the people even more.

The Bhopal gas tragedy that had caused 3,000 deaths instantly and nearly 25,000 deaths over the next couple years apart from incurable diseases, physical and mental disorders to over half-a-million people, is nearly a forgotten affair today.

It’s India’s shame not just because the main culprit, Warren Anderson, could never be arrested or extradited.

It’s also our shame because the ministers and bureaucracy has done its best to absolve the culprits and suppress the voice of the victims. After a quarter century, none of the accused could be sentenced or jailed as cases drag on.

The apathy on part of Congress and BJP governments towards the fate of the survivors and whose children also suffer from disorders, is shocking. The pain and suffering is such that one might get insane just by a visit to any of these areas, and it’s nearly impossible to write about it in a few pages.

But I must recount the events on the dark night of December 2 and 3, 1984:

Nearly 40 tonnes of lethal Methyl Isocyanate had escaped from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal. The pesticide plant was shifted from America because it was ‘too risky’ for Americans. In third world country, it was ‘welcome’. Nearly a 100 safety standards were cut down in Bhopal plant as per directives of the company from its US-based head office.

It was a strange night, which none of the citizens can forget. People woke up at night–coughing, vomiting and running–until they fell and died on the streets. Panic struck the entire city. The railway station was nearby and hundreds lay dead on the platforms as the killer gas spread across the capital city.

Railway officials steadfastly did their duty, doing their best to inform the officials from Mumbai to Jhansi, to stop train traffic and not let any train reach Bhopal.

There were no cell phones and no computerised signalling system. Most trains were stopped outside, except one [and most of the passengers onboard died]. But in the morning, 23 railway employees were found dead.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city hundreds died in sleep. Others lay dead on streets. Throughout the night doctors tried to find ways to treat but there was no medicine for such a deadly chemical. Union Carbide officials said there was no antidote to MIC gas.

Kids were dying in the arms of doctors. Those doctors who tried to resuscitate the children, themselves died as they came in contact with the gas. With the crack of dawn, the City was to come to terms with the gravity of the gas tragedy.

Funeral pyres kept burning for days, Fatwa for mass graves

In hospitals, there was nothing except bodies of men, women and children. The funeral pyres in shamshans kept on burning. Where were the qabristans for the thousands of dead? The specialfatwa was issued for mass burials, so that dozens of Muslims could be buried in each qabr. Men and women were identified on the basis of their religions and last rites were performed as everybody volunteered to help.

The Chief Minister Arjun Singh had already left Bhopal. Panic was further aggravated with the news that there is still gas in the tanks. Later there were statements that the remaining gas would be released. This led to greater panic and for weeks and months people kept leaving the city.

Mass exodus, frenzy and fear
Nearly 1,000 big buses were arranged by government to ferry people out. Others left on whatever vehicle they could and most ran on foot. This was one of the biggest mass exodus from a City in modern times, all because of absolute failure of government and administration.

Trains passing through Bhopal wouldn’t stop for long in those days. The train passengers would keep the compartments shut from within even though it was a common sight to see families and their children cry, begging them to open the gates. This was a tragedy of such magnitude that had no parallel in modern world.

Then the legal battle began. A compensation was agreed upon. Contrary to perception, it was not at all sufficient. Suddenly dalaals [brokers] appeared. Whatever was the compensation given by Union Carbide, was not properly distributed.

The real victims’ money was distributed in parts of City where the gas had little effect, because of political considerations.

Survivors, Victims sans medical care

The super-specialty hospitals built with the money meant for gas victims, are flush with funds, but don’t provide treatment and medicines to the survivors.

Instead private patients are entertained. The victims live in extremely polluted slums where toxicity is so high that young ones look middle-aged, thousands of women suffer from gynaecological complications and the poor have nobody to turn.

The women widowed by the tragedy, live in the locality ironically named Vidhwa Colony, many of them barely getting barely a pension of Rs 150. Water is so toxic that none of us can imagine. Life remains the same for lakhs living in clusters like JP Nagar, Qainchi Chhola, Oriya Basti, Qazi Camp and numerous other slums-localities in the area around Union Carbide.

The compensation had to be distributed among around 1.5 lakh people who were gas affected in 1984-85. Them and their children together numbered nearly 2-3 lakh by the next decade.

However, to gain political mileage–the compensation that was meant only for the victims, was distributed in New City also, ahead of elections. Not many got compensation over Rs 1 lakh.

As a result the real victims got much less of what they would have otherwise got. Compensation was distributed among 5 lakh people. Though it was a pittance–just Rs 25,000. Had the 25,000-each given to 4 lakh-odd non-victims, kept for the gas victims, the real victims could have benefited.

But even this colossal human tragedy was communalised. In the aftermath of Babri Masjid-Ram Temple dispute, a campaign to get compensation to New Bhopal residents was launched. The hidden message was that it was the Muslim-majority Old Bhopal that had got money. Ironically, this was also untrue.

Though Walled City in Bhopal has a clear Muslim majority, the areas that were affected had a predominant Hindu population. Among the gas victims, over 62% were Hindus, who were migrant labourers and poor workers. But this ploy did work.

The Union Carbide was bought by Dow Chemicals. There was a large quantity of poisonous waste in factory, which remains to this day. The factory had to be cleaned up, as the waste is polluting groundwater in the entire area, causing deadly diseases and producing generations that are frail and always ailing.

Bureaucrats made money, then lost interest

Bureaucrats including many senior IAS officers were interested in Gas Relief ministry and its projects as long as funding was there. When hospitals were being built, they were happy as contracts were awarded for everything from construction to buying of equipments, and they got ‘cut’. There was money in everything: even in calling companies to remove toxic waste remaining in factory.

When the hospitals were established, they lost interest–so what if doctors were not appointed and machines remained unused, even patients turned away, emergency and OPD kept shut at night–after all, there was no money for them now.

A strategy was devised to hush up each and every issue. Everytime a high-flying minister from Delhi would come, he would say that there was no waste, no pollutant and nothing needed. After all, the victims were mostly–poor, unable to fight cases, not like us–and could be ignored.

It was long back that governments had stopped medical studies. Those who died due to after-effects of the gas tragedy, were not counted after 1990. The true figure of deaths could be anything from 50,000-1 lakh and even more.

The reports that indicated governments and highlighted the presence of extremely toxic substances, were not ‘accepted’. Bribe was paid, Carbide was let off and leave the country. The ugly corporate-bureaucrat-minister nexus worked wonderfully for the killers.

18,000 Metric Tonnes of Waste Vs 360 tonnes: Even Commission in Clean-up

They shouted from the rooftop that there was just 360 tonnes of toxic waste left. For decades carbide had functioned in Bhopal. The reality is that the premises–67 acres has nearly 8,000 Metric Tonnes of the most poisonous chemicals’ concoction in the world, buried in the ground, that is killing the poor in the adjoining areas.

And a further, 10,000 Metric Tonnes, is buried in the nearby open land where the effluent was dumped for years. And nobody would talk about it. After all, the poor can be allowed to drink this poison. Who cares? They don’t get treatment. Who cares? They die. Who cares? Of course, a few do. Next part tomorrow.

—-
[This is the first part of the series on Gas Tragedy. As a child I was witness to the horrors of the gas tragedy and as a journalist covered it to some extent. The aim is to provide a true account of the tragedy and its aftermath, which many weren’t aware outside Bhopal because it was not a satellite-TV/internet era back in 1984. Read the second part ‘Injustice with victims, Indifference towards Survivors‘. ]

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