KUALA LANGAT, Oct 18 — The presence of a ‘kongsi haram’ (illegal migrant quarters) which houses nearly 200 foreign workers of a paper processing factory in Taman Bakti here has upset residents who had called for the squatters to be relocated.
Most of the inhabitants comprising Indonesians and Bangladeshis live in ‘kongsi’ houses erected on the Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) reserve land in very uncomfortable and crowded conditions without basic facilities, and proper sewage system.
Hence, all the waste and rubbish are channelled into nearby drains.
A resident, Mohd Ali Hasan @ Ibrahim, 42, claimed the situation had caused pollution at a nearby water reservoir, which was also used as a dumping ground for industrial waste from the factory before entering Sungai Langat.
“When the factory started operating more than a year ago, more than 1,000 workers were living in the area, but the number has decreased after we reported the matter to the authorities,” he told Bernama.
Although the number has reduced to only around 200 workers, residents still hope the authorities would evict all of them immediately because all sewage waste was arbitrarily drained into nearby ditches and was the cause of pollution in Sungai Langat, he said.
Mohd Ali together with Kuala Langat Environmental Action Organisation chairman Tan Ching Heng also took a Bernama journalist and photographer to personally inspect the situation in the ‘foreigners’ settlement’ to get a true picture of what was happening.
To get to the settlement area, we had to walk for more than five minutes through a trail lined with bushes as the main route to the kongsi houses was blocked by an iron bar, believed to be set up by the factory operator.
The group also spotted a temporary market ‘site’ for foreign workers to get their wet items
After crossing the concrete beam that served as an entry route to the settlement, a stench hit us and the scene that greeted us was shocking — over 300 containers and kongsi houses packed into the area.
Despite wearing face masks, the rancid smell emanating from the sewage disposed into nearby drains was unbearable and the settlement area was surrounded by dark brown-mud puddles which also contributed to the stench.
The ‘village’ was also surrounded by muddy areas filled with dark brown water, believed to be the cause of the odour. Workers there were believed to use two large water tanks for bathing purposes.
A warning notice issued to the factory by the Kuala Langat Land and District Office was found at one of the ‘kongsi’ houses for constructing immigrant quarters on TNB reserve land next to the Sungai Manggis industrial area.
The company involved was ordered to vacate and demolish the structure within 90 days from the date the notice was issued on September 3. Failure to do so, can result in the relevant party being charged under Section 425 of the National Land Code, which provides for a fine not exceeding RM500,000 or five years’ jail or both.
Meanwhile, Tan said although the authorities had raided the area at the end of August, evictions could only be done within three months after the notice was issued.
“We see no signs of any construction in this area to be demolished and workers are still living in this area, just as before.
“So we hope the authorities can take a more stern action against the company because not only is the drainage system being polluted but the congested settlement can also contribute to the spread of Covid-19,” he added.
It was understood that the used paper processing plant, which was built on an area of 46 hectares, was owned by investors from China and began operations late last year.
Issue of water, air and noise pollution caused by the factory has been raised several times by the residents to the authorities and the Selangor Department of Environment (DOE) when contacted admitted receiving complaints about the sewage issues.
Selangor DOE director Nor Aziah Jaafar said the issue was currently in the hands of the Kuala Langat Municipal Council and they had been given a period of three months to relocate the workers’ kongsi houses from the TNB reserve land into the factory area.
“As stated in the notice, they need to move the workers’ house because it is now illegally built on TNB reserve land.
“However, I cannot comment further because it is under the jurisdiction of the Kuala Langat Land Office and Municipal Council,” she said, adding her department will conduct an immediate investigation into the factory’s industrial waste disposal into Sungai Langat.