I refer DE 9th Jan 2011 Forum letter entitled ’Anti-coal group not majority’ (page 21), written by Mr. David Lee.
Point for point, Lee says that “anti-coal does not represent the silent majority about the project proposal (site 300 MW coal-fired plant at Sinakut, Darvel Bay). They would sooner have the electricity supplied to their homes uninterrupted rather than join the debate.”
In fact, his ‘silent majority’ claim actually highlights the reality of a lurking danger : an uninformed majority.
For instance, the majority of fatal accidents happen because the victims obviously don’t know what’s coming! Similarly, most people don’t know how our independent power producers operate their coal plants and perhaps Mr Lee should study it himself.
But it stuns everyone the moment they see Google pictures how these plants discharge huge amount of waste water straight to the sea and night pictures of dark fly ash shooting into the air, 10 out of 10 objected.They change their mind quickly when they realize coal plants use our seas as their ‘garbage’ dump.
Deep in their hearts, the majority object heavy pollution, when you let them know .
On his claim that the majority want “uninterrupted supply” of electricity to homes and industries, who told Mr Lee NGOs have advocated anything to the contrary?
Does Mr Lee know anyone in Sabah who campaigns against uninterrupted power supply?The good news is East Coast and Lahad Datu folks say “uninterrupted” power supply is already a reality there of late.
Why all of a sudden this can be done, when some tried their best to argue they need a coal plant to do it and put all the blame about the decades of constant blackouts on anti-pollution groups for causing the woes?
It confirms the time-honoured saying: If there is a will, there is a way, even without coal, thanks to Green Energy Minister, Peter Chin, who vowed to resign by the end of 2010, if he could not fix the perennial blackouts.
Well, he fixed it and celebrated his success, we heard!
By urging the State and Federal Governments to study traditional coal user countries like Japan, Britain , Europe, Australia, Taiwan and China, Lee went on to urge the Federal and State Governments to “make the right decision.”
The right decision is to reject such a heavy air and sea polluter in what every marine scientists and fishermen have always known is the richest coral ecosystem in the world which is already earning RM250 million per year from diving alone, not including fisheries, seaweeds and fish farming. Sabah Tourism and Tourism Malaysia have already said they wanted to expand the diving industry to all the scores of islands in and around the Dent Peninsular because Sipadan can’t cope any more with the rising crowd.
It can’t be a right decision endorsing an industry that pours toxic wastes into this system and eventually envelope the skies of Semporna with a daily shroud of nitrogen dioxide haze (low level ozone), destroying both air and water quality, as is the case reported in Manjun, Klang, KL and Johor.
It will only brand such a renowned marine destination negatively and put a road block to its growth.
Ironically, Mr Lee, a foreigner to Australia, praised the Great Barrier Reef as a “paradise for tourists” but in the next breath, sank to a spiral of totally negative remarks about “foreign environmentalists who come to Sabah one or two days and make fantastic prises about Sabah’s environmental paradise, exotic species, pristine forests, lost world, world heritage quality.”
What is this?
Jacking Australia but cynical about foreigners’ good word on his own State.
But we know Mr Lee wants to say : see, “Queensland burns tens of millions of tons of coal to produce 8,000MW of electricity for decades, from a dozen huge coal-fired plants . If our Sabah environmental activists’ claims of environmental disasters are correct, the corals in the Great Barrier Reef would be wiped out by the pollutants by now,” we quote him.
Well, Mr Lee mentions “pollutants”.
It will be interesting if Mr Lee can prove to the people of Sabah the dozen huge coal plants in Queensland he mentioned, make direct discharges of waste water into the Great Barrier Reef!
As far as we know, coal plants in Australia don’t discharge pollutants straight into the sea.
For example, the Bayswater and Eraring –Australia’s two largest power stations, employ a ‘closed system’ to use, recycle and reuse the same body of cooling water to avoid contaminating the natural water systems – rivers or seas.
To do this, Baywater and Rearing erect natural draft towers 132m high to drop and cool hot water from the boilers , store the water in man-made lakes, then draw and run the same water through their condenser pipes to cool the super-hot turbines.
This self contained cooling system doesn’t give coal plants the liberty to pollute nearby natural water systems , ensures zero discharge and protect particularly rich marine ecosystems from thermal or toxic runoffs !
As paradoxical as it may sound, anti coal don’t condemn coal.
Why condemn a mineral which acts like a sponge that absorbs all the deadly heavy metals like arsenic, mercury, lead, etc , keep them safely buried underground in order to keep our environment from harms way?
But once we burn it for power, it’s clearly in Sabah’s interest to question HOW they plan to do it!
The bone of contention centres on potentially monstrous waste discharge into our best sea.Even Mr Lee should object if he knows that is going to happen.
So, what stirs the NGOs’ preventive objection is potential spectre of a terrific discharge of hot waste water into the sea around Dent Peninsular and Semporna for a possible century.
Mr Lee doesn’t seem to worry about the consequence.
But a lot of people do.
Among them are very educated, leading doctors, CEOs who have developed and managed tens of thousands of hectares of oil palm estates, including former Speaker of the State legislative Assembly who is known to read a lot and therefore know a lot about coal burning.
They can easily face Mr Lee for a debate if he wants.
When they proposed to build it is Seguntur, Sandakan, people who live nearby rose to the forefront object include a family of asthmatics who are on medication and were afraid constant exposure to fly ash discharge could trigger fatal attacks.
Does Mr Lee know the valid range of life or death concerns of our local people before branding them as stooges of powerful foreign environmentalists.
Also, the director of a major hospital can’t be a stooge of foreign environmentalists, an she?
So, Mr Lee, don’t push coal plants in Sabah and invoke Australia as if our independent power producers adheres to the same strict mitigation processes as the Australians do!
Ours head straight to the beach, exploit and draw easy seawater, disinfect it chemically, run it through the cooling system and dump it back to the sea.
Is this the “right decision” Mr Lee presses the governments to make?
If so, we would say the so called “environmentalists” Lee invariably label negatively , are the real patriots because they show care , they want to protect Sabah’s natural resources from the excesses of industries but don’t object to industries.
Even so, no body, including the best Australian coal power stations, know how to capture C02, the chief culprit in global warming.
C02 emissions remains a dangerous pollutant.
Mr Lee’s hope of keeping C02 underground is not practical.
A major earth quake and it all escapes!
Paradoxically, Mr Lee paid such glowing tribute to Australia’s huge coal industry without citing a word about the extreme floods that struck Australia from the plains of Rockhampton to highland Toowomba last week!
Instead, he made a one-track minded statement like “countries like UK, China, Europe had been burning coal for a 1,000 years. If coal were so bad as some claimed, the damages would have been written all over the faces of the people of these countries.”
Yet , the whole world saw how extreme drought, bush fires and extreme floods covered the face of Australia over the last two years, similarly Pakistan, China , Sri Lanka and also the extreme snows in North America and Europe just two weeks ago.
Strangely, Mr Lee doesn’t think these weather extremes have anything to do with burning coal over the last several hundred years and a steady rise in global temperature and continues to champion the high virtues of coal.
He can ignore all what climate scientists and economists who have admonished the world to do something about decarbonising, because small changes in averages (average world temperature) cause big changes in the frequency of extreme events but strangely, Mr Lee’s blind spots to all these are total, except his singular interest in minerals and mining and so if he dominates the microphone, all these extreme events may swallow us.
We think Mr Lee wrongfully accuse ‘Green Turf’ (Green Surf, Mr Lee) which he says campaigns for “ absolutely no mining in Sabah” and challenge NGOs to mine , refine and turn such rich minerals like iron ore, coal, copper, manganese, nickel and turn them into turbines , plants, mills et to produce the green energy they are advocating.
MR Lee is very wrong to think no body can do better than conventional thinkers like him.
There is a huge range of talents, knowledge, insight, understanding and passion which are simply not tapped!
His idea of business as usual, do what the Indonesians do, mine coal, make the billions, projects need go on and there is “no escape at the expense of the environment” tell Sabahans to look Indonesia!
The traditional ‘balanced development’ idea is already outdated because a lot of smart thinkers discovered sacrificing cherished permanent stuff for things materialistic and transient is simply foolhardy and short-sighted.
Instead, they advocate the ‘win-win’ concept which involves good strategic planning that produce all round benefits without sacrificing vital ecosystem services but at the same time, reaping the full benefits of Man-made development and projects.
So we object when people say, if you want electricity , you must be prepared to sacrifice your richest sea.
Mr Lee even questioned the NGOs : ‘where is our conscience?’
He should ask himself that question instead.
If he says sacrifice Semporna’s productive ecosystems we must, because people in KK want continued power supply to their house, he’s not thinking of the thousands of stakeholders there who rely on its reef health and water quality for seafood, diving, seaweed farming, that’s no conscience.
The smarter thing to do is to try to break the trade-off , or at least reduce and minimise it but don’t encourage the government and project proponents by saying they are free to override or sacrifice ir-replaceable millennia old reef system, just for electricity which can be produced in dozens of ways and places!
As for claims that environmentalists object to even 100m sand mining in rivers, the people who really raise objection to the press are riverine land owners who see their land eaten away by erosion water quality destroyed because of heavy riverbed dredging.
Furthermore, rivers are dynamic currents. Dredge in one place, mud and sediments are carried hundreds of miles downstream, degrading every living habitat on its way.
In addition, sand miners more from once site to another. Dig 100m one time, if they move 20 times, it adds up to 2000m or the whole river. But of course, with Mr Lee’ singular focus on mining, he sees no reason to regulate these guys.
If he doesn’t believe, go the Papar River to have a look.
And don’t worry about environmentalists’ objections to sand mining, all of Sabah’s rivers are already heavily polluted with mud flows. If they object , it’s a reaction to seeing the destruction already done and an attempt to salvage some grace for Sabah.
As for environmentalists objecting to every road through kampongs, don’t worry too, roads had already cut many mangrove forests asunder and mangrove forests have been removed wholesale for development when they could have left them alone and develop in more appropriate grounds. All that win-win benefit can be achieved, minus the conventional attitude that belittles the environment and the vital importance of their ecosystem services to Sabahans.
As for environmentalists wielding great political power, the fact is they are powerless to approve or rescind projects , only struggle to persuade decision makers to please help, often with their own time and money, unlike some who continue to receive handsome pensions from tax payers’ money long after retirement, and basically for doing nothing for the public interest.
Mr Lee then said how the Chinese are getting smart like the Japanese and western countries by shifting their “heavy industries” to foreign lands.
Actually what they have done is keep the clean, high value, strategic industries at home and shift the really dirty, toxic primary processes outside, like the aluminium smelter Mr Lee mentioned..
A very good example is the Mamut Copper mine which peaked in the hey days of Mr Lee’s career , where the Japanese processed the raw materials here and shipped the copper home.
Extracting copper and gold with the most toxic chemicals like cyanide and discharging the deadly wastes into the Lohan and Mamut Rivers, killed all fish in both rivers and of course.
Sabah Parks erected ‘toxic river’ warning sign at Poring.Belian fish, Tor lambroides, all died .
If they didn’t vanish, Sabah Parks might be able to make a lot of money from ‘fish massage now, like some villagers near Sabah Tea are enjoying now.
MR Lee insinuated some ‘high government officials are already infected and are dancing to their (environmentalists) tunes.”
Some high government officials indeed have seen the massive lake of highly acidic water in Mamut Copper mine which still leaks out to the rivers.
We read in the local newspapers how a Japanese professor proposed to take out the acidity for a reported sum of some RM150 millions with effective mircrobes.
But how much did the State earn from Mamut Copper Mine?
We heard around just RM200million.
But according to some high government officials, the professor never returned, because his verdict is ‘the problem is too big’ to tackle!
So Mr Lee should not portray these high government officials as though they are dumb, don’t know anything and manipulated by environmentalists.
They know more than what Mr Lee think.
On their lap is a threat, costly unsolvable legacy left behind by miners and their advocates who have long washed their hands.
Daily Express Forum Sunday 23rd Jan 2011 .
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