By Mariam Mokhtar
We will never be rid of the twin terrors of trash and toilets if our attitude to filth remains. Just read the mainstream papers. Littered streets, blocked drains, fly-tipping and dirty amenities, are regularly reported, but very little improvement is made.
Despite claims by the Ipoh Mayor, Roshidi Hashim, that he will not tolerate piles of garbage and indiscriminate dumping, the problem persists. At one time, Ipoh was dubbed the Garden City and envied by other Malaysian cities. Today, the deterioration is evident. How can Ipoh return to its former glory? Can we ever regain the pride we once had in Ipoh?
Last Chinese New Year, Mrs Choo’s celebration was marred by the stench from an illegal rubbish dump nearby. No-one should have to put up with the foul smell, the mess and the health hazards caused by rats and stray dogs foraging for food. “Last year during house-cleaning, someone threw over 30 bags full of waste over there. A few days ago, someone threw a sofa, wooden planks and eight bags.”
Began 10 Years Ago
Mrs Choo, a resident of Taman Ipoh for the past two decades, claims that the impromptu dump-site began 10 years ago. “It’s even worse during Chinese New Year, as people clean their houses and generate more rubbish. Some even have the nerve to throw junk directly into my drain.”
In another part of town, visitors to Jalan Spooner in Buntong are confronted with what looks like a landfill site. There are piles of putrefying organic matter, discarded furniture, construction rubble, food-waste and assorted plastic items.
Residents here claim that the dump appeared in the past decade. When a complaint was made via someone with influence, city council workers equipped with a bulldozer pushed the rubbish from the road into the nearby bushes. The newly created space just attracted more fly-tippers.
In Fair Park, Mrs Kua has lost count of the number of times she has contacted the Ipoh City Council (MBI) to clear the rubbish dump behind her house. Her problem is worse during wet weather because the rubbish clogs the drains. She is not alone in witnessing other residents throwing rubbish onto the dump.
Ipoh’s growing mountain of rubbish is a problem that is also experienced in more affluent parts of the city. Residents close to the Ipoh Turf Club and the Perak Golf Club are angry with uncollected garbage and blocked drains.
One resident, Cik Poniah said: “There are weeds and small trees, around four feet high, growing in the drains. Council workers have avoided the area and have not been seen for months.
“The vegetation clogs up the drains, and when it rains, the roads flood. Monitor lizards and snakes thrive in these drains. Plant roots damage the drains. Don’t the authorities realise that it will cost more to mend the broken drains?”
Her neighbour, Puan Rose, agreed: “The decline in the services happened about 10 years ago when MBI appointed contractors with a lackadaisical attitude to work. If they felt like it, they would turn up to collect the rubbish. Previous to that, the council had a supervisor to check on their work. Nowadays, we’d be lucky if the dumpster appears.”
The litter situation has declined further and Ipohites believe that MBI will accept complaints about rubbish but will do nothing, because they know that the people will eventually tire of complaining and then stop contacting MBI.
Residents have requested that more enforcement officers patrol the streets to fine errant offenders. One resident was furious when told that MBI “had no idea when their officers would turn up”.
Taking Matters into Own Hands
One irate resident who was frustrated with MBI’s failure to look after the interests of Ipoh’s ratepayers, decided to take matters into his own hands. In early March, three lorry loads of coconut husks were dumped beside the highway, near Ampang, in Ipoh, whilst another lorry-load was dumped close to mayor Roshidi’s home.
Roshidi responded by demanding that his enforcement officers locate the culprit and punish him. “I don’t care who is responsible for throwing the coconut husks. There will be no compromise when it comes to illegal rubbish dumping. They are traitors to our cause to keep the city clean.”
He warned that his officers would monitor illegal dumpsites and announced that unsightly garbage piles would deter tourists, especially during VPY 2012.
Public Mind-sets Change
Various people and organisations have been trying to get to grips with the filth, but unless our mind-set changes and until we educate the public and the workers, by going back to basics, hygiene and rubbish issues will remain unresolved.
Tourists have already begun complaining. In late March two Swedes reported to the regional papers about having to pay to use filthy toilets at the bus terminal in Medan Gopeng, but their horrifying experience is worthy of another article.
Priorities must be made. It was reported that the mayor and the Tourism Perak CEO Ahmad Fathil Abd Ghani will spend RM1 million to “beautify” Ipoh, by illuminating the limestone hills around the city.
Roshidi said, “When lit up at night, they will be really beautiful and I believe this will be an added tourist attraction for Ipoh.
This money would be better spent on a more efficient rubbish collection service, more regular rubbish collection and more enforcement officers. Rather than illuminate the limestone hills which do not require more “beautifying”, the money could be spent on street lighting to reduce crime and drug addicts. In times of austerity, money should be spent wisely.