By Mariam Mokhtar
If a picture paints a thousand words, then a friend's photos have revealed huge variations in rubbish collection in and around Ipoh. The photos encouraged others to post their photos of rubbish strewn areas where they live and work. So what is the Ipoh City Council doing about rubbish?
The rubbish ‘postcode lottery’ riddle started last month, when friends alleged that the collection of rubbish varied widely in and around Ipoh.
In affluent areas along Jalan Kelab Lumba Kuda, Jalan Tambun, Tiger Lane, and Gopeng Road, they claimed that the roads and grass verges were in pristine condition. They said that in outlying areas like Bercham, Chemor or Menglembu, the rubbish collection was a hit and miss affair. If one was lucky, the garbage men might come to collect the rubbish, but otherwise, they might not see the rubbish collectors, for weeks on end.
Some people also alleged that in affluent areas, the residents were given free black plastic bin bags, but none were distributed to those who live in other areas.
Doesn't everyone pay rates, or are people residing in so-called affluent areas treated with deference because many of them are titled and have a "kabel ke atas" (connections to the top)?
Moreover, complained the unhappy Ipohites, the monsoon drains, on either side of the roads in the affluent areas were clear of plastic bags and neither long grass nor shrubs were thriving in these drains.
Drains which are not clogged up with rubbish allow excess run-off water to flow smoothly, unlike in other parts of town, where litter blocks the drains and contributes to localised flooding.
So how true are these allegations of a "postcode lottery" affecting rubbish collection in Ipoh?
A friend came to the rescue and decided to go around the city to take photos of the piles of rubbish which many Ipohites may encounter around their homes, or on the roads they use daily. There may be some truth to the allegations.
The photos show that there are no piles of stinking rubbish or torn bin bags, in the ‘affluent’ areas. In other areas, especially in the outlying parts of the city and along country lanes, the littered roads are an embarrassment, especially as this is Visit Perak Year, 2017.
So who is at fault? You, me, the Ipoh City Council (MBI) or everyone?
Is the MBI short of resources, has funding for rubbish collection been decreased, is there a lack of manpower, or are the people to blame for treating areas outside their homes as an open rubbish tip?
Do we have contractors who give umpteen excuses for not collecting rubbish, such as the ridiculous assertions that bins are not properly colour-coded, or are overflowing?
One person said that rubbish collection was irregular in his area, and he observed people fly-tipping around the corner from his house. He claimed that people refused to store their uncollected rubbish at home, as it would attract flies and vermin.
Some people have said that the assessment rate has been revised but the roads are bad with pot holes appearing on most roads in Ipoh, and rubbish is everywhere. Others consider themselves lucky if their rubbish is collected at all, never mind twice a week.
An elderly Ipohite reminisced that in the good old days, when the Seenivasagam brothers were in the People's Progressive Party (PPP, an Opposition party) the Ipoh Council was active. He said that there were local government elections and the PPP won the councillor elections and that the councillors were not appointees, like these days. He beamed with pride recollecting that in those days, Ipoh was the cleanest city in Malaysia.
Another Perakean, who works in Ipoh but lives just outside Ipoh, asked that the spotlight on rubbish collection be extended to areas outside Ipoh. She said, "What about the small towns? Come and see the old Chenderiang to Tapah road. Rubbish is thrown all along the verge."
She said that when she complained to the local council, she was told that it was not their area of responsibility.
If that is the case, then who is responsible for rubbish collection in the small towns? Is the local council fobbing off people, by claiming that rubbish collection is not in their purview?
She also said that the local council built a railing, ostensibly to prevent rubbish being thrown onto the grass verge, but irresponsible Malaysians simply dumped their rubbish further up the road.
It is also alleged that areas around kampongs are similarly bad and people simply throw their rubbish into the rivers. Even furniture and mattresses have ended up in the river.
So will local councils start collecting rates from the kampong folk so that their rubbish can be disposed of properly? Are our schools highlighting the problems of rubbish disposal to the young children, so that they can at least inform and educate their parents and elders about the importance of the responsible disposal of rubbish and preserving the environment?
Perhaps, it is timely that the Menteri Besar, Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, accompanied by the mayor and his retinue of councillors, again don their orange t-shirts and overalls, and take their brooms and dustpans out for another airing. Ipoh and the surrounding towns, need their rubbish to be collected.
(Thank you, for the photos of rubbish, which many Ipohites sent to me. The final portfolio of photos can be seen at www.mariammokhtar.com)