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Learn from the Filipinos

Ipoh Watch

Dr Richard Ng

The appointment of former President of Manjung Municipal Council, Dato’ Zamri Man, as the new mayor of Ipoh on July 1 was well received by Ipohites.

As President of Ipoh City Watch (ICW), I am delighted to note that he is bringing with him his experiences from Manjung, the third best-managed local council in Malaysia, to Ipoh.

We are more delighted when he said his vision is to make Ipoh the most liveable city in Malaysia through an inclusive administrative system. That is exactly what we are striving for at ICW.

When asked by reporters on his first day of work, Dato’ Zamri has made known his intention of working with NGOs and civil society groups to solve the various issues plaguing Ipoh. He hoped to improve the city in a year’s time, in terms of cleanliness and other criteria set under the state government’s Amanjaya policy.

Just three weeks ago The Economist reported the results of a liveability survey on 140 cities in the world. Melbourne has once again emerged as the most liveable city in the world for the fifth consecutive time based on a set of 30 criteria which include safety, healthcare, educational resources, environment and infrastructure. Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Baru are ranked at the bottom half of the list with Tripoli, Lagos, Port Moresby, Dhaka and Damascus listed as the five least liveable cities.

Comparing Ipoh with Melbourne is unfair, as we are at a different end of the continuum. However, it is not a sin to make Ipoh the most liveable city in Malaysia. Two pertinent issues that affect Ipohites are economy and safety, which are part of the liveability survey variables. In terms of safety and security, ICW is working closely with the Police and other NGOs to provide feedback and ways to improve the city’s security.

Economy will improve when we have a good business-and-industry-driven environment coupled with good policies that can attract investors. We need good infrastructure such as a good transportation system. Ipoh’s reasonably cheap and good food is already a plus point. However, the rise in dengue cases will be a pull-down factor. We too hope this is not the reason why it is so difficult to get dengue statistics on cases affecting each housing area within Ipoh. But what we do know is that the number of dengue cases is correlated to the number of illegal dumpsites, clogged drains, overgrown grass and abandoned houses.

Maybe comparing Ipoh with Los Banos and Tuguegarao, two small cities in Philippines, will be fairer. Both are slightly smaller than Taiping. What fascinated me during my recent visit there was the level of cleanliness. They are definitely very clean. I could not find one single illegal dumpsite for which Ipoh is famous.

I had the opportunity to speak to the head of environment of Los Banos’s Local Council and we shared our experience in managing solid waste. To start off, their mayor is elected by the people and garbage is one of the issues raised by Filipinos. Los Banos has 14 ‘barangays’ or gardens. They started garbage separation and recycling about 10 years ago. When it was first launched in 2005 they received strong objection and rejection from the people. But today, keeping their environment clean is part of their culture.

The new elected Mayor Perez of Los Banos has come out with a 10-year Strategic Action Plan (2013-2023) which requires Los Banos Municipal to divert 50 per cent of the biodegradable waste and recyclables from going to the sanitary landfill in 2016.

In both cities, the people are required to bring out only biodegradable waste, which includes organic waste, from Monday to Friday for collection between 8pm and 9pm. The non-biodegradable must be taken out and sent to a designated collection centre only on every Saturday between 8pm and 9pm. Those found placing garbage outside their residence will be penalised by paying a 50 pesos (RM4.50) fine and their garbage will not be collected.

The organic waste collected are then sent for composting where they are put into a large shredding machine and then mixed with soil and night crawlers to turn into organic fertiliser within 10 days. This fertiliser is then used for their landscape plants while some are given free to farmers.

I also found recycling bins placed in strategic locations in the city of Tuguegarao where residents can place plastic bottles and cans, which we do not have in Ipoh. The flower pots in town are painted with creative words such as “Save the Earth. We have nowhere to Go”, “Cleanliness starts within yourself”, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, and “Be Clean in Thoughts, Words and Deeds”.

ICW has helped implement the Community Recycling Programmes involving 250 households in Jelapang Tambahan in collaboration with Perak SWCorp and Rukun Tetangga Jelapang. The project launched in April 2015 has produced positive results when more than 4 tonnes of garbage are saved from going to the landfill or illegal dumpsites with a recycling rate of 17 per cent, higher than the national average of 10 per cent.

The success has resulted in two more recycling programmes involving Buntong and Lim Garden residents. It will be launched on Saturday, September 19 at the Indian Recreational Club padang at 3.30pm by Dato’ Hajah Rusnah Kassim, Executive Councillor for Women’s Development, Family, Welfare, Caring Society, Housing and Local Government. All Ipohites are cordially invited to the function and learn about garbage separation and composting.

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