THE Association for Community and Dialogue (ACID) is appalled by the statement of Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man that the Kedah government decision not to conduct any rare earth element (REE) mining at water catchment areas in the state is a big sacrifice and that the Penang government should compensate for it. He said this in response to a question from Chow Kon Yeow (Tanjong-PH) in dewan rakyat on the ministry’s measures to preserve and prevent any pollution in the water catchment areas in Ulu Muda forest reserve.The environment and water minister seems to be political and even ignorant on the impact of rare earth element mining in water catchment areas and its impact on the water to states like Penang and Kedah. The potential damage to the environment and its resultant health impact on the people cannot be merely measured in dollars and cents. There is no such thing as sacrifice on part of the Kedah government, but duty and responsibility between states to preserve the substance and quality of water that is used for the common good of the people.Research has shown that half a century of rare earths mining and processing has severely damaged surface vegetation, caused soil erosion, pollution, and acidification and reduced or even eliminated food crop output. It affects the environment by inducing loss of biodiversity, contamination of surface water and leakage of chemicals from mining sites that could result in detrimental effects on the health of the population.Furthermore, such mining, whether it happens in water catchment areas or elsewhere in Kedah, would basically violate sustainable development Goal 15 that Malaysia is part of which is to protect and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forest, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.ACID would like to remind the minister that all this protection is not a sacrifice or can be compensated with money. It seems that Tuan Ibrahim lacks the depth or wisdom when it comes to the environment. – December 15, 2020.* Ronald Benjamin is Association for Community and Dialogue secretary. * This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.
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