Malaysia villagers see red over aluminium ore dust

The sea near Kuantan Port turning red. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
The sea near Kuantan Port turning red. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Workers hosing down dusty vehicles in the Kuantan Port area. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Workers hosing down dusty vehicles in the Kuantan Port area. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUANTAN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Every time it rains, the sea near the Kuantan Port turns red - but it is not a strange sight for residents of Kampung Selamat who have to live with dust from bauxite mining.

Villager Abdul Razak Ngah, 43, said the sea would be "stained red" with pollution each time there was heavy rain.

"There are hills of (bauxite) ore in the port area near our village. The wind will blow the red dust everywhere and when it rains, the water washes the dust down the drain and into the sea.

"The sea gets so red sometimes that it is like a sea of blood," he said on Friday.

Abdul Razak said the problem was made worse by lorries transporting the ore to the port.

"The lorries now have to take a detour to enter the port. But when the ore has been unloaded, dust on the vehicles get blown everywhere when they pass by our village to exit," he said.

Due to complaints from villagers along the original route, mining operators had met with the Mentri Besar and agreed to use Jalan Gebeng to transport the ore.

However, villagers said drivers of the lorries still stopped to eat and rest when exiting the port.

Bauxite - or aluminium ore - is the world's main source of aluminium and demand is rapidly increasing.

Fellow villager Faidah Jusoh, 47, said the dust had worsened her asthma and made her skin itch.

"I have to go to the clinic at least three times a month to get my health checked. It was not always like this. The ore transportation to the port only intensified over the past year," she said.

Faidah, who runs a stall by the road, said she had to cover her food each time a lorry passed by due to the dust. Her assistant Siti Sandora, 43, said despite complaints to their village chief, authorities had yet to provide a long-term solution.

"I have to wipe my house furniture and mop the floor several times a day," she said.

Faidah said they had to put up with the suffering as Kampung Selamat was their home.

"Where are we supposed to go? Our village is called Kampung Selamat but it is not safe for us - health-wise," she said.

Beserah assemblyman Andansura Rabu said he had received complaints from residents in three villages, involving some 4,000 people.

He said although bauxite mining was a source of income for the state and should not be banned, operators must comply with all guidelines.

Pahang Public Amenities and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Soffi Abdul Razak said the state government would look into the issue.