Published: Sunday 30 April 1995

Malaysia has lifted a ban on the import of polypropylene and polyethylene, materials used in the plastics industry. The decision signals a temporary truce in its trade war with neighbouring Singapore, which claimed that its petrb- chemical industry had suf fered a blow because of the Malaysian move. The 2 sides have already taken their dispute to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva - the first such action to be brought to the notice of the new trade body. Although the Malaysian government explains its decision to lift the plastics ban by saying that its local industry no longer needs protection, it intends to press ahead with its case at the WTO.

Malaysia has finally been jolted out of its somnolence regarding environmental awareness. The discovery of 41 barrels of cyanide - enough to kill 7 million people - on a Pankor Island beach in late March has brought the country's lax laws on hazardous chemicals under severe scrutiny. Malaysian environment minister, Law Hieng Ding says that policy makers are trying to devise a better mechanism for monitoring industrial chemicals.

Malaysian environtalists, however, would like to see more grassroots-level action being implemented to prevent the future dumping of lethal chemicals. They have demanded that Chem tax, the company responsible for the dumping, be charged with attempted murder, In the long run, they believe, the only answer is setting up a central toxic waste treament plant. "The case has underlined the need to have the plant quickly," says MaIalaysian environmentalist Gurmit Singh.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.