JOHOR BARU - The Member of Parliament for Johor's Pasir Gudang district, Hassan Abdul Karim, has called for all chemical factories there to be directed to cease operations in order to ensure that the air pollution in the area is brought under control and to allow the air quality to improve.
He also suggested that all schools be closed in the district until the situation returns to normal.
All kindergartens, schools and institutions of higher learning in the Taman Mawar area of Johor's Pasir Gudang have already been ordered to close until Thursday as the authorities investigate the cause of the air pollution that led students to suffer from breathing difficulties in recent days.
"I also suggest that the Federal government take over the issue from the state government as this pollution is believed to be due to gas leakage," he said in a statement on Monday (June 24).
Last Thursday, about 15 students from Sekolah Agama Taman Mawar experienced breathing difficulty and vomiting, believed to have been triggered by air pollution.
Students from another school, SMK Taman Nusa Damai in Pasir Gudang, on Sunday became the latest to report breathing difficulties. The school is located about 5km from Sekolah Agama Taman Mawar.
The latest case prompted the move to close schools until Thursday.
State Health, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Mohd Khuzzan Abu Bakar said that as of 3.30pm on Sunday, 13 people had been referred to Sultan Ismail Hospital while another 49 received treatment at a temporary clinic at the stadium and health clinics around the area.
The Johor government said on Sunday that it was still not known what had caused the incident, and an investigation was under way.
Hassan said that it the situation worsens, he hoped the state government would be prepared to take the necessary steps, including declaring Pasir Gudang as a disaster zone.
"I hope there will be no effort to cover this up or to protect any factories that were involved in flouting our environmental laws," he said.
He added that as MP, he hoped the situation would be closely monitored to prevent it from escalating and becoming worse than the Sungai Kim Kim incident.
In March, chemical waste was illegally dumped into Sungai Kim Kim, resulting in more than 4,000 people falling ill after inhaling toxic fumes.
That incident forced the closure of 111 schools in Pasir Gudang district and prompted the authorities to launch an intensive clean-up of the river and inspections of other sites where chemicals had been illegally stored and dumped.
Four employees of a used-tyre processing company - including its three directors - have been accused of disposing oil waste and sludge into Sungai Kim Kim on March 7.