Within a few years, the villagers began noticing physical defects in their newborns, and at least eight leukaemia cases were confirmed. Medical examinations on children in the area found that nearly 40% of them suffered from lymph node diseases, turbinate congestion and recurrent rhinitis. Seven of the leukaemia victims have since died.
Equally heartrending is the parallel story of the villagers’ attempt to stop the ARE operations. It was a saga that ran for more than two decades, and it pitted the villagers, helped by various civic organisations , against big business and powerful state authorities. An exercise to decommission the ARE plant finally began in 2003, but the work to decontaminate the area is still going on and is estimated to cost RM300 million. The New York Times called it “the largest radiation cleanup yet in the rare earth industry”.
ARE was a collaboration between Mitsubishi Chemical Industries Ltd (35%), Beh Minerals (35%), Lembaga Urusan dan Tabung Haji (20%) and several Bumiputera businessmen (10%). The company was incorporated in 1979.
The Penang Consumer Association has compiled a chronology of events in the Bukit Merah tragedy to help us appreciate the tenacity of Malaysians who rose to act to protect their health and environment against a government that placed profit before the people’s welfare.
The tragedy of bukit merah start In 1979`s when ARE start incorporated, ARE seeks the advice of the Tun Ismail Research Centre of the Science, Technology and Environment Ministry about radioactive waste produced by processing monazite. It is decided that the waste, the property of the Perak state government, would be stored with a view to profiting from it as a source of nuclear energy.
Three years Later, Residents of Parit, Perak,