Despite assurances that a proposed cement plant in Malim Nawar, Perak, would not emit much dust, residents of the new village and its neighbouring villages are adamant against its construction.
Their representative Chai Foo Choy, 52, said the factory would be a health hazard that would affect the livelihood of farmers and livestock herders.
He said the villagers were not convinced that the cement plant, to be built using new technology, would emit less dust.
"The dust emitted from the cement plant will cause all sorts of sickness to the people," Chai said during a talk at the village on Friday night.
Chai (left) watching a resident signing a petition.
"Crops covered in dust will become worthless while livestock such as buffaloes will get sick after grazing on dust-tainted grass," he added.
Chai believed about 13,000 residents in new villages within a 10km radius of Kampar - Jeram, Lawan Kuda, Kopisan Baru, Gopeng, Batu Gajah, Tanjung Tualang and Kampar - would be affected.
"The dust will also be a health hazard to students of Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman in Kampar," he said.
He said they were not against the state’s economic plans but hoped that the administration would find a more suitable place that was not heavily populated to build the cement plant.
Chai said the committee formed to protest the factory’s construction was currently collecting signatures to be presented with a memorandum to senior state executive councillor Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham.
Malim Nawar assemblyman Keshvinder Singh, who was present, told the villagers to come out in full force to protest against the proposed cement plant.
He said he would stand by his constituents against the construction, adding that he would meet the state government over the matter today.
When contacted, Ngeh said the state had instructed the cement company to explain to the residents in Malim Nawar about the factory’s capability.
He said the company gave its assurance that the RM600mil factory would meet international standards and have low dust emissions.
"We will let the company have a dialogue with the villagers first. I hope they will be able to clarify any misconception about the factory," he added.
Ngeh said the state government was still waiting for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report before giving the green light for the project.