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Pollution in Malaysia: Causes and Solutions

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Environmental pollution can generally be defined as the introduction of contaminants into our environment through anthropogenic means. The three major pollutions that the netizens of Malaysia are exposed to are air, water and land pollution. In the past decade or so, the production of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in Malaysia has gained an increase of 91% (Samsudin & Mat Don, 2013) whereas, according to a recent report by the World Health Organisation outdoor air pollution is the primary cause of 6,251 deaths in Malaysia in 2012. (Khor, 2018) The purpose of this essay is to discuss what contributes to pollution and the means of redemption from this life-threatening phenomenon taking place in our country. The following paragraphs will discuss the causes of pollution i.e, urbanization, open burning, poor waste management and the ways to overcome which are river restoration programs, law enforcements, and environmental education.

Pollution Issues

Cause – Urbanization

Urbanization is one of the leading causes for water pollution in Malaysia. This is because an increase in urbanization results in the spur of activities that pose a threat to the longevity of our environment such as logging and clearing out of forests, heavy construction of factories and housing developments, so on and so forth (“Threats to rivers”, 2012).

A clear instance of this was in 2015, when the water quality of coastal water in the Klang and Kuala Langat faced deterioration (Dhillon, 2015). According to the CEO of WWF Malaysia, Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma, the primary reason for the decline in water quality is due to the waste water from residential, commercial and industrial areas combined with the increasing amount of garbage resulted from the increase of population in those areas (Dhillon, 2015).

Solution – River Rehabilitation Programs

One solution that could possibly help curb river pollution is to have more river quality improvement programs. One example of a program that was held successfully in Malaysia is the ‘One State One River’ which seeks to restore rivers and improve the water quality for one river in each state, to ensure rivers are free of rubbish and do not flood amongst many others (“GEC – One State One River Community Participation Component”, 2018).

The program has proven to be effective as it has successfully restored the Miri River which was previously in grade IV (extremely polluted) to Grade III in 2004. Another successful testimony of river rehabilitation program is the River of Life Program that will be conducting a river cleaning, master planning and beautification, and development for the Klang River (“River of Life – Public Outreach Program (ROL-POP) – NKEA Greater KL/KV – About the River of Life (ROL) project”, 2018). The committee is about 71% completed in the stage of river cleaning according to Ziad Hafiz Razak, director of Pemandu’s Greater KL Key Economic Area (Ann-Augustine, 2017).

Cause – Open Burning

In Malaysia, open burning related activities are acknowledged to be among the primary contributors of air pollution that result in the deterioration in the overall quality of the atmosphere (Mustafa, Yaacob, Ariffin & Rusli, 2017). Certain irresponsible development companies are infamously known for using the cheaper alternative of burning forests instead of spending funds to log forests responsibly directly causing haze episodes in Malaysia due to the massive smoke released from the fire (Press, 2014).

For example, Air Pollutant Index recorded readings above 100, signifying ‘unhealthy’ air quality in certain parts of Peninsular Malaysia and Sibu town breached 200 (very unhealthy) in 2014 (Press, 2014). The haze was largely blamed on fires from large oil palm firms that used the illegal yet cheap technique of burning vast tracts to clear them for planting which is also known as ‘Slash and Burn’(“Burning in palm oil plantations causes haze in populated cities in Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore | Business & Human Rights Resource Centre”, 2018).

Solution – New Law Enforcements

Existing laws are unable to prevent open burning and so enforcement of new laws should be done to curb this issue. It is suggested that prescribed burning should only be done under strict conditions and rules such as; fire should not be used alone to clear out lands and it should be combined with other less harmful mediums, there should be interval between burns to reduce the amount of smoke released into the atmosphere at one time (Tiedemann, O. Klemmedson & Bull, 2000).

Other laws that can be enforced is to have stricter repercussions to those who practice illegal burning. As suggested by our former Minister of Human Resources and Environment, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, the government should seize land from owners who are found to have engaged in slash-and-burn agriculture recurrently (The STAR & Asia News Network, 2016). Under Section 29(A) of the Environmental Quality Act 1974, those found guilty of open burning can be fined up to RM500,000 or imprisoned up to five years, or both could also be more heavy to plant fear in committing the illegal act of Slash and Burn (Bernama, 2016).

Cause – Poor Waste Management

According to statistics, our country generates waste amounted to 30, 000 tons per day. Waste generation in Kuala Lumpur is roughly 3,000 tons per day and it is forecasted to increase in the upcoming years (Clean Malaysia, 2015). However, the disposal of solid waste has been done almost solely through open landfills which is extremely damaging to the land by surface contamination through leaching and soil contamination through direct contact (Raman Kutty, 2016).

Infact, the percentage of rural areas covered by garbage disposal services is only 66 percent. To further illustrate, giant piles of garbage dumped in Cameron Highlands have begun to smolder within oozing toxic waste into the soil further aggravating harmful living conditions (Clean Malaysia, 2015).

Solution – Environmental Education

Land pollution could pose to be a little complicated to manage as rubbish and waste is generated by each and everyone in the country and the one most effective way to handle this situation is to have public awareness on the damage we are setting upon the environment. As former Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan has said, it is tremendously imperative for campaigns to be held informing the public and giving guidelines on waste management and recycling habits (Clean Malaysia, 2015).

It is also said that, if public are more aware and separate their waste according to recycling bins, the amount of solid waste sent to landfills can be reduced by roughly 40% (Clean Malaysia, 2015). More documentaries and advertisements should also be aired in mainstream media promoting the importance of waste management to the society thus improving public awareness regarding land pollution.


To summarize the essay, the three major pollution faced Malaysia is cause by many reasons. Urbanization, open burning, and poor waste management being the few amongst many other leading causes. However, it is noted that most of it arises from the irresponsibility of our society in taking care of our environment.

These pollutions are possible to be fought against through the means of river rehabilitation programs, new law enforcements and environmental education. An integrated effort involving all parties are pivotal in restoring our environment to its pristine condition to ensure that the health of netizens is protected and not at stake.

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Pollution in Malaysia: Causes and Solutions. (2019, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 22, 2022, from
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