Response to Minister Dato’ Abdul Rahman Dahlan on the Small Scale Incinerators in Langkawi, Pangkor, Tioman and Cameron Highlands

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 27th of December, 2013

First of all, I would like to congratulate the Minister for Urban Well-Being, Housing and Local Government, Dato’ Abdul Rahman Dahlan, for responding publicly[1] to my press statement issued on the 23rd of December on the awarding of 4 small scale incinerator contracts to XCN Technology Sdn Bhd (XCNT).[2] I hope that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin can follow the example of his cabinet colleague by responding to the fall in Malaysia’s PISA scores for Science and Reading in the recently released 2012 rankings.

Secondly, I would like to congratulate the Minister for disclosing the yearly maintenance cost for the incinerators in Pangkor, Langkawi and Cameron Highlands. This information was not disclosed in the National Audit Report and I applaud the decision by the Minister to make this information publicly available.

But the Minister’s response still leaves many questions that remain unanswered. The Minister replied that a panel of experts comprising of representatives from universities, research institutions and departments that were knowledgeable on incinerator technology gave their input and found that the technology used by XCNT should be given an opportunity for these small scale incinerators. But in a response to the National Audit Report, the Ministry itself admitted that this was an unproven technology – “Insinerator rotary kiln rekaan XCNT merupakan teknologi tempatan yang baru walaupun secara teorinya mampu untuk melupuskan sisa pepejal tetapi masih belum terbukti secara fizikal” (Laporan Ketua Audit Negara, Siri 2, ms. 344)

One of the weaknesses identified by the National Audit Report was that each of the XCNT incinerators required 2 operation lines – one to be used, one on standby – because of the possibility of failure of one of the lines. In comparison, the incinerator used in Singapore could run 6 operation lines at once and each operational line would stop operations only once a year for the purpose of maintenance work.

One also wonders whether this panel of experts assembled by the Ministry agreed that technology used by XCNT could reduce the final output (bottom ash) to 6% of the initial total volume. The National Audit Report found that the final output, in reality, was 19% to 33% of the total, a far cry from the 6% promised by XCNT.

The maintenance cost figures provided by the Minister raises the possibility that the high cost of operations per tonne could be due to the unproven technology being used.

Table 1: Cost per ton for the incinerators in Langkawi, Pangkor and Cameron Highlands

Place Yearly Cost (RM) Monthly (RM) Daily (RM) Capacity (Ton / Day) Cost per ton (RM)












Cameron Highlands






Table 1 above shows the cost per ton in terms of operational costs for the incinerators in Langkawi, Pangkor and Cameron Highlands which ranges from a low of RM207 per ton in Langkawi to a high of RM363 per ton in Cameron Highlands! Even though the Minister explained this by referring to the lack of economies of scale for small scale incinerators, the cost per ton is more than 200% for that being spent by DBKL – approximately RM84 per ton – to transport rubbish in KL to the Taman Beringin transfer station in Kepong, sort the rubbish and then to transport the rubbish to the Bukit Tagar landfill in Hulu Selangor. One cannot help but draw the conclusion that the high operation cost per ton for these incinerators is not only due to the lack of economies of scale but also because of the unproven technology that is being used.

Finally, if the incinerator technology used by XCNT was working well, why was XCNT’s contract to build an incinerator in Labuan cancelled in 2013?