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Integrating GIS with GeoEnviron Database System as a Robust Tool for Integrated Solid Waste Management in Malaysia

Luk Ing Ping
Eco-Ideal Consulting Sdn. Bhd. / Eco-Ideal Systems
Suite C-7-2, Tower C,
Plaza Pantai 5, Jalan 4/83A,
Off Jalan Pantai Baru, 59200 KL; or
1st Floor, Lot 378 Jalan Nanas,
93400 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Emails:[email protected]

Soon Hun Yang
Eco-Ideal Consulting Sdn. Bhd. / Eco-Ideal Systems
Suite C-7-2, Tower C,
Plaza Pantai 5, Jalan 4/83A,
Off Jalan Pantai Baru, 59200 KL; or
1st Floor, Lot 378 Jalan Nanas,
93400 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Email:[email protected]

Solid Waste Management (SWM) is a major urban challenge in Malaysia. Increases in the waste generation rate from economic development coupled with the increasing complexity of waste characteristics demand a more responsive management strategy from the authority to ensure that public health and the environment are protected. A holistic and strategic monitoring plan for SWM is by far the most complex to execute when compared to other urban utilities such as sewage or water supply, where the actual flow of material is transported in sewers and pipes. Solid waste however is collected by vehicles that run on countless possible routes with different destinations. This requires comprehensive and reliable data and information for planning and monitoring purposes.

Currently, the availability of solid waste related data is limited to data managed by individual local authorities and waste contractors. The lack of readily available data hinders decision making as well as the monitoring of performance. With the introduction of the new Solid Waste Management & Public Cleansing Act and the ambitious plan of federalizing SWM in the country, there is an urgent need to establish a centralized, comprehensive solid waste data management system. This paper presents the on-going efforts in developing an integrated data management system to cater for increasing data and information needs. The paper will emphasize on how the integration of GIS with the GeoEnviron Database System can be used to meet the tasks and requirements of integrated SWM in Malaysia.

1.Is Malaysia prepared?
The increase in the generation of solid waste often correlates with the growing economy and the heightening consumption of a country’s natural resources. Countries with higher income produce more waste per capita and these wastes generally contain more packaging material and recyclable items (Kathiravale S., Muhd Yunus M.N. & Abu M.P., 2005). At present, most municipalities worldwide are faced with escalating problems of safely managing and disposing such huge volumes of solid waste generated. Public health and the environment must not be jeopardized by waste disposal. The siting of new waste disposal sites is becoming a major challenge for land planners.

In Malaysia, with the vision of the country moving towards becoming a developed nation by 2020, continuous advancement in SWM must coincide with the economic growth. Is Malaysia prepared for it?

SWM is complex and ultra-varied. Holistic solid waste planning and management requires comprehensive and reliable data and information. Currently, the availability of the solid waste database in Malaysia is limited to data managed by individual local authorities or waste contractors. Most of these data are kept as hardcopies and not compiled or synthesized for further usage. In order to deal with this great demand on data management, advanced information technology solutions must be utilized. Today, there exists no dedicated system by the Government of Malaysia to standardize, compile, verify, store, manage and update solid waste data using a single database system for future planning and management. The lack of readily available data is hindering decision making, planning as well as the performance monitoring of service providers and the environment.

With the forthcoming introduction of the Solid Waste Management & Public Cleansing Act, SWM is expected to be transferred from the local authorities to the federal level. The new regulation will ensure that a holistic system be established for solid waste generated from all sources. With the centralization of SWM in Malaysia, there is an urgent need to establish a centralized national integrated solid waste data management system to keep up-to-date information on SWM in the country which covers waste generation till its final disposal (“Cradle to Grave”). This system shall form a firm supporting platform for the federalization of SWM.

2.An option or a necessity!
In 2005, about 7.3 million tonnes of solid waste was generated in Malaysia. This amount is enough to fill up 42 buildings the height of the Petronas Twin Towers (Chandravathani, 2006). The current Malaysian lifestyle of “throw-away and over consumerist” culture does not help to improve the situation. The population will continue to grow and the waste generation rate will continue to hike with improving living standards.

From the Seventh to the current Ninth Malaysia Plan (2006-2010), the Government has shown increasing commitment to uplift the quality of SWM in the country. This will definitely come a long way in supporting the development of institutions for SWM in Malaysia including some aspects as listed below (Chandravathani, 2006):

  1. Systems establishment;
  2. Mechanisms;
  3. Procedures;
  4. Management tools;
  5. Databases; and
  6. Skills-related services and facilities.

3.Integrated National Solid Waste Data Management System (INSW-DMS)
Today, advancements in IT solutions have made the integration of different IT applications possible. One area is in establishing a direct linkage between spatial data (in GIS for example) with text data (in database). Hence, the development of spatial information is no longer reserved for maps and graphic illustrations alone, but for integrating directly with other modern technologies e.g. database application, web-based internet, mobile phone, GPS etc. to enhance the capability of the established system.

Why Integrate GIS with Other Databases?
GIS is an extremely useful application showing data graphically on a map. However, there are often limitations to the in-built GIS database which is not sufficient for complex inter-relational data requirements. Thus, an integration capability to a powerful relational database (such as GeoEnviron – discussed later) will no doubt enhance the capability of the integrated information system.

In line with the action plans proposed in the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for SWM, it is timely to establish an integrated solid waste information management system (SWIMS) for Malaysia. The implementation of a SWIMS is a huge task and represents a journey, not a destination. The task will involve continuous development and updating of the system to ensure that the system remains applicable to the changes in the environment.

The establishment of an integrated solid waste database at the federal level is a crucial part of SWIMS. The main objectives to establish a comprehensive, robust and integrated solid waste database system (Figure 1) are to:

  • Consolidate, store, process, analyze and report SWM-related data and information;
  • Provide readily accessible data including queries and reporting of data for future planning and management. This includes the formulation of waste plans, setting priorities etc.;
  • Provide an integrated system with easy data submission and updating procedures;
  • Provide a system capable of handling data related to the monitoring of SWM services, complaints and enforcements for future monitoring and evaluation; and
  • Integrate and correlate various types of data including spatial (GIS) & remote sensing (RS) for better planning and monitoring.

The architecture of an integrated SWIMS is illustrated in Figure 1 overleaf. The proposed system framework is based on a comprehensive centralized database with GIS integration as the back end, while front end users will access the system through web applications (general users) and local area networks (for super users). The general users are for example waste service providers who would need to submit regular data and reports while super users are specialized staff within the federal solid waste department.

Figure 1: Example of an Integrated Solid Waste Data Management System Architecture
(Source: Own Illustration)

SWM data encompasses a wide range of data involving various stakeholders. The administrative and waste services area, basic infrastructure data such as roads, waste generators, waste collectors and transporters, recyclers, landfill facilities and disposal sites are examples of data to be provided by the different stakeholders (Figure 2). The data involved will range from geographical data, waste amounts, waste types, delivery dates and destinations, to regulatory data involving approval, licensing, enforcement and monitoring.

Due to the complex and inter-relational nature of SWM data, a simple table-format database is not sufficient to accommodate all these data generated with the different hierarchies and time frame. A properly planned solid waste database management system must be developed first to cater for all this information based on their different nature of activities, settings and needs. The development of a database application is time consuming and requires a substantial budget. Hence, it is worthwhile to consider building up from existing developed database applications e.g. GeoEnviron System rather than to build a completely new system from scratch.

Figure 2: National Solid Waste Data Management System for Future Monitoring and Elevation

An example of a similar integrated environmental information system has been developed in Sarawak, Malaysia using the GeoEnviron Database System (Luk I.P., Nyaon G., Soon H.Y & Tang H.H., 2005). The integrated environmental information system is currently in operation and connected by seven governmental agencies in the field of environmental management. Under the system utilities, solid waste information is one of the sub-databases to the entire integrated database application. All the data and information (e.g. contaminated land, water quality, monitoring station, EIA, river, catchment & etc) are managed in various “Application Modules” (Figure 3).

The flexibility of the system has allowed substantial adaptations of the system to meet Malaysian conditions. The database has been integrated with GIS (e.g. spatial analysis & modeling). ESRI ArcGIS was used based on the Sarawak State Standard for GIS.

The GeoEnviron System, a dynamic and robust relational database system consisting of a centralized database (server), allows workstations e.g. PCs to connect to it through a network i.e. Local Area Network (LAN) or Wide Area Network (WAN) for any updating of data by each stakeholder. This implies that only one database needs to be updated by all stakeholders involved. The integration (Figure 4) function across platform from database to GIS enables normal queries, buffer searches and updating work to be done simultaneously from both sides. This integration between map and database with a variety of information used in parallel will be useful in meetings, for future planning, and for the management and reporting of SWM in Malaysia.

Figure 3: GeoEnviron Integrated Database System for a Holistic Environmental Management

With such a comprehensive database and GIS tool in place, a better understanding of the waste cycle will no doubt be beneficial for future plannings (e.g. waste collection routes, landfill or siting of waste facilities) and at the same time give a more accurate estimation of, for example, landfill facility designs, lifespan estimations, environmental performance and etc.

Figure 4: GeoEnviron integration with GIS applications to enable direct linkage for normal queries, buffer search and updating in both platforms

4.Key Benefits
The key benefits of the implementation of such a national integrated solid waste data management system are as follows:

  1. Improved basis for decision making and better coordination among stakeholders for comprehensive planning and management (e.g. new disposal area, truck routes, transfer station, sorting area);
  2. Data is available for the formulation and implementation of effective SWM policies, strategies and programs to achieve “zero landfill” in the future;
  3. An effective & efficient mechanism for regulating, managing and monitoring SWM in the country;
  4. Maximize all infrastructure, facilities and resources used (e.g. collection coverage, optimize fuel efficiency);
  5. Improve data access to improve accountability and knowledge of all stakeholders involved.

The integration of GIS will enhance the user’s capability to operate the system and further applications and modeling can also be developed using the GIS tool together with the database.

The federalization of SWM in Malaysia will require a robust and reliable information management system to provide the extensive data and information required for sound decision making and for daily management.

Data management for SWM involves extensive data from many different stakeholders, therefore requiring a centralized, integrated system. Integrating GIS with a powerful database such as GeoEnviron is a strength critically needed to enhance further the user’s capability in SWM. The integration allows instant retrieval of data simultaneously accross two different platforms. The integration will allow not only effective data queries and the retrieval of data but it will also present opportunities to develop advanced data reporting and modelling for SWM in the future.


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