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Saturday March 31, 2012

Association claims another raw water source face possible contamination

MIRI: There is another 120-km-long river, which serves as an alternative source of raw water for Miri and Bekenu districts during the dry season, that is also being threatened by potential chemical pollutants because there are huge oil palm plantations located just next to it.

The Sarawak Coalition of Associations for Natural Environment (SCANE) has found that, Sungai Bakong, is also exposed to potential serious contamination by pesticides and chemicals from the plantations that lined both its banks.

Thus, SCANE director Raymond Abin yesterday called on the State Cabinet to also order an investigation into the state of affairs of Sungai Bakong.

“We applaud the State Cabinet for its decision to order the relocation of two premix diesel-bitumen plants located near Sungai Liku, as announced by Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan yesterday,” he said.

“The minister (for Public Utilities) had also said the State Cabinet has ordered the Miri Land and Survey Department to investigate an oil palm estate that is located just next to Sungai Liku.”

The coalition also appealed to the minister to order a probe into what is happening along the banks of Sungai Bakong, which is an alternative source of raw water for Lambir Water Treatment Plant.

They pointed out that during the dry season when Sungai Liku becomes too shallow, raw water is taken from Sungai Bakong to Lambir Water Treatment Plant .

This makes Sungai Bakong as important as Sungai Liku and thus, must be protected from potential contamination.

“SCANE has carried out numerous ground surveys along both rivers and we have found that Sungai Bakong is also threatened by potential contamination of chemical pesticides because there are huge oil palm plantations along the banks.

“Along many stretches of the river, the oil palms have been grown practically right up to the water’s edge.

“Surely the chemical pesticides used on the trees, and weedicide used to kill the undergrowth are washed into Sungai Bakong during rainy days,” he said.

Abin was responding to statements by Tengah that the State Cabinet had ordered the Land and Survey Department to find sites for relocating the two premix plants at Sungai Liku following last March 3 massive oil leak that adversely affected water supply to more than 300,000 people here.

Abin said while the people welcomed the announcement, SCANE felt that such potentially toxic plants should not have been allowed to be sited on such ecologically sensitive places in the first place.

SCANE has also found that along the upper reaches of Sungai Liku, near Lambir National Park, there are land development and other projects taking place along the banks.

Sungai Liku, which is at least 60km long, must be free of activities that are potentially harmful.

“Sungai Bakong is at least 120km long, and along its entire length are oil palm plantations. The authorities must find out why the plantations are so close to the river,” he said.

Abin said the State Cabinet must set a deadline for the two premix plants to move away from Sungai Liku, adding that the relocation site must be far away from any river or human settlement.

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