Johor govt open to discuss environmental issues with NGOs

JOHOR BARU: State Health, Environment and Agriculture Committee chairman Dr Sahruddin Jamal is willing to work closely with environmental non-governmental organisations (NGO) to protect the environment.

He said he hopes to address claims by some NGOs that their concerns were not taken seriously in the past.

“I believe they play a very important role. I want to meet and have discussions with them and see how we can care for our environment together,” he said.

The meeting is expected to be attended by officers from various government departments, including those from the Department of Environment, Forestry Department, Health Department and Fisheries Department as well as local councils.

“We will try to arrange the meeting as soon as possible and I hope that environmental NGOs will take this opportunity to highlight their concerns to us,” he said.

On May 21, The Star highlighted NGOs’ and villagers’ concerns on frequent oil spills detected off the state’s eastern coastline.

The latest incident took place in March, where the spill hit a 80km stretch of the coastline from Tanjung Balau near Benut to Tanjung Leman, including popular beaches in Tanjung Temalah and Pulau Sibu. Clumps of the oil sludge can still be seen on rocks and the beach here.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Johor committee member Dr Sharan Sambhi said the state’s eastern coastline was particu­larly prone to this issue because of the high number of international ships plying the route.

She said a group of NGOs, including MNS, StarSeed Solar Village and Selamat Sungai-Sungai Johor were eager to work closely with the new administration to address such issues throughout the state.

She said the groups’ extensive network comprising fishermen, villagers and tour operators could play a major role in the detection and emergency response stages.

Environmentalists were also especially concerned that if a major oil spill were to occur, it could seriously affect a sanctuary for the critically-endangered dugong located near Pulau Sibu, about 10km from Tanjung Leman.