Fishermen in dire straits

Fishermen lifting up their empty fish cages from Sungai Sayong in Kota Tinggi. Their livelihood has been affected by the pollution.

KOTA TINGGI: Fishermen from Kampung Baru Sungai Telor here have lost their source of daily income due to the ammonia pollution in Sungai Sayong.

The affected 30 said they cannot fish at Ulu Sungai Johor, the downstream part of Sungai Sayong, now and that hundreds of fishes had died due to the pollution, affecting their livelihood.

They said they noticed the condition last week, when the fishes were swimming to the riverbank.

Mohd Jumadi Poniman, 58, said hundreds of fishes were also seen floating in the river.

“There is no stench but when you touch the soil along the river or feel the fishes and freshwater prawns, there is an oily substance on them.

“The fishermen are at a loss over what to do. Their source of income has been affected by some irresponsible people’s action,” he said.

Mohd Jumadi, popularly known as Wak among the villagers, said this incident was the third so far this year.

“We have been facing such problems for seven years now and we are fed-up.

“How can our waterways be allowed to be polluted over and over again,” he said.

“We have reported the matter to the authorities but until now nothing has been done.

“I supply freshwater fish to a restaurant here but now I cannot do so. My livelihood is badly affected,” said an emotional Wak.

“I have been a fishermen for 40 years now. The pollution started back in 2007 when factories started operating along the river.

“Back in those days, I can easily catch one sack full of fishes, plus 4kg of freshwater prawns. My daily income used to be between RM50 and RM60 per day.

“Now, to find one prawn in the 4km stretch of Ulu Sungai Johor is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I cannot even earn RM20 a day,” he said.

Another fisherman, Sulasri Kaimi, 52, said he hoped the authorities will act to stop the pollution for good.

“It must not recur again.

“We are not asking for much. The authorities must come here and see the situation for themselves and take the necessary action.

“Fishermen here are desperate, with no one to turn to. We usually just wait it out, until the pollution subsides on its own and fishes come back but that would take months.

“The factories do not care and keep polluting our river,” he said.

Sulasri said the condition at Ulu Sungai Johor now was no different from the sewers that flow in the city.

“The ecosystem here has been disturbed, with marine life dying, sand dug up and trees felled.

“You name it, we have it. Come and see for yourselves,” he said.

It was reported that Johor International Trade, Investment and Utility Committee chairman Jimmy Puah Wee Tse said a reservoir at a bio-composite centre next to an oil palm refinery in Sedenak had burst, causing the ammonia contaminated water to flow into Sungai Sayong, which is one of the creeks that supply water to Sungai Johor.

Puah, who is also Bukit Batu assemblyman, said the incident occurred last week.

Five water treatment plants that were closed due to the high level of ammonia pollution in Sungai Sayong and Sungai Johor are now reopened.

The five are Sayong 1 and Sayong 2, Semanggar, Sungai Johor and Tai Hong, which is managed by Public Utilities Board.

The closure caused water supply disruption in Johor Baru, Kulai and parts of Kota Tinggi.

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