JOHOR BARU: The state government is urged to take stern action against those found encroaching into the buffer zones on both sides of the riverbanks in Johor.
Green Earth Society Johor president P. Sivakumar said the 50m buffer zones should be free from human activities such as vegetable farming, commodity crops cultivation and sand mining.
He said the authorities should start looking at how bad the situation was along the riverbanks in the state, including at Sungai Johor as the river is the main source of raw water supply in the southern part of the state.
Sivakumar said failing to observe regulations, insufficient laws to protect water sources and lack of enforcement were the main reasons people encroached into the buffer zones.
“Buffer zones along rivers are important in improving river water quality and reducing water pollution,’’ he said.
He said buffer zones on both sides of the river should be left intact with vegetation such as grass or secondary forest as they would help to trap silt from entering waterways.
He said the vegetation served as a filter for mud, soil and solid waste washed down from hills, development and construction sites, agricultural land and logging activities.
“For instance, pokok berembang, which makes up the colony for fireflies and grow along Sungai Johor are destroyed by these encroachers,’’ said Sivakumar.
Pokok berembang commonly known as mangrove apple is a species of plant in the family Lythraceae and the tree is a type of mangrove growing up to 20m in height and with a trunk reaching a maximum diameter of 50cm.
He added that mud, soil, loose sand and solids also caused siltation in most rivers in Johor; hence affecting the rivers in many ways including reducing water volume and turning rivers murky like teh tarik.
“The state government must act fast to protect our water sources and prevent a severe water crisis,” said Sivakumar.
He said signs were already there based on incidents over the years, like contamination in Sungai Johor which caused inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of consumers in south Johor when their taps ran dry.