Village head Tok Batin Kais Tee, 57, said marine life was no longer thriving in Sungai Danga and Sungai Skudai near their village as both rivers were polluted.
He said the livelihood of the Orang Seletar, also known as Orang Laut, had been affected following a land reclamation project barely two kilometres from the village, which started about a decade ago.
“Nobody listens to our plight and for years, we have been left to deal with the problem,’’ said Kais.
He said the fishermen had no choice but to drive to Teluk Sengat, Kota Tinggi about 45km away or to head to Gelang Patah by boat about 13km from the village to fish.
Kais said prior to the land reclamation, he could easily get around RM1,000 fishing in the waters off Danga Bay.
“Today, I am lucky to come back with RM20 catch after spending hours fishing,’’ he complained.
Fisherman Sawal Gafar, 20, said the catch was far smaller now as land reclamation activities had damaged the marine ecosystem off Danga Bay.
“Several years ago, I would come back with about 50kg of ikan bandeng susu (milkfish) after spending about four to five hours at sea,’’ he said.
Sawal the catch had halved now but still considered himself lucky as his catch was bought by a regular fishmonger who paid RM2 per kg for the fish.
He said land reclamation had damaged mangroves and riverbanks, the sanctuary of ketam bangkang (mangrove mud crabs) and freshwater prawns (udang galah).
Kais’ wife Yang Tom, 56, hopes the new Federal and Johor governments will look into the plight of Orang Seletar.
She blamed the pollution at Sungai Danga on a sewerage pond located about a few kilometres away.
“The waters of Sungai Danga used to be pristine before the pond was built and udang galah and ketam bangkang were bountiful in the river,’’ said Yang.
She said Orang Seletar were struggling to adapt to progress and development taking place in Iskandar Malaysia.
“Most of us depend on the sea for our livelihood and we are not used to doing other types of work,’’ she added.
Yang also hoped the state government would consider installing street lights in the village.
The Orang Seletar are sea nomads who, for hundreds of years, lived in traditional longboats known as perahu pekajang.
Their boats were their homes ad venues for weddings and births.They only came ashore to bury their dead. They roamed freely in the waters off Johor and Singapore, and the sea was their source of livelihood.
In the 1960s, the Orang Asli Affairs Department placed them permanently in villages set up specially for them.
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