State health and environment committee chairman R. Vidyananthan said DOE staff had checked the river and were currently monitoring the situation.
“At the moment, the department has yet to identify the exact cause but based on initial investigation, DOE discovered that a company had been discharging industrial waste into the river.
“The department has suspended the company for one month for the owners to improve their waste management practices,” he said when contacted.
He assured that DOE would continue to monitor the company after the suspension period.
“If they still fail to comply with the environmental requirements after one month, the company will be suspended for a longer period,” Vidyananthan elaborated.
He said investigations on the cause of the pollution were still ongoing.
“I urge local communities to alert the authorities, especially the DOE, about pollution incidents so that immediate action can be taken,” he added.
Kampung Sedohok village chief Halim Jahari said the villagers noticed thousands of dead fish and prawns floating in the river since June 1.
“The river is famous for its freshwater fish and prawns, which used to be exported to Singapore as well as all over Malaysia.
“It is devastating that we are now unable to get any fresh produce from Sungai Sembrong anymore,” he said, adding that the river flowed from Kluang town to Endau in Mersing.
Halim said that almost half of his villagers were fishermen and they had lost their source of income due to the pollution.
“There are also five Orang Asli villages along the river and many of the residents are fishermen.
“Their income has been badly affected by the movement control order (MCO) and the pollution has made it even more difficult for them to earn a living now,” he said.
He estimated that it would take at least two years for the river to recover fully and be viable for commercial fishing activities again.
“The state Fisheries Department would normally release fish fry into the river annually and it would take two to four years to populate the river for fishing activities.
“I hope that those responsible for the pollution will face action from the authorities as the culprits have caused hundreds of fishermen to lose their income and have also damaged the environment,” said Halim.
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