JOHOR BARU: Johor has the highest number of the most polluted rivers in the peninsula, based on Environment Department’s data.
A total of 16 out of the 25 dirtiest rivers are in the state’s southernmost region.
Safe Johor River founder Poh Pai Yik said the figures from the Environment Department (DOE) were alarming as the rivers were the main source of raw water supply in Johor.
“A severe water crisis is looming in Johor in the coming years if the state government fails to act fast to address the matter, ’’ he said.
Poh attributed the pollution to economic activities along both sides of riverbanks such as illegal sand mining, commodity crop cultivation, vegetable farming, poultry breeding and illegal factories.
He said those living along the riverbanks, including squatters, also treated the rivers as a huge dumpster and simply threw rubbish into the waterways.
“Deforestation is another major factor which is causing pollution in Johor rivers, ’’ he pointed out.
He said most of the 16 rivers were categorised as dead rivers, where the water quality was unfit for swimming and not even for marine creatures to survive.
Among the dead rivers he cited were Sungai Tukang Batu and Sungai Pasir Gudang in Johor Baru, Sungai Merah in Pontian, Sungai Jemaluang in Mersing and Sungai Kahang in Kluang contaminated by sand mining activities.
“Polluted rivers have also caused hardship to the inland fishermen, including Orang Asli, as their catch has been dwindling over the years, ’’ said Poh.
He said the mangrove areas along the rivers were no longer the breeding grounds for freshwater fish species, udang galah (freshwater prawns), edible snails and ketam bangkang (mud crabs).
“We are lucky as rivers in the Endau-Rompin National Park and Bekok National Park are in pristine conditions, ’’ he said.
Green Earth Society Johor president P. Sivakumar hoped strict action would be taken against those found encroaching into the buffer zones on both sides of the riverbanks in Johor.
He said the 50m buffer zones should be free from human activities such vegetable farming, commodity crop cultivation and sand mining.
He also said the authorities should inspect the sites to see for themselves how bad the situation was along the riverbanks in Johor, including at Sungai Johor as the river was the main source of raw water supply in the southern part of the state.
He noted that 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.”
Sivakumar 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 trap silt from flowing into the waterways.
He said the vegetation served as filter for mud, soil and solid waste washed down from hills, development and construction sites, agricultural land and logging activities.
He highlighted that mud, soil, loose sand and solids also caused siltation in most rivers in Johor; hence affecting rivers in many ways including reducing water volume and making them murky.
“The state government must act fast to protect our water sources and prevent 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.
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