Protect our waterways to avert water crisis

  • Metro News
  • Thursday, 30 Jul 2020

Fire and Rescue Department's Hazardous Materials Unit personnel collecting water samples from Sg Kim Kim. Toxic chemical was found dumped here. - Filepic

IT IS really disturbing to know that Johor has the highest number of polluted rivers in the peninsula.

Based on data from the Environment Department (DOE), out of 25 dirtiest rivers in the peninsula, 16 are located in Johor.

And most of the polluted rivers in the state are considered dead rivers.

A river is considered dead once it is incapable of sustaining life such as fish and aquatic plants. This is caused by pollution depleting oxygen in the water.

The problem is alarming enough and should send a strong signal to Johor government to start doing something to clean up the rivers.

Rivers are the main source of raw water supply in the state and failing to act fast to address the matter will lead to a severe water crisis in Johor in the coming years.

Polluted rivers have also caused hardship to inland fishermen, including the Orang Asli, as their catch has been dwindling over the years.

Admittedly, addressing river pollution in Johor is not the sole responsibility of DOE, but also others including the state’s Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID).

The state government needs to take swift action to restore dead or dying rivers to help ensure sustainable long-term water resources.

River contamination has caused inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of domestic consumers, businesses and industries in the state when their taps run dry.

It paints a bad image of Johor — one of the most developed states in the country — when it comes to handling water supply and may erode the confidence level among potential investors.

Apart from better Internet connectivity, uninterrupted power supply and good infrastructure, domestic and foreign investors also look at water supply before investing.

Johor has been hit by several cases of river pollution in recent years, the worst being the toxic chemical dumping at Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang in March 2019, which affected thousands of residents there.

There have also been cases of ammonia pollution in Sungai Sayong, which disrupted water supply in Kulai district in April last year following the shutdown of two water treatment plants.

Illegal discharge from plantations and poultry farms into Sungai Johor has also caused Johor River Waterworks plant to shut down on several occasions.

There should be better coordination between the state DOE and the state Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) when it comes to addressing river pollution in Johor.

The state government has to start engaging with environment-related non-governmental organisations (NGOs), local community, Orang Asli and fishermen living along the rivers.

A comprehensive study is needed to identify polluted and dead rivers in the state and steps taken to rejuvenate and rehabilitate them.

The rivers are polluted or drying up due to uncontrolled economic activities such as deforestation, illegal sand mining, large-scale commodity crops cultivation, poultry and animal farming.

Buffer zones along rivers are important to reduce water pollution and improve river water quality.

These zones on both sides of a river should be left intact with vegetation such as grass or secondary forest as they will help to trap slit from flowing into the waterways.

The vegetation serves as filter for mud, soil and solid waste washed down from hills, development and construction sites, agricultural land and logging activities.

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 turning rivers murky like teh tarik.

Strict enforcement is needed to contain this problem.

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