More funds needed to preserve rivers

Some people attribute river pollution in Johor to economic activities along riverbanks such as the cultivation of commodity crops along the riverbank of Sungai Pontian Kecil.

JOHOR BARU: Environment-based non-governmental organisations in the state have described Budget 2021 as falling short of expectations in terms of addressing river pollution.

Safe Johor River founder Poh Pai Yik lamented that the RM50mil allocation under the Budget was inadequate to tackle solid waste and rubbish polluting rivers in the country.

He said all state governments were depending heavily on the financial assistance from the Federal Government to address and manage environmental-related problems.

“Inadequate funding from Federal Government could dampen efforts needed by the states to overcome environmental problems, Poh said when contacted.

He said rivers in the country, including in Johor, were the main source of raw water supply in the state and polluted rivers could lead to a severe water crisis.

Poh urged Johor government to take swift action to restore dead or dying rivers in the state to ensure sustainable long-term water resources.

He said it was alarming that Department of Environment figures showed Johor had the highest number of polluted rivers in the peninsula.

A total of 16 out of the 25 dirtiest rivers are in the southernmost region of the state.

“Rivers are the main source of raw water supply in the state and a severe water crisis is looming in Johor in the coming years if the state government fails to address the matter, ” said Poh.

He said most of the 16 rivers were categorised as dead rivers, where the water quality was unfit for swimming and even marine creatures could not survive.

Among the dead rivers are Sungai Tukang Batu and Sungai Pasir Gudang in Johor Baru, Sungai Meral in Pontian, Sungai Jemaluang in Mersing and Sungai Kahang in Kluang, which are contaminated because of sand mining activities.

Green Earth Society Johor president P. Sivakumar said the tell-tale signs were already there including contamination affecting rivers in the state.

He said many of the rivers were polluted, mostly because of uncontrolled economic activities, or were drying up and a comprehensive study was needed to identify these rivers and steps must be taken to rejuvenate and rehabilitate them.

“Johor will face a major water crisis like what is happening in the Klang Valley if no immediate action is taken, ” added Sivakumar.

He attributed the pollution to economic activities along both sides of the riverbank such as illegal sand mining, cultivation of commodity crops, vegetable farming, poultry breeding and illegal factories.

Sivakumar said those living along the riverbanks, including squatters also treated rivers as a huge dumpster and threw rubbish into these waterways.

“Deforestation in catchment areas is another major factor causing pollution in Johor rivers and also falling water levels at dams in the state, ” he pointed out.

Sivakumar said among the rivers which needed immediate attention were those in Kluang, namely Sungai Mengkibol, Sungai Kahang, Sungai Sembrong Kiri as well as Sungai Johor in Kota Tinggi.

He hoped that the state government would consider setting up an Environment Consultative Committee, with relevant stakeholders as members to address environmental issues.

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