New water threat looms in the north

Sungai Muda is a strategic water resource for three northern states. — Filepic

THE approval of permits for large-scale mining in Ulu Muda by the Kedah government will jeopardise water supply in three northern states with a combined population of 4.2 million people, said Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP).

PBAPP chief executive officer Datuk Jaseni Maidinsa said that according to reports, Kedah Mentri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor had said his administration had approved a permit for a company to explore large-scale mining of minerals referred to as rare earth elements (REE) in Ulu Muda, Sik and Baling.

“The Environment and Water Ministry, Natural Resources and Energy Ministry and National Security Council must work together to stop this dangerous venture immediately.” said Jaseni in a statement on Monday.

“Ulu Muda is the largest and most important water catchment area in the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER).

“Large-scale mining in the 163,000ha Greater Ulu Muda Forest Complex will involve large-scale land clearing wherever the minerals are found.

“The fallout from cutting down trees, flattening hills, establishing huge quarries and digging into the earth will be monumental destruction of the rainforest environment.

“Mining will adversely affect Sungai Muda, a strategic raw water resource.”

Jaseni also raised concerns on other large-scale mining enterprises in Ulu Muda which may decimate forests that catch the rainwater flowing into Sungai Muda as raw water.

“In this sense, Ulu Muda is the first link in the NCER water supply value chain that meets the water needs of the people in Perlis, Kedah and Penang.

“About 70% of Perlis’ raw water and 96% of Kedah’s raw water originate from Ulu Muda.

“More than 80% of the raw water that PBAPP abstracts daily from Sungai Muda at the Lahar Tiang Intake in Penang comes from Ulu Muda.

“Ulu Muda cannot continue to function as a primary natural water catchment area for three NCER states if its rainforests are cut down, its hills flattened and its landscape scarred by mining operations.

“The damage is likely to be permanent, ” he said.

He explained that the threat is not limited to a shortage of raw water from Ulu Muda.

“The quality of the raw water from this river will also be compromised.

“Large-scale mining operations will generate large amounts of toxic waste, debris and polluted earth, ” he said.

Earlier, Sanusi was quoted as saying that the Kedah government’s intention to exploit REE was still at the preliminary stage, with no mining carried out so far.

He said the approval given to a Kuala Lumpur-based company was to carry out exploration work in Sik.

He said the process would involve checking the composition of mineral deposits in the area.

He added that the findings, still at their early stages, would involve various agencies.

“The state government sees this as another source of income for Kedah.

“We have to explore it first but of course, it will be done through the correct process and technologies, ” he clarified.

Sanusi had announced that the state had rare earth deposits estimated to be worth RM62bil.

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