THE sight of dead fish in the hundreds in Sungai Penchala has angered Section 14 residents who had to put up with the stench of the rotting carcasses for the past three days.
“It was a distressing sight,” said Sujatha Sekhar Naik, whose house at Jalan 14/30 is just beside the river.
She said that the fish were seen flopping over on their side, whizzing frantically across the surface and circling around before they finally died and their carcasses eventually ended up on the banks.
Sujatha’s neighbour, Dr Priya Janardhanan, said she was concerned that flies hovering over the carcasses may compound the present Covid-19 problem with diseases such as typhoid and diarrhoea.
“As the river is also a popular fishing spot, concerns also arise that the carcasses may be picked up by unscrupulous people who may attempt to sell them. When they were first washed up by the banks, the fish would have still looked fresh,” she said.
At press time, a visit by StarMetro to the site found hundreds of dead fish still floating beside the banks of the river near a serviced residence in Jalan 14/1. The stench emanating from the river was nauseating.
Resident Waharzatul Izni Abdul Wahab, who also lives in Jalan 14/30, said she made a report to the Selangor Environmental Department (DOE) on Thursday (Aug 12).
She said the agency had responded swiftly to her complaint and officers attending to her case had given her constant updates on their ensuing action, which included verbal information on the results of water samples taken.
Revealing that the Fisheries Department had also visited the site in response to her complaint, she said she was told that species such as haruan, tilapia, keli and ketutu were among the dead fish that had washed up by the banks.
From what she has been told, the death of the fish was caused by a rise in the pH (potential of hydrogen) levels in the water.
She was also told that the presence of ammonia, together with two other chemical compounds, were detected in the water.
“The latest update from DOE is that the water is now clear,” Waharzatul Izni said.
However, residents are not satisfied. In addition to the clearing of the dead fish, they want action to be taken against the culprits responsible for the river pollution.
Concerned Residents Section 14 Petaling Jaya Action Committee president Sheikh Moqhtar Kadir said residents were chagrined that the parties responsible for polluting the water had acted callously in their disregard for environmental safety.
“We demand that a full investigation be carried out by the authorities to find the source of the pollution.
"Those responsible must then be made accountable and write an apology letter to the residents. We also want the river to be put under constant monitoring so that the incident will not recur,” Sheikh Moqhtar said.
He added that the authorities must not hesitate to fine and name the responsible party to serve as an example to deter future polluters.
Global Environment Centre (GEC) river care programme manager Dr K. Kalithasan, who was also informed of the incident, said from the images sent to him, the obvious conclusion was that the deaths of the hundreds of fish were caused by low levels of oxygen in the water.
“As no significant colour indication could be seen from the images, the source of pollution could be organic based,” he said.
When contacted, the Petaling Irrigation and Drainage Department said that a contractor will be sent to the location to clean up the dead fish to address the stench.
The case has been handed to the Selangor Water Management Authority (Luas) for further investigation. A spokesman confirmed that an official announcement on the Sungai Penchala incident will be issued once the investigation is concluded.
Meanwhile, DOE has notified a factory in the area regarding the contamination incident.
In its social media pages, Dutch Lady Milk Industries Bhd said it will be giving its full cooperation to the relevant investigating authorities.
“Our management takes allegations of river pollution very seriously and has launched an internal query according to our Safety, Health and Environment standard operating procedures. We will await further updates from Selangor DOE, who have taken water samples for analysis, and will take the necessary actions to resolve this matter.
“As the leading dairy product manufacturer in Malaysia with a strong local legacy and a responsible corporate citizen, we place great importance on sustainable practices throughout our supply chain and have zero tolerance for any polluting activities,” it said.