‘Allocate resources for conservation of environment’

Workers clearing rubbish from Sungai Skudai in Johor, which is one of the dirtiest rivers in the country. Environmentalists say the state budget should address this before it becomes worse. — Filepic

ENVIRONMENTAL organisations are urging the state government to look into issues that need immediate attention in next year’s budget.

Green Earth Society Johor president P. Sivakumar said failing to address environmental issues would affect Johor in the long run.

“River pollution, deforestation and illegal dumping are the major issues that the Johor government needs to look into when tabling next year’s state budget,” he said.

Sivakumar said the state could face a major water crisis as raw water supply from rivers were contaminated, similar to situations experienced by Selangor.

“Polluted and contaminated rivers will not only affect our water supply but also the livelihood of inland fishermen,” he said.

Sivakumar added that the tell-tale signs were evident, including frequent water disruptions, especially in southern parts of Johor in recent years.

He said stern action must be taken against those who treat rivers as their main dumping ground, including companies discharging effluents into water bodies.Johor, he said, must ensure that forest reserves were not encroached for illegal agriculture or logging activities as they were main water catchment areas.

“Protecting the environment must go beyond tree planting activities and the state government must show political will and not give mere lip service,” he added.

Sivakumar said the state government needed to work closely with environment-related non-governmental organisations (NGO), including giving them financial assistance.

Safe Johor River founder Poh Pai Yik said the annual state budget failed to address major environment-related issues, especially dirty rivers.

He said stricter measures were needed to ensure the future of waterways and rehabilitation of dead rivers.

The Department of Environment, he said, had revealed that 16 out of the 25 dirtiest rivers in Peninsular Malaysia were located in Johor.

Most of the 16 rivers, he said, were categorised as dead rivers where the water was unfit for swimming and aquatic creatures could not survive.

Among the dead rivers are Sungai Tukang Batu in Pasir Gudang and Sungai Merah in Pontian while Sungai Jemaluang in Mersing and Sungai Kahang in Kluang are contaminated due to mining activities.

“We recently visited Sungai Bahan and Sungai Kemudi in Iskandar Puteri and the rivers are getting shallower.

“Deforestation is another major reason for river pollution in Johor,” added Poh.

He also said mangroves along the polluted rivers were no longer the breeding ground for freshwater fish, udang galah (freshwater prawns), edible snails and ketam bangkang (mud crabs).

“The mangrove growing along the riverbanks are deteriorating,” he said.

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