‘Insufficient funds given for river sustainability’

A worker clearing debris in Sungai Skudai, Johor. — Filepic

Environmental-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are disappointed with the allocation for river sustainability under Johor Budget 2022.

Johor Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) vice-president Vincent Chow said the RM4.5mil given was insufficient.

The state government had allocated the sum to clear rubbish from Sungai Skudai and Sungai Tebrau, implement its One District One River programme (1D1S), rehabilitate Sungai Kim Kim and beautify river reserves.

‘’The state government should put more effort into addressing dead and dying rivers,” he said when contacted.

Chow said the allocated sum was not even enough to clear the rubbish from Sungai Skudai, as at least RM200mil was needed to rehabilitate and rejuvenate one of the dirtiest rivers in Malaysia.

He said a holistic approach was needed to address and solve dead and dirty rivers in Johor, adding that each river was unique and had its own ecosystem.

“We cannot have just one plan to solve the problem as these rivers are totally different from one another,” he said.

He attributed the pollution in Sungai Skudai to the presence of squatter settlements, housing estates, factories, vegetable farms and plantations along riverbanks.

Chow said irresponsible parties were treating the 46km river as a dumping ground, throwing rubbish and discharging effluents illegally into the river.

He said it would cost about RM5mil to deepen the 35km Sungai Tebrau.

He pointed out that the river’s branches — Sungai Kim Kim and Sungai Tengkorak — were classified as dead rivers.

“The oxygen level at Sungai Kim Kim and Sungai Tengkorak are depleting and no aquatic life can survive there,” he noted.

Chow said the mangrove ecosystem along Sungai Skudai and Sungai Tebrau was deteriorating because of pollution and was no longer suitable for breeding of freshwater prawns, fish, mud crabs and edible snails.

“This has forced inland fishermen, including those from the Orang Asli community, to fish further out in the open sea,” Chow added.

Safe Johor River founder Poh Pai Yik said the RM4.5mil allocation did not show the state government’s sincerity in addressing polluted rivers.

He said the allocation to protect the environment was insufficient.

Poh said the state government should give serious thought to addressing environment-related issues in Johor.

“Dead and dying rivers in Johor have been going on for many years.

He said monitoring and protecting rivers were vital as they are the main source of raw water supply in the state.

Poh emphasised that management of rivers would ensure water sources remain free from contamination.

“Such measures are critical for socio-economic development, a healthy ecosystem and human survival itself,” he said.

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