MALACCA: Serious pollution from a giant catfish farm in Batang Melaka in Alor Gajah nearly caused a water crisis in this Unesco Heritage City.
But it’s not all-clear yet for consumers as the Department of Environment (DOE) monitors the water safety of Sungai Batang Melaka.
The water situation is compounded by the declining levels at the three major dams – Durian Tunggal, Asahan and Jus – due to the heatwave.
Sungai Batang Melaka is one of the main sources of Malacca’s water supply system that is interconnected with six other major reservoirs in the state, including the three dams.
Yesterday, the state government ordered the farm to close temporarily with 3,000 fish shifted to another facility following the improper discharge of effluents into the river, which caused the ammoniacal nitrogen level to be 17 times higher than permitted.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron said the contamination had caused a 48-hour water disruption to 22,000 households in Alor Gajah a few days ago.
“Several factories producing food items were also forced to halt operations when the water quality deteriorated,” he said.
Idris explained that the catfish farm was using 2,000kg of chicken carcasses per day for feed and because of the current dry spell, the effluents could not be diluted, causing the ammonia level to reach a critical mark.
Such contamination can lead to health complications for consumers, such as kidney diseases.
“A water crisis was averted thanks to prompt action by the relevant authorities,” he said.
“We need to clean up four reservoirs after the contamination reached a very critical level.”
Idris also questioned why no action was taken against the farmer when the pollution had happened for some time.
“This could have led to a water crisis much worse than the Malacca drought of 1991,” he said.
The latest pollution was the second case in the state in months. In August, a spate of pesticide spills resulting from uncontrolled agricultural activities around the Durian Tunggal Dam was blamed for contaminating it. The incident almost caused water disruption when the supply had to be pumped out and replaced with fresh water.
Following that, Idris proposed a maximum compound of RM100,000 on farmers who continued to cultivate plots near dams and reservoirs and restricted the use of pesticides.
Meanwhile, Housing, Local Government and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ismail Othman said rehabilitation work at the affected waterway along Sungai Batang Melaka had been completed.
“DOE is keeping a close watch on the water quality, and we hope that it will be all over in the next few days,” he said.