BUTTERWORTH: As strong and hardy as the monitor lizards and other wildlife are, it looks like none could survive being caught in a floodgate.
Amid the mass of floating plastic waste carpeting the stream near a floodgate, the bloated carcasses of six monitor lizards — each about 1m long — were recently spotted.
It is believed that the floodgate, which separates the stream from Prai River in Taman Sembilang here, has become a death trap for the scavengers.
When caught in it, the lizards swim themselves to exhaustion.
Appalled by the loss of so many lizards in a single instance, Malaysian Nature Society Penang adviser Kanda Kumar hopes engineers will take another look at floodgate designs.
“You may think nothing of monitor lizards swimming in rivers, but they are greatly important to the environment as they play an important role in maintaining the balance and health of the forest ecosystem.
“They are efficient scavengers that only hunt when there is no more carcasses to consume.
“They keep the dead animals in our waterways from rotting to the point of spreading diseases,” he said.
Kanda said while floodgates were vital, engineers need to design them more holistically and spare a thought for wildlife caught in them.
“It is such a waste that six monitor lizards are now carcasses themselves instead of helping us keep the river clean,” he added.
Meanwhile, residents are crying foul over the stench of the decomposing reptiles.
“Please don’t rain and flood. If the water in the stream overflows into my house, I’m doomed,” said one resident met while taking a walk in the nearby park.
The man said he was saddened by the condition of the stream which is black and worries that the contaminated water will flood the neighbourhood during heavy rain, as the high tide may prevent water from flowing out to sea.
“It overflowed during the November storm in 2017, and it might happen again,” he said.
From Prai River, this stream meanders 1.8km through Taman Sembilang, Taman Tenggiri, the Seberang Jaya market and the back of Bandar Sunway until Sungai Derhaka which also leads to Prai River on the other end.
Businessman Datuk Seri Supiah Manikam, 66, who has been living in Taman Sembilang for the past 33 years said the neighbourhood used to be clean and nice.
“I moved here in 1986 and back then the stream was flowing well and the park was natural and nice,” he said.
Tailor Ruhillnesa Abd Rahim, 28, who operates a shop just beside the stream said the air stinks when the wind blows in her direction, especially during dry weather.
“When the water level in the stream is low, it gets saturated and smells terrible.
“My customers have complained numerous times about it.
“I have suffered with it for five years since I started business,” she said.
Meanwhile, efforts are underway to enhance the beauty of the stream and its banks.
Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP) president Datuk Rozali Mohamud said the council is planning to hold an educational session with visitors to the park.
“Our workers will clean up the park and enforcement officers will make rounds.
“If polluters are caught red handed, they will be fined,” he said.
Think City programme director Murali Ram said the organisation is working in partnership with MPSP and Seberang Jaya assemblyman Dr Afif Bahardin to improve Taman Sembilang after the first intervention by MPSP to introduce a photography park in it.
“Next, we are planning a nature-based park.
“Our community engagement, thus far, showed that people want a river deck and walking paths.
“Our biggest challenge is the unsightly and polluted stream,” he said.