Malaysia: ‘Johor needs to keep rivers alive’

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 14 Jan 16;

JOHOR BARU: The authorities have been urged to quickly restore dead or dying rivers in the state to help ensure sustainable long-term water resources.

Many of the rivers are polluted, mostly due to uncontrolled economic activity, and are drying up, said the Malaysian Nature Society.

Its chairman Vincent Chow said a comprehensive study was needed to identify these rivers and steps taken to rejuvenate them.

“It is disturbing to see the condition of our rivers and if no immediate action is taken, we will be facing a major water crisis,” he said.

A river is dead once it is incapable of sustaining life such as fish and aquatic plants, and this is usually caused by pollution deple­ting the oxygen in the water.

Chow said deforestation in the catchment areas was the chief cause of falling water le­­vels at the Sungai Layang dam in Pasir Gu­dang and Sungai Lebam dam in Kota Ting­gi.

“They have dropped to critical levels,” he added.

As a result, there was a scheduled water rationing exercise from Aug 16 to Dec 30 last year, which affected about 641,000 domestic and industrial consumers in three districts in south Johor.

It was easy to blame the weather, the El Nino phenomenon in this respect, for the depleted dams “but we are also to blame for cutting down trees indiscriminately”, Chow added.

He said that among the rivers which needed im­mediate attention were those in Kluang, namely Sungai Mengkibol, Sungai Kahang, Sungai Sembrong Kiri and Sungai Sembrong Kecil, as well as Sungai Johor in Kota Tinggi.

Green Earth Society Johor president P. Sivakumar said scheduled water rationing would not be needed if the state could ma­nage water resources better and if there was strict enforcement by its agencies.

He explained that large-scale oil palm plantations and other agricultural activities should not be allowed inside water catchment areas or close to dams.

“The state government needs to start gazetting more areas as forest reserves, begin replan­­ting trees and put a stop to any encroaching activities,” he said.

He added that a blueprint for raw water resource management, as part of a 30-year plan to tackle all water-related issues in the state, was also needed.

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