Malaysia: Pollution from catfish farm almost causes water crisis in Malacca

The Star 21 Apr 16;

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.

Fishermen raise a stink
R. SEKARAN The Star 20 Apr 16;

GEORGE TOWN: The discharge of raw sewage into the Batu Ferringhi River has allegedly contributed to marine pollution which is threatening the livelihood of 600 coastal fishermen.

Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) said the river which flows into Teluk Bahang sea has been polluted over the last three months and fishermen have stopped going out to sea because their main catch of fish and prawns has dropped drastically.

“Fishermen earning RM200 per day in the past can now get only RM30 to RM40,” said CAP president S.M. Mohamed Idris.

“They decided to stop fishing as their meagre income was insufficient even to cover repair to their damaged nets,” he added.

Mohamed Idris added that the water in Batu Ferringhi River was not only black and oily, but also silty and stinky.

“Fish like pomfret and threadfin have dwindled while other types of fish such as gelama, tengkerong, grouper and snapper have been found dead due to the pollution.”

CAP urged the Penang City Council (MBPP), the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) and the Department of Environment (DOE) to take immediate action to address this problem.

Meanwhile, Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd (IWK) which is operating a plant at Sungai Batu Ferringhi said it was working closely with the DOE to monitor the quality of effluent discharge from its plant.

Its senior manager (corporate communications) Shahrul Nizam Sulaiman said the plant would be much more effective when upgrading works are completed next year.

“However, other sources could have contributed to the pollution at Batu Ferringhi such as food stalls, car wash, individual septic tanks and other activities,” said Shahrul.

He added that IWK would be working closely with the other authorities on river water quality modelling to identify the sources of pollutants.

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