Malaysia: Johor seeking an end to water woes

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 18 Jul 16;

JOHOR BARU: The state authorities should start going to the water catchment areas to monitor activities carried out there and stop those that are polluting major rivers and disruption water supply.

President of Green Earth Society Johor P. Sivakumar said that concerted efforts, including strict enforcement, were needed from the authorities to ensure major water disruption would not happen again in Johor.

He said in April 2015, almost 500,000 users in three southern districts of Johor, were left high and dry following a huge oil slick in Sungai Johor.

“Now, a high level of ammonia content in Sungai Johor has affected some 600,000 consumers in southern parts of Johor and they were left without water for three days,” Sivakumar said when contacted on Friday.

The oil spill has been identified as diesel-based and was from tyre burning activity at a factory in Felda Taib Andak in Kulai.

In the latest case, a high content of ammonia was detected by the authorities on June 12, from the effluents discharged by a palm oil mill in Ulu Remis near Kluang into Sungai Johor.

Raw water from Sungai Johor was supplied to the Semangar, Sungai Johor and Tai Hong water treatments plants which supplied water to users in the three districts in southern Johor.

“Enforcement must be lacking as otherwise this latest episode of another major water disruption would not have happened again in just 15 months,’’ he said.

Sivakumar said apart from Sungai Johor, which was the main source of water supply in south Johor including for the multi-billion ringgit petroleum complex in Pengerang, other rivers which were in need of immediate attention were Sungai Kapal and Sungai Santi.

He said the big question now was how the government could assure the people they can provide clean water to south Johor in the future if the rivers were polluted.

Johor Malaysian Nature Society chairman Vincent Chow said the government had not much choice now but to start relocating existing industries along river banks further inland.

“Approving factories near the river banks and areas closer to water catchment areas by the authorities is already wrong and the people are paying the price for it,’’ he said.

Chow said the authorities would start blaming the industries for polluting the rivers but the industries on the other hand said they had complied with the regulations.

Johor Health and Environment committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said all factory and mill operators along Sungai Johor and Sungai Sayong would be called in for a special meeting following the ammonia spill.

There are about 60 millers, factory operators and industries operating along a 26km stretch of Sungai Johor.

“The operators had complied with the regulations before obtaining an operating licence but they do not seem to be maintaining their equipment properly,” he said.

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