Malaysia: More ‘moderately’ polluted rivers despite drop in high-pollution cases

The Star 11 May 15;

PETALING JAYA: More of Malaysia’s rivers are being recorded as polluted, with 49 rivers having Water Quality Index ratings of 59 and below.

Data from Department of Environment showed that although the numbers of highly polluted rivers were going down, more rivers were being found to be “moderately” polluted.

According to the department’s river water quality report for February, 49 rivers were marked as “polluted” while 131 listed as “moderately polluted”.

During the same month last year, 59 were listed as “polluted” and 106 moderately so.

Moderately polluted rivers have ratings of between 60 to 80.

Many of the country’s worst rivers are in Johor, with Sungai Kempas recording an index reading of 21, making it the only Class V river in the country.

Last year, it marked a reading of 36.

According to national water standards, even Class IV rivers can be used, albeit only for irrigation while Class V rivers cannot be used for anything.

The WQI is an overall reading that shows how clean or dirty a river can be.

The cleanest river in the country was Sungai Ara, in Penang.

The two reports also show that there were 544 rivers recorded in the February 2015 report, compared with 382 last year.

Dirty water major cause of disruption
PATRICK LEE The Star 11 May 15;

PETALING JAYA: River pollution is becoming a major cause of unscheduled water disruptions in the country.

Between 2008 and 2014, pollution shut down water treatment plants in rivers across Malaysia for 1,005.75 days or a total of 24,138 hours.

More than a third of these shutdowns were in Selangor.

Over the past seven years, closure of treatment plants caused by river pollution disrupted supply to hundreds of thousands in the state for at least 8,000 hours or 333 days.

National Water Services Com­mission (SPAN) chief executive Mohd Ridhuan Ismail said various types of river pollution, including wastewater, detergents, oil spills, muddied flow due to floods, deforestation and quarrying, caused treatment plants to be shut down.

He said treatment plants had limits in processing water and might not be able to filter out high levels of pollution.

“More than 90% of the shutdowns in Johor between 2012 and 2015 was at the Skudai plant, caused by high amounts of ammonia in the river,” he said.

In March, The Star highlighted the massive algae bloom pollution in the Sembrong Dam in Johor, a water source for some 120,000 people in the districts of Kluang and parts of Batu Pahat.

Mohd Ridhuan said treatment plant closures in states other than Malacca were due to murkiness, also known as turbidity in the raw water, caused by upstream activities.

He said the Merlimau plant in Malacca was shut down for eight months from June last year because of a sudden rise in the raw water’s acidity and change in colour.

The full extent of these shut downs are not known, as SPAN does not have exact details on how many households were affected but if a plant ceases operating, even for an hour, households might be without water for several hours.

This is because it takes time for the emptied pipes to be refilled to the right amount of pressure to ensure regular water flow.

Mohd Ridhuan said it was vital for catchment areas to be kept safe, as they were water sources for millions of people.

He pointed out Sungai Selangor was one such area, adding that its four plants supplied water to 60% of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, or more than four million people.

“When pollution in catchment areas cause shutdowns of treatment plants, the impact on consumers is huge,” he said.

He said states needed to control development within water catchment areas and punish polluters harshly to serve as examples to others.

He said shutdowns in Perak were reduced “significantly” since 2011 when plants in the state were upgraded.

States which want to reduce the impacts caused by shutdowns can also relocate the plants in different catchment areas, he said, adding that the Langat 2 plant, which would pipe water from Pahang to Selangor, as an example of this.

The Langat 2 plant is set to be completed by 2017 and is designed to supply 1,130 million litres of water a day.

Local govts not doing enough to clean rivers, says Palanivel

KUALA LUMPUR: Local governments are not doing enough to clean up the rivers, says Datuk Seri G. Palanivel.

The Natural Resources and Environment Minister said it was challenging working with them but declined to elaborate why.

“We can’t deal with them,” he said, adding that he would instead write to the Local Government Minister to sort out the matter.

Palanivel said it was important for the local councils and municipal councils to work with the authorities, especially on cleaning up polluted rivers.

“It’s bad. In Cameron Highlands, the water is polluted. This is the same with Pahang, Penang and even the rivers in Selangor are heavily polluted,” he said after launching World Water Day celebrations at the Drainage and Irrigation Department office here yesterday.

Palanivel said that people’s attitude should change too.

“Everyone throws rubbish into the river,” he said, adding that it was becoming a major issue.

He said river cleaning activities were ongoing throughout the country but the people kept dumping more rubbish there.

On a separate issue, Palanivel said that 6,000 trees had been planted in Cameron Highlands to rebuild the destroyed forest reserve areas there.

“We may start another tree planting project soon.”

Landslides and floods have been a major issue in Cameron Highlands due to excessive clearing of land for illegal farming.

Bernama also quoted Palanivel as saying that the River Of Life project, which is part of the Greater Kuala Lumpur Project, was 56% completed since it started in 2011.

The project aimed to change the image of Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang so that it would send out a positive impact.

World Water Day is marked on March 22 every year. This year’s theme is “Water and Sustainable Development”.