EDITORIAL NOTES

Stop contamination of Malaysian rivers: The Star

Discarded items at SR Building Materials factory which was identified as the culprit behind major odour pollution at Sungai Semenyih in Selangor, Malaysia.
Discarded items at SR Building Materials factory which was identified as the culprit behind major odour pollution at Sungai Semenyih in Selangor, Malaysia. PHOTO: NSTP

In its editorial on Oct 12, the paper urges the government to take strong measures to signal that contamination of river reserves will not be tolerated.

In a span of three weeks, residents in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur faced dry taps for several days due to odour pollution that forced water treatment plants to shut down.

The first two incidents occurred at the infamous Sungai Semenyih that has had a history of contamination problems since 2013 while the most recent one occurred in Sungai Semantan, Pahang, last Saturday (Oct 8).

Most people were left stranded without water since many were away at work when the disruption occurred.

While many would lay the blame of contamination at the doors of the perpetrators, a more important question would be – where were the authorities and why are they slow to take action against the perpetrators?

The mind-boggling question is why the authorities allowed factories or recycling plants to operate or even be located so close to the rivers’ edge? 

The law clearly stipulates that buffer zones called river reserves should be in place to ensure no encroachment would compromise the quality of water flowing down the rivers.

Both the Selangor and Pahang rivers were contaminated by unscrupulous factories at the riverbanks that released effluents into the water.

During an interview, neighbours of the factory along Sungai Semenyih that caused the second contamination last Tuesday said they had lodged complaints against the factory in the past.

So why did the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) allow the factory to continue operating despite the complaints?

Authorities continue to say that enforcement and monitoring exercises are an ongoing affair but if that were true, how could these factories and plants be operating all these years?

Prevention is definitely better than cure but if such incidents occur, surely a well-oiled plan to mitigate the problem would lessen the pain.

Residents were more frustrated following the incidents due to the lack of proper scheduling for water rationing as well as the lack of water tankers sent to their neighbourhoods.

Syabas had sent out a two-day-on, two-day-off water supply schedule that was not followed, thus people were not sure when to expect the water to resume, making it difficult to plan their day.

In many locations, only one water truck was dispensed to send water to neighbourhoods with more than 300 houses.

Those living at the fringe of these neighbourhoods never got the water they were promised, and were forced to camp out at relatives’ homes.

Issues such as these only cause more stress and anger and if the relevant authorities and agencies want to see an end to unnecessary problems, it is time they pulled up their socks.

Water is an essential commodity and ensuring proper supply can make or break each administration. 

The people are suffering for the lackadaisical attitude of these agencies, and surely they will not forget these errors easily.

The state government, MPKj, Selangor Water Management Authority (LUAS), Department of Environment, Drainage and Irri­gation Department, Land Office and all relevant agencies must get their act together and resolve this issue once and for all.

The people and businesses have suffered enough in the last few years due to poor management and monitoring of our river reserves which have caused suffering and inconvenience.

Some had to go to their working place or a relative’s home for a few days for a bath or to collect water for drinking, cooking and for flushing their toilets.

The whole cycle of having to buy bottled water, paper cups and plates and sending clothes to the laundry when there are water cuts can be financially draining on the family.

The authorities must wake up from their slumber and make it their top priority that contamination of our river reserves is avoided at all costs.

Go all out to punish the perpetrators, to send a strong and clear message that such irresponsible acts will never be tolerated.

The next time such a contamination takes place, don’t be surprised if angry stakeholders seek compensation from the utility company or perhaps even file a lawsuit for the hardship and additional costs they have to bear due to dry taps!

The Star is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 21 newspapers.