JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Johor River, an important fresh water resource to both Malaysia and Singapore, needs to be protected as its water quality is slowly deteriorating, according to an expert.
UTM Water Research Alliance dean of research Professor Zulkifli Yusof said the river, stretching 2,636sq km could easily be polluted by sludge, agricultural activity, mining and sand extraction.
"This year alone, there were two major pollution cases which resulted in tens of thousands of people going without water.
"This river does not only supply water domestically, but also 250 million gallons to Singapore daily," Prof Zulkifli said in an interview with The Star.
He said it was also timely for the state government to look into having an integrated river basin management for Johor River.
"This will provide a better platform to manage the river and its ecosystem, which includes limiting the pollution loading according to the river capacity,'' Prof Zulkifli said, adding that complete research could take up to two years.
Over the years, the river water quality had also deteriorated to a murky state, according to Prof Zulkifli.
"My worry is that with the rainy season nowadays, more of the palm oil mills' waste ponds might overflow and cause pollution along Sg Johor," he said, referring to Johor River.
Last month, more than a million consumers in Johor Baru were without water after Johor River was polluted due to ammonia from a fertiliser factory.
Prof Zulkifli suggested that the state government give more clout to the State Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) including upgrading them to an authority with more manpower.
Prof Zulkifli also added that Johor needed to adopt a "polluters pay principle" to ensure those who polluted the state's water resources were fined heavily.
"This money collected should then be used for cleanup and conservation efforts," he said.
Prof Zulkifli also cautioned that due to climate change, there will be more rainfall while the dry seasons would become longer.
"We need to find a way to adapt to these changes," he added.