Polluted Johor River 'needs protection'

JOHOR BARU • The Johor River - an important fresh water resource for both Malaysia and Singapore - needs protection, as its water quality is slowly deteriorating, according to an expert.

Prof Zulkifli Yusof, dean of research at the Water Research Alliance of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said the river, covering 2,636 sq km on the eastern side of Johor state, 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 newspaper.

He said it was also timely for the Johor 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," he said, adding that complete research could take up to two years.

"My worry is that with the rainy season nowadays, more of the palm oil mills' waste ponds might overflow and cause pollution along Johor River," he said.

Palm oil is widely planted in huge farms in Johor, with its fruits processed in mills.

Last month, more than a million consumers in Johor Baru were without water after the 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 including upgrading them to an authority with more manpower.

He said 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 clean-up and conservation efforts," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 19, 2017, with the headline 'Polluted Johor River 'needs protection''. Print Edition | Subscribe