Rapid development and pollution is causing severe environmental damage and the state government must act to curb this, says SAM.
GEORGE TOWN: The state government has implemented the “Cleaner Greener Penang” initiative but the tropical island-state is suffering from environmental degradation due to rapid growth of the concrete jungle and industrialisation.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president SM Mohamed Idris finds that the beauty of Penang’s natural environment is losing its shine due to the dilapidation of greenery and prevailing pollution.
Low water quality in rivers and sea, mudflats, destruction of mangrove forests and water catchment areas, dwindling fisheries and deterioration of healthy ecosystem are fast becoming hallmarks of Penang.
In view of this, Idris called on the state government and local authorities to stringently enforce the existing regulations.
“SAM and CAP (Consumers Association of Penang) urge the state government to do the needful in ensuring that development does not affect the environment and the lives of local residents,” he said.
Idris, who is also CAP president, said this is the people’s wish in conjunction with World Environment Day.
He urged Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s administration to gazette all forests and mangroves as permanent reserved forests, and disallow development projects on hills and agricultural land.
He also wanted constant monitoring to curb pollution.
Besides enforcing the Environmental Quality Act 1974, he called on the Department of Environment (DOE) to conduct environmental education programmes to encourage effective community participation.
“The people of Penang should also play their role in keeping the state clean and green to ensure a better life for us and our future generation,” he added.
Currently, Idris noted that most rivers and the sea in Penang are polluted by industrial effluents, sewage and rubbish threatening at least 40 species of river and marine life.
The Penang DOE annual report for 2011 on river water quality revealed that 10 out of 24 rivers in the seven river basins in the state are classified as polluted.
Six rivers are in Class IV of the Water Quality Index, nine considered moderately polluted while five are clean.
“Good water quality is important for a healthy river and ecosystem which will then thrive with aquatic life. Due to the pollution problem, river fisheries have dwindled except in a few clean rivers such as in Sungai Kerian,” he said.
Protect the hills
According to the DOE report, monitoring of marine water quality found highest readings of Escherichia Coli in Kuala Sungai Pinang (Jelutong), Kuala Sungai Pinang (Balik Pulau), Kuala Sungai Prai and Kuala Sungai Juru.
The main source of pollution identified is pollutants in the rivers’ outflow from the discharge of domestic sewage in residential areas and business premises.
Coastal reclamation, aquaculture activities and destruction of 70% of mangrove forests have contributed to the destruction of the natural coastal ecosystem.
Some sandy beaches are now mudflats such as in Gurney Drive, while forest destruction to implement projects has caused loss of water catchments.
Mud floods have become quite rampant in some villages and housing estates due to soil erosion and sedimentation from hill slope projects, such as in Balik Pulau and Bayan Lepas.
Residents in hilly areas of Sungai Ara and Tanjung Bungah have appealed to the state government and island council (MPPP) to cancel all proposed hill slope projects.
Idris expressed concern that rapid structural development will seriously affect the people’s quality of life as such growth rates will bring about social, economic and environmental challenges.
With rapid industrialisation and sprawling housing projects even on hills, he said, the health of Penang’s ecosystem is in danger of deterioration if left unchecked.
“We need to ensure that our hills are protected from further development, our rivers, sea and air are clean and our quality of life improves,” he added.