Penang’s rivers ‘polluted by public apathy’

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GEORGE TOWN: Rivers in Penang continue to remain polluted, despite efforts to clean them up, mainly due to public apathy.

A check by Bernama revealed that rivers in the state were contaminated and emitted a foul smell.

The pollution problem exists at the 3.2km-long Sungai Pinang on the island and several other rivers on the mainland such as Sungai Jawi, Sungai Juru, Sungai Perai and Sungai Mas.

A Krisnan, 44, a resident of Jalan Sungai in George Town, who has lived near Sungai Pinang since childhood, said he used to be able to bathe in the river but cannot even go near the bank now because of the stench caused by rubbish that washed into the river.

Norjah Shabdin, 58, of Jalan P Ramlee, said various types of rubbish flowed into the Sungai Pinang behind her house, including school bags, plastic packages, banana trees and dead animals.

“I have always noticed individuals, whose attitude is apathetic, when I pass the small bridge (behind Ropewalk market) and they will simply throw rubbish into the river,” she said.

Another resident in Jalan Sungai, Mustaqim Saad, 23, said the waste was normally from roadside stalls and residential flats in the area.

A check in Sungai Juru and Sungai Perai also found the presence of oil on the water surface believed to be caused by industrial toxic wastes being dumped into these rivers.

Academicians with Universiti Sains Malaysia’s School of Biological Sciences said the findings of its researchers and others had showed that rivers in Penang had been polluted since 2000.

Ecology and fresh water research lecturer Dr Amir Shah Ruddin Md Shah said the main factor was the attitude of the people, who indiscriminately threw rubbish, used diapers and food waste on the river bank.

He said the increased population density in the vicinity of Sungai Pinang, coupled with the selfish attitudes of the people, were a factor behind more rubbish being dumped.

Mangroves and marine ecology research lecturer Prof Madya Dr Khairun Yahya said pollution at Sungai Mas, in Batu Ferringhi, came from the houses in the area, which were built on state land and could not be demolished because of the sentiment of the residents there.

“Although the settlement is illegal, it can still operate because it has electricity supply but does not have any systematic sewerage system,” he said, adding it became a problem when domestic waste was channeled to the river.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia officer Zulkifli Yusuf said river pollution in the state stemmed from waste from business premises and residential areas as well as oil from industrial areas. Even though the authorities were working hard to clean up the rivers, the problem would not be solved as long as there was a lack of enforcement.

Director of the state Drainage and Irrigation Department, Sabri Abdul Mulok, said the premises lacked proper treatment systems. He also said business operators should provide appropriate treatment methods before releasing waste into the rivers.

“This river flows into the sea and the water will affect the looks of Batu Ferringhi beach and jeopardise the tourism industry,” he said.

BERNAMA