Mount surprise checks to keep Sabah rivers clean, say green groups

Green Friends of Sabah coordinator SM Muthu.

KOTA KINABALU: Green groups here have urged the authorities in Sabah to carry out frequent and surprise checks to ensure waste is disposed of in a systematic manner after the recent river contamination incident in Johor.

Green Friends of Sabah coordinator SM Muthu contended that dumping had been going on for some time in Sungai Kim Kim and finally posed a big threat to residents in the area.

As such, he said officers from the state Environment Protection Department (EPD) and federal Department of Environment (DOE) should take appropriate action to carry out scheduled and surprise checks statewide instead of reacting to pollution issues.

However, Muthu said they understood that DOE and EPD are short-staffed and might not be able to carry out extensive checks in a big state like Sabah.

“There is a need for more staff to carry out scheduled visits at various environmental ‘hot spots’ or it is unlikely to catch culprits dumping waste into the rivers,” Muthu said.

For example, he said the authorities should focus on the many oil palm mills along the Kinabatangan River in Sabah’s east coast.

He acknowledged that most of the major companies are known to heed the regulations for the treatment and discharge of waste from mill operations.

However, he said there are concerns involving the smaller outfits which have allegedly discharged waste directly into the river or cut corners in a bid to bring down operational costs.

Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa) president Lanash Thanda.

“Time and again, we have had villagers along the Kinabatangan river and tributaries complain about pollution and quality of water, including dwindling fish stocks,” Muthu said.

He said some action was taken against the offenders but the operators went back to the same ways after the enforcement authorities left.

Besides this, he said his group had also received complaints of contractors dumping construction waste and other industrial waste into many rivers.

He added the authorities should also check on the disposal of scheduled waste from industrial parks in the city, disposal of used oil from workshops and the gold mining operations in Tawau.

Meanwhile, Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa) president Lanash Thanda said the authorities should also look at fuel stations if they were following the rules when disposing of their scheduled waste.

She said businesses which did not receive the necessary assistance to dispose of waste could end up flouting the law and Sepa had received complaints on this matter.