Activists blame govt apathy for river pollution

Activists say river pollution seems to have become a ‘trend’ in the country. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Two environmentalists have blamed government apathy for the pollution of rivers in the country.

Reacting to a report that Sungai Kedah has become too dirty to be used as a source of water supply for consumers in Alor Setar, they urged the federal and state governments to be aggressive in protecting the country’s rivers.

Eco-tourism and Conservation Society CEO Andrew Sebastian and Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil called for better monitoring of rivers and stronger enforcement of laws against pollution.

Yesterday, Bernama quoted Kedah executive councillor Zamri Yusoff as saying Sungai Kedah’s pollution level was at Class 3, which means water from it is no longer suitable for normal daily use.

Zamri said the river needed immediate intensive treatment. He blamed people settled along the river for the pollution, saying they had been freely throwing rubbish into it.

He also said his government planned to appoint 1,500 residents to become “water partnership volunteers” who would report on river polluting activities near their homes.

Speaking to FMT, Sebastian said river pollution seemed to have “become a trend” in the country and mentioned Johor, Penang and Selangor as particularly notorious.

“We neither respect our rivers nor understand or appreciate the vital role rivers play in ensuring the health of our community and our environment,” he added.

He said the federal and state governments had no choice but to “go hard” against polluters, and urged authorities to gather the political will to ensure the cleanliness of rivers.

Shariffa Sabrina said Kedah’s water authority and district councils should have conducted joint patrols regularly after the cleanliness of Sungai Kedah was downgraded to Class 2.

“Blaming the people is not going to automatically clean the river and revert it back to Class 2,” she told FMT. “It looks as though the state government wants the preservation of rivers to be on autopilot.”

She asked whether the state government had pinpointed where rubbish was being dumped into the river and if there were buffer zones.

She also asked whether district councils provided garbage bins in areas of risk and, if so, whether the bins were cleaned regularly.

The level of river cleanliness is categorised into five classes. Water is usable if it comes from Class 1 and Class 2 rivers.

Shariffa Sabrina also said that there was a need to upgrade the Water Quality Index, noting that it was set more than 20 years ago.

She predicted that Sungai Kedah would be polluted again within the next five years.