Careless eateries polluting our waterways, NGOs allege

Polluted river water recently caused disruptions to the supply of treated water in the Klang Valley. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Water pollution caused by negligent restaurants can be as damaging to urban waterways as factory discharge, according to environmental activists.

Gurmit Singh, chairman of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia (Cetdem), told FMT that the scale of the damage caused by sullage water to urban waterways was “quite comparable” to the effects of factory pollution.

He said a fix was long overdue.

Global Environment Centre manager of River Care Programme K Kalithasan agreed and said this form of pollution had a “significant effect in urban areas” despite it being easy to control.

Gurmit Singh

Sullage water, made up of runoff from restaurants and households, requires treatment before it can be recycled back into the water supply.

When it is disposed of incorrectly, it can find its way into urban rivers and streams and cause damage to Malaysia’s ecosystems. The chemicals and grease that sullage often contains can be poisonous to animals and plants that rely on the waterways.

There are laws compelling restaurant owners to install grease traps, but Gurmit said: “Most of them don’t bother. I don’t think people care, except when they’re deprived of water.”

Kalithasan said restaurants were not installing grease traps because “there’s no enforcement” of the law.

K Kalithasan

Restaurant owners would rather accept the slim risk of being caught than pay for installation and maintenance, he alleged.

“It’s not so expensive,” he said, “but for the food operator, all these costs add up.”

He added that some restaurant owners who had installed the traps were not maintaining them.

Gurmit alleged that there had been a “total failure of enforcement” in Malaysia.

“It’s a problem that’s been going on for years,” he said. “They close one eye. Sometimes they close both eyes. Sometimes they make a show of one or two cases and then take it easy after that.”

Gurmit urged the authorities to be diligent in detecting those flouting installation and maintenance regulations and ensuring they are punished.