Sarawak's failure to immediately create buffer zones for its rivers will be detrimental to its own future.
MIRI: Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (SCANE) has warned of a looming water shortage if the authorities fail to gazette water catchment areas and mitigate ‘immediately’ pollution in rivers and waterways in the state.
SCANE national coordinator Raymond Abin said there was a need for the state government to ‘act with immediate urgency’.
“As guiding principle of risk avoidance, industrial plants should be placed and situated far away from water source and rivers buffer zone and water catchment areas in the state.
“SCANE calls on the state government to act with immediate urgency to establish buffer zone and water catchment areas for Lambir Water Treatment Plant to ensure that there is a sustainable, safe and clean water supply source for Sarawak’s Northern Region area in future,” said Abin in a statement.
Earlier this month a massive oil spill from the Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s family owned Cahaya Mata Sarawak’s diesel-bitumen premix plant contaminated the Liku River from which the Lambir Water Treatment Plant sourced its water supply.
Some 300,000 people in Miri were without drinking water for over 12 hours as a result. Although the Department of Environment (DOE) has since said that it is satisfied with the extensive clean-up of the river and that the water is now safe, people are still concerned.
Said Abin: “SCANE is gravely concerned about the risk to the health of 300,000 people in Miri.
“SCANE has conducted site investigations in the area since the incident resurface. It was shocked to find out that Sungai Liku and the river from which LAKU (Lembaga Air Kawasan Utara) tapped its waters has no protection at all to safeguard it from unscrupulous dumping of industrial and domestic waste.”
He said investigations in the area had shown that existing industrial, agricultural and residential activities that were situated near and within the Sungai Liku could at any time cause environmental pollutions to Lambir Water Treatment Plant.
“In the area, within 2KM radius of the Treatment Plant water intact point there are two (2) premix plants (including CMS Premix plant), a large Brick factory and the resident area of Tunku Abdul Rahman Resettlement villages Lambir.
“There are all sorts of agricultural farming and gardening activities such as vegetable gardens, fruit Orchards and oil palm small estates.
“SCANE is alarmed to notice that within 5 km to 8 km, there are large oil palm plantations and actively carried their activities, ” he said adding that the long term environmental impact as a consequence of these oil palm plantation activities could be detrimental to water source and human health.
500m buffer not enough
He said fertilizers, pesticides, weedicides and herbicides were major inputs that caused environmental and ground water pollution in agriculture sector.
“Another possible source of pollutant would be from the stockyard of Rejimen Askar Jurutera DiRaja, where hundreds of bitumen drums are presently placed very close to the river banks of Sungai Liku.
“The Rejimen Askar Jurutera DiRaja is the contractor undertaking the construction of Miri-Marudi road under the ‘hearts and minds’ project.
“Bearing all of the above, SCANE urges all the respective Sarawak authorities to take immediate steps to establish buffer zone for the Lambir Water Treatment Plant and establishment of water catchment areas are prerequisites to restore the water quality of Sungai Liku, Sungai Bakong and its tributaries, ensuring that it is sustainable, safe for both the consumption and use of the people, ” he said.
Abin also said SCANE was opposed to the current requirement of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which states that all new industrial plants in the state must be sited at least 500 metres away from the rivers.
“In the context of Sungai Liku, this is very unwelcoming and there shouldn’t be any industrial plants allowed to be sited within the area.
“We suggest that a buffer zone area of 8 km radius for Lambir Water Treatment Plant and the area to be strictly conserved and manage to ensure that there is no degradation of the drinking water source by preventing potentially harmful land use activities from occurring in these areas,” he said.