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FMT: No need for special body to tackle river pollution, says MNS

River pollution has often resulted in water supply to treatment plants being interrupted.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) says it is not necessary to set up a new agency to govern rivers in the country as there are many existing agencies the government can make use of.

“We have too many already and if they are functioning properly, there won’t be a problem,” MNS president Ahmad Ismail said.

Ahmad was commenting on a proposal by National Water Services Commission (SPAN) chairman Charles Santiago to form a special body like the National River Protection Authority to coordinate the agencies and departments dealing with cases of river pollution.

Santiago noted that there was no committee to monitor and control these agencies when such a situation occurs.

He said 98% of the raw water that was treated came from rivers.

“If the pollution issue is not solved, the cost of treating river water will increase and this would result in water tariffs increasing as well,” he said.

Ahmad said rivers and land belonged to the states, so there would be a need to strengthen the structure at the state levels. He said Selangor already had the Selangor Water Management Authority (LUAS).

Instead, he said there was a need to analyse the functions of all departments related to rivers, management and pollution.

“All decisions must be integrated properly. To monitor water quality, we already have the Department of Environment (DoE) to record the status of water quality.

“Water pollution may be caused by activities related to agriculture, industry and domestic use. Who will look at these potential sources of contamination?

“DoE may only be reporting on water quality. Local authorities may be responsible for the activities that cause pollution, including rivers. What is the extent of the scope of SPAN in looking after rivers? We already have the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (JPS) doing some of the work.”

‘Timely to regulate all agencies’

Eco-tourism and Conservation Society Malaysia CEO Andrew Sebastian said he agreed with the proposal to set up the National River Protection Authority as it was timely for the government to regulate all agencies and government departments involved in enforcement as well as control of the national water supply.

However, he questioned the effectiveness of the body as the problem would be implementation, especially at the state levels.

“That is the challenge because land matters belong to the states. We’ll see possible conflicts arising as a result.

“Any national coordinating agency must have strong leadership at the federal level and a partnership with state agencies to sort out problems.

“Any such new federal body must be given the full mandate to enforce strictly all the laws that we put in place to protect our water resources,” he told FMT.

Sebastian said it would be good if this body included researchers from other agencies, like the Forestry Department, to provide input on water catchment areas.

Anthony Tan Kee Huat, executive director of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia (Cetdem), said any such national body needs to make data publicly available.

This will include giving information on the daily water quality for rivers at strategic points, with the cooperation of the DoE, local councils and citizens-based groups.

“A coordinating body to monitor water resources is long overdue.

“One overseeing agency, with the authority to utilise manpower and resources for the greater good, is a good idea,” he said.

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