While it is crucial to impose heavier penalties on recent polluters, the public must be educated in a concerted way on the importance of protecting and preserving the environment, Mustafa K Anuar writes.
Many hotels in Kuala Lumpur did brisk business recently, which was good for an industry battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But what was good for the hotels was not necessarily good for the patrons, particularly those who had been driven out of their homes in the Klang Valley by the massive and unscheduled water cuts that occurred recently.
Water supply was disrupted because of pollution caused by a machinery maintenance yard along Gong River, a tributary of the Selangor River.
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Life was even harder for those who could not afford to take refuge in hotels. They either had to stay put or put up at the homes of their relatives or friends residing outside the affected areas.
Many who could not go anywhere had to rely on tankers assigned to designated areas, only to get a few pails of water.
Incidentally, there were screenshots that went viral on social media, which would not help to soo the frustration and anger among affected residents. They showed a woman, purportedly the wife of the Selangor menteri besar, having a dip with kids in their swimming pool and thanking Air Selangor for bringing a water tanker to her house. If true, this differential treatment is vulgar.
For many Klang Valley residents, water cuts have become too frequent for comfort, as they had experienced at least five cuts caused by pollution since last year. It is obviously annoying as they disrupt daily routines and cause inconvenience.
This was also a setback for small businesses, such as coffee shops, car wash places and laundromats that are about to find their feet again after being hit by the movement control order that began in March.
Water disruption can also a pose danger to those who rely on periodic dialysis for survival.
To reiterate, much of the water supply disruption has been caused by pollution, which indicates that our concern should go beyond the issue of public inconvenience – for this also points to the atrocious attitude of Malaysians generally towards rivers, water resources and the environment.
Owners of the factory in Rawang may be the alleged culprits who caused the latest incident of water disruption, but many of us are also culpable in the way we treat rivers as backyard dumpsites.
Looking the other way among certain government officials regarding this matter is equally atrocious.
While it is crucial to impose heavier penalties on the recent polluters, it is equally vital that the public be educated in a concerted way on the importance of protecting and preserving the environment.
The case of toxic chemical waste being dumped into Kim Kim River near Pasir Gudang, Johor, early last year seems incapable of making Malaysians learn the hard lesson to not repeat such grave mistakes.
A creation of a national river protection authority, as proposed by former National Water Services Commission chairman and Klang MP Charles Santiago, would go a long way towards preventing pollution of the country’s rivers. In this scheme, buffers of 300m-400m each would be designated along rivers to deter certain activities that can contaminate them. The rivers and buffer zones should also be considered as part of national security.
The Environment and Water Ministry is expected to play a major role in ensuring that rivers and other water resources nationwide are well protected by, say, enacting new laws.
Furthermore, vigilance and constant inspection by the enforcement agencies are crucial in stemming recalcitrant behaviour.
It simply cannot be lost on us that water is the essence of life. To ignore this is to err at our own peril.