JOHOR BARU: The state Veterinary Services Department has been instructed to inspect all livestock farms operating near rivers to ensure adherence to environmental regulations.
State Health, Environment, Education and Information Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the move was necessary to prevent further contamination that could threaten the eco-system of rivers in the state.
He said the latest case of ammonia pollution in Sungai Johor on Friday, which led to the shut down of three water treatment plants and caused water disruptions affecting 1.8 million users, should serve as a lesson to all enforcement agencies to be more vigilant.
The ammonia pollution was traced to a poultry farm, which opened up a second plot of land to illegally process fertiliser from chicken manure in Kampung Murni Jaya in Layang-layang.
"I am not pointing fingers at any department or agency, but they must be thorough in their checks to prevent untowards incidents such as the pollution in Sungai Johor," he told the New Straits Times.
Ayub said there was also a need to check and revise the list of all livestock farms near Sungai Johor and other rivers in the state.
"I will table this proposal with representatives from the State Veterinary Services Department, Land and Mines Office, District Offices, state Department of Environment and Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) to re-affirm our commitment to protect the state's rivers, which also function as water catchment areas," he said.
He said measures must be taken to ensure that farms operators adhere to the law, especially if they are located near water catchment areas.
Johor Veterinary Services Department director Dr Aida Muhid said the state has over 778 livestock farms which are licenced, which come under the Grades A to C categories under the Malaysian Good Agricultural Practices.
Another 21 livestock farms are in the Grades D and E categories.
On the state government's request to check on all livestock farms located near rivers, Dr Aida said that she will cross-reference the department's list of existing farms with that of the Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) and DID.
She said the department database did not specify if the farms were located close to any river or body of water.
She said the guidelines for livestock farm operations, which is contained in a state enactment that is enforced by the Veterinary Services Department was only introduced in 1997.
"Some of the farms have been operating for 30 to 40 years and these farms mostly apply the convential farming methods which can pose a risk to the environment. They can possibly cause river pollution, and lead to stench, noise and health issues," she said.
Dr Aida said that when these problems occur, the department issues a temporary stopwork order to the premises under the Poultry Farming Enactment 1997, which is enforced at the state-level.
"A stopwork order can be up to three months as the poultry farm needs to ensure all provisions of the Malaysian Good Agricultural Practices is observed accordingly.
"They must observe all those requirements before they resume operations, or else they will be asked to shut down," she said.
Citing the example of a poultry farm, it must operate 500m away from residential homes. Farms that were opened before 1997 must make sure that their premises are 200m away from residential homes.
"This is to prevent inconveniences to residents due to smell coming from the farm or any other issues such as noise and health wise problems," she said.
During NST's visit to the farm, a villager said that the houses closest to the farm were located about 200m away.
Dr Aida said other than this, the provision also include no open rearing and must be carried out indoor.
"The indoor facility must be equipped with bio-security measures such as proper ventilations and farm animal waste control to ensure there is no biological threats to the environment," she said.
Checks by NST revealed
that the poultry farm has also been causing hardship to nearby villagers.
Kampung Murni Jaya village head Mohd Azam Saadon said residents such as himself put up with stench, and they have seen how heavy rain caused flooding at the fertiliser plant.
"The most recent flood a few months ago caused a ledge to collapse in front of the stockpile ponds, which contained chicken manure.
"The collapse ledge at the plant's perimeter fencing, caused the chicken faeces inside the stockpile ponds to spill over to a canal which flows into nearby Sungai Sayong," he said. The farm has stopped operating since the Friday.