(File pix) Johor government has been urged to engage with all stakeholders including villagers, Orang Asli, and non governmental organisations (NGOs) to prevent a recurrence of pollution in Sungai Johor and other rivers. (pix by HAIRUL ANUAR RAHIM)

JOHOR BARU: Johor government has been urged to engage with all stakeholders including villagers, Orang Asli, and non governmental organisations (NGOs) to prevent a recurrence of pollution in Sungai Johor and other rivers.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) vice-chairman Vincent Chow said a proper plan was needed to curb pollution at water intake points.

He said this could start with better engagement with the people who had a first-hand experience of pollution.

"When it comes to major issues affecting the environment, the state government should call for a meeting with stakeholders on a regular basis.

"Stakeholders such as villagers, Orang Asli, village headmen and NGOs should be involved. NGOs that deal with environmental issues will be more familiar with what's happening on the ground," he told the New Straits Times.

Chow said eye-witnesses’ accounts of river pollution were crucial to help authorities take suitable action against polluters.

He urged the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry to expedite plans to formulate regulations for fertiliser farms, as it was a fertiliser farm that caused the ammonia pollution in Sungai Johor last week.

Excessive levels of ammonia in Sungai Johor on Oct 27, prompted SAJ Ranhill Sdn Bhd to temporarily shut down the operations of its plants at Sungai Johor, Semangar and Tai Hong.

This disrupted water supply to 360,000 households involving 1.8 million consumers in Kulai, Iskandar Puteri, Kota Tinggi and here.

The pollution was traced to an illegal fertiliser processing plant near Layang Layang in Kulai, which was subsequently ordered to be shut down by the state government.

Johor government has also ordered the shut down of the nearby poultry farm, which were run by the same owner.

The same farm had also caused ammonia pollution in Sungai Johor in December last year and in August this year.

Meanwhile, state Health, Environment, Education and Information Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat denied that the state authorities did not engage with stakeholders on the issue of river pollution.

"There have been meetings involving the state government, agencies and related stakeholders conducted under my portfolio.”

Ayub said regulations regarding pollution at water intake points came under the Johor Water Regulatory Body.

He said the status of land also lay under the District Land Administrative Office.

"Even if there is no law against fertiliser farms, there are other related laws," said Ayub.