High metal content detected in Sarawak River but NREB refrains from pressing panic button
KUCHING: Fish, crabs and prawns caught from the Sarawak River are not safe for human consumption as they contain high levels of coliform bacteria.
State Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) controller Peter Sawal revealed that the river is among the most polluted in the state.
Peter however did not want to press the panic button as there are many anglers as well as local fishermen whose livelihoods still depend very much on the river.
“We know for a fact that the river, especially near Bintawa Industrial Estate, has higher level of metal content compared to other parts of the river, from Batu Kitang and Kuching Barrage. However, we do not want to make the people panic over the situation,” Peter told The Borneo Post here.
According to a book entitled ‘A field guide to the fishes of Kuching Rivers: Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo’ written by Katherine Atack of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), over 100 species of fresh water fish are thriving in the Sarawak River.
Peter said even though fish, prawns and crabs thrive in the river that did not mean they were safe for human consumption.
A random check with four government agencies namely Malaysian Fishery Development Board (LKIM), State Veterinary Department, Agriculture Department and Health Department showed that there was no government agency designated the task to ensure safe consumption of fish, crabs and prawns from the river.
According to Peter, what made the aquatic lives of Sarawak River hazardous for human consumption was the intake of black and grey water from residential homes in Kuching, especially those along the river.
“What makes matters worse is that four of Sarawak River’s tributaries such as Sungai Maong, Sungai Bintangor, Sungai Padungan and Sungai Sekama are highly polluted,” said Peter.
According to NREB’s Environmental Quality Reports 2008, “The monitoring results indicated that the rivers were all polluted by coliform bacteria (FCC and TCC). All these rivers are located in the vicinity of, or flowed through, urban centres” in Kuching City.
Controller of Sarawak River Barrage Captain Goh Chin Guan concurred that the toxicity of Sg Sarawak lately has been ‘like FOS – full of s**t’ as the water from its source upstream carried with it all the rubbish and waste.
Goh said the frequency of flashing the river water above the barrage would depend on tides, rain and drought.
“In January and February, 2010, the barrage was opened 42 times each month, to prevent flood in Kuching City as that has been the prime objective for the construction of the barrage.
“In March, it was opened 22 times; April and May, 23 times respectively. This is to get rid of the rubbish accumulated along the river banks and most of all, to keep a clean Kuching waterfront,” said Goh.
Despite the bleak picture, Kuching is bracing itself to have a better waste water management system in the near future with the construction of Kuching City Waste Management System on its way.
The project is expected to be completed by 2012.