KUCHING: Government agencies must stop shirking responsibility and never ever make financial constraint an excuse to not preserve the environment.
Assistant Minister of Public Health Datuk Dr Stephen Rundi Utom, who said this, pointed out that Kuching South City Council (MBKS) should take up the obligation to clean silted-up Tabuan River instead of kicking the responsibility away to other agencies.
“I think the mayor may say they look at the land affair and the river will be given to… I think it is not the case. Instead of pushing the responsibility, we have to take it as our own effort and try to do it together.
“We should not deny anything as far as this city is concerned. We cannot push to one another and at the end of the day nothing is done. I think it is not good for the public to know that we are pushing to each other to clean the river,” he told a news conference after opening the Sarawak Health, Wellness, Beauty and Halal Expo 2011 at Permata Carpark here yesterday.
Of late, Tabuan River has been under the spotlight after media reports splashed photos of the silted-up river.
Democratic Action Party (DAP), after giving 48 hours or so for the authorities concerned to take action as some agencies appeared to have taken the matter lightly, will engage a group of people to remove solid waste from the river tomorrow (Sunday).
Dr Rundi pointed out that MBKS should take the lead and put together other government agencies such as State Health Department, Sarawak Rivers Board (SRB) and Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) to make Tabuan River clean and healthy to the communities.
“I think it has to be bandaraya (council) first and then do it by collective effort from everyone. I am sure people living along Sungai Tabuan will be very happy to give co-operation,” he said.
He described the government agencies’ reasoning that they lacked resources and fund as ‘history’.
“You say you don’t have money but money is second to effort. Most important thing is what you have in mind. It is either you want to do it or you don’t.
“So if you don’t have money, we can get all the agencies to assist. We can do it together, through gotong-royong and so on. If everyone says it’s not my responsibility, we don’t have resources, no money, I think that attitude is history,” he asserted.
By ‘history’, it is believed that he meant that people know how government agencies have been behaving and dealing with issues.
Asked whether NREB plays a vital role in cleaning up the river, Dr Rundi said: “Yes, NREB is one of the agencies that will have to look into this matter.”
He added that the board is supposed to look after the environment and ensure cleanliness.
“I think these so-called major agencies must sit down instead of pointing fingers at each other, looking at who is responsible for it. It does not matter that we have to do it with the DAP as long as Sungai Tabuan is clean,” he pointed out.
He welcomed DAP’s effort to organise a campaign tomorrow to scoop out rubbish from the river.
“It is an environmental concern, we can work together to make sure Sungai Tabuan will be liveable to all marine resources. If we don’t do it, I don’t think anyone wants to sit by the river bank,” he said.
He also conceded that Tabuan River is one of the most polluted rivers in Sarawak besides Sungai Maong and Sungai Miri.
“I know the level of pollution in these rivers is high,” said Dr Rundi, who is a former SRB chairman.
The board is now headed by Roland Sagah Wee Inn, who is Tarat assemblyman.
Citing Sungai Bintangor as an example, he said the government had managed to turn the river into an attractive spot as it is today.
“Once Sungai Bintangor was in a dire state just like Sungai Tabuan now. We have made so much effort to make it really attractive. So I hope everyone will put in effort to make sure that Sungai Tabuan will be more beautiful and clean for the sake of people around there,” he added.