IPOH, April 5 — The Department of Environment (DOE) must act against those responsible for introducing poisonous arsenic into Sungai Rui in Hulu Perak, environmental groups said today.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) field officer Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman said the DOE should launch investigations, notwithstanding the still-low concentrations of the toxin, and enforce whatever laws were applicable.
“Agencies responsible must conduct a thorough investigation whether the mining activity has something to do with the pollution.
“It is a serious matter if the developing skin cancer among the nearby residents is connected with the river pollution,” he told Malay Mail.
Perak Education, Science, Environment and Green Technology Committee chairman Abdul Aziz Bari said yesterday the Mineral and GeoScience Department detected an increase in the river’s pH level, but called for calm by saying the concentration of arsenic found was not alarming.
Initial investigations revealed the cause of pollution to be mining activities near the river.
Villagers residing in the vicinity are reportedly developing skin cancer, but it is not immediately clear if the issues are related.
Meor said the state government could issue a stop-work order on mining activities during the investigation period.
Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil blamed the matter on what she said were lenient penalties for polluters and the prioritisation of revenue over the environment.
“What is the enforcement and relevant authorities are doing? Such a problem exists as stakeholders did not follow the standard operating procedure as they want to achieve more profits.
“Is such revenue worth the amount of the destruction?” she said.
Arsenic is listed as poisonous and carcinogenic by most health authorities. At sufficiently high concentrations, it can result in fatal organ failures.
The chemical is also considered an ecotoxin as it can be absorbed by a variety of plant and aquatic life.