Penang Hills Watch calls for probe on source of heavy metals in Teluk Bahang river

A Google Maps image of the illegal quarry site in Teluk Bahang and its distance to a fish farm off the bay.
A Google Maps image of the illegal quarry site in Teluk Bahang and its distance to a fish farm off the bay.

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 3 — Penang Hills Watch (PHW) pressed authorities to investigate the cause of heavy metals detected in a river that flowed into the Teluk Bahang bay.

The group, in a statement today, asked if there was a link between the heavy metals found in the river to the illegal quarry activities in Teluk Bahang that recently made headlines.

“Observation made on Google Earth imagery shows a stream flowing through the quarry site and discharging into the Teluk Bahang bay, barely 1 km from the fish cages in the bay,” the group said.

The group called on the authorities to carry out a thorough investigation and reveal the results naming the types of heavy metals, the source and concentration levels, and to take immediate action.

They also called for stern action be taken to enforce the stop-work order and prevent further destruction of the hill slopes.

“Rehabilitation of the denuded slopes must be carried out soonest,” it said.

The group said PHW had submitted a report on 12 cases of hill clearing activities in the state to Chow Kon Yeow in 2017 when he was still only a state exco member. Chow is now the chief minister.

It claimed one of the 12 cases was the illegal quarry activities in Teluk Bahang. The group said it had received a written response from the Engineering Department of MBPP on June 23, 2017.

“From the specific response regarding this site PHW understands that the land in question is a former quarry and that following a stop work order issued on 13 May 2016, the MBPP was in the process of preparing the survey plan for taking legal action after consulting with the legal advisor,” they said.

They added that the land owner was also required to appoint an engineer to carry out site rehabilitation.

“It is therefore puzzling as to why quarrying activities have continued since then,” they said.

They demanded that the local council clarify if the stop-work order from May 2016 was enforced and the operator was prosecuted for non-compliance.

“What are the outcomes of the accompanying actions reported to have been taken according to the MBPP response in June 2017?” they asked.

They pointed out that the former quarry had ceased operations since 2002 and asked when the quarrying licence expired.

“If the former quarrying licence has expired, would there not be existing regulations to effectively prosecute illegal quarrying activities that are being carried out for over three years now, since a stop-work order was issued as early as in May 2016?” they asked.

They said the hills and seas are Penang’s natural heritage so there should not be any tolerance towards pollution that could destroy the natural environment.

“The environment and the health of people cannot be compromised,” they said.

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