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BUKIT MERTAJAM, March 29 — The Kuala Juru Unit B Fishermen’s Association has urged the Penang Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) to take appropriate action over the contamination and destruction of cockles in the area since February.
Its chairman Bahari Edin, 74, claimed that the association last met the DID to discuss the issue in early March but was disappointed that no action had been taken.
“We have told the department that work by its contractor to deepen Sungai Juru, about 700 metres from the association’s jetty, has resulted in sludge settling on our cockle rearing area nearby. The excavated mud is deposited on the river bank as opposed to the contractor’s promise to dump it in a specific area.
“The mud is swept back into the river when the water flow is strong and it settles on the bottom, thus adversely affecting the cockles,’’ he told Bernama when met at the association’s jetty here recently.
He said a 27.9-hectare cockle rearing area was destroyed due to work to deepen the river since December, resulting in a loss of cockle seeds worth RM130,000.
“We sowed cockle seeds worth RM130,000 in December and expected to harvest matured cockles worth RM700,000,” he said, adding that cockles bought by middlemen were returned as they stank and contained mud.
He hoped the DID and other related agencies would take appropriate action to protect the welfare of 15 fishermen in the B Unit whose livelihoods were affected.
“We fervently hope the DID or any related agency will come and look for themselves the situation we are going through because we are not from the well-to-do group,” he said.
Meanwhile, Penang DID director Syukri Muslim, when contacted, said the department was investigating the matter by roping in several authorities, including Bukit Tengah State Assemblyman Gooi Hsiao Leung, to ensure all quarters arrived at a consensus.
“We are now completing several documents by taking into account the investigation and scientific proof on the allegation I expect the documentation process to be completed in a month.
“We have not received an official report from the Penang Fisheries Department as to whether the cockles died naturally or as a result of the river deepening work, so I hope all parties will be patient,” he said, adding that work to deepen the river had been stopped for a while to facilitate investigation into the allegation. — Bernama