Make environmental adherence laws and approvals strict to curb water pollution — Prem Kumar Nair

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NOVEMBER 21 — The recent spate of water pollution in our rivers, water catchment areas and the closure of several water treatment plants in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor is a grave concern to all and must be dealt with severely without fear or favour.

The unscheduled water cuts and disruption could have been easily avoided if only we take stringent and hard-hitting measures to send the message out loud and clear to the perpetrators.

Water is uniquely vulnerable to pollution and that is a well-known fact. Recognised as a “universal solvent,” water is able to dissolve more substances than any other liquid on earth. It’s also why water is so easily polluted.

Toxic substances and waste from farms, industries, town and factories readily dissolve into and mix with it, causing water pollution and water interruption to end users. That is evidently clear and straight forward.

When contamination originates from a single source, it’s called point source pollution. Examples include wastewater or effluent discharged legally or illegally by a manufacturer, oil refinery, or wastewater treatment facility, as well as contamination from leaking septic systems, chemical and oil spills and illegal dumping.

All related agencies regulate point source pollution by establishing limits on what can be discharged by a facility directly into a body of water. While point-source pollution originates from a specific place, it can affect miles of waterways which causes stress to treatment efforts at the end of the line.

Unfortunately, we miserably fail to learn the correct way to dispose of household items, an elementary lesson in waste disposal. Some things should not be thrown away because they can be harmful to wildlife or even other humans if they are added to treatment process where insolvents and solids eventually pile up in a landfill. Items such as household cleaners, paint and leftover medications can be taken to a treatment or recycling centre for proper disposal.

So, why can’t these basic practices be made a principle? The blatant disregard to well-established laws, regulations, abuse of authority, rampant lack of stringent enforcement, to name a few, may hold the key to unlock this conundrum.

Strengthening industrial pollution prevention and control and banning illegally operated businesses and companies which are not in accordance with the national industrial policy must be made a top priority now.

Though a tough measure, it is in line with laws and regulations concerning water pollution control as all efforts will phase out most production projects that go against national rules and pollute the water environment such as small paper mills, recycling factories, textile printing, colourant, coking, food industries, arsenic smelting and pesticides, among others.

The actions hereinafter are all to be strictly monitored and implemented by local governments and their agencies at all levels. Making environmental adherence laws and approvals strict, agencies will clarify the requirements of environmental approvals, elaborate on function areas and implement a differentiated environmental approval policy for every industry prior to any licences being issued.

The responsible government entity must ensure the establishment of a monitoring and assessment system of the water environment’s bearing capacity and minimising any adverse impact to the water resources, in particular. In areas with overload capacity, regulatory authorities must implement simple water pollutant reduction plans and speed up the adjustment of development plans and industrial structures, where urgently required.

In time, these measures will complete the capacity assessment of water resources and water environment on city and county levels to an acceptable standard. Improving charging policies and re-evaluating the tariffs of waste disposal especially hazardous by-products which contain high levels of toxic readings by industries will improve waste disposal and up-lift the standards to make the policies more comprehensive and acceptable for all concerned.

It is a concerted role for all with the aim to protect and preserve our water resources by prudent management with the focus on education, awareness, engagement and regular enforcement.

* Prem Kumar Nair is the editor of Asian Water magazine.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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