Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) urges the Johor state government to take immediate action to save the Sungai Lebam Dam in Pengerang near Kota Tinggi here that is undergoing water shortage problem due to exploitation of the forest area around the dam.
The destructive activity in the forest area has and will affect the lives of 100,000 people who are dependent on water supply from the dam. Among the areas affected are FELDA Air Tawar 4, Desa Rhu, Bandar Penawar, Pengerang and Teluk Rumania.
Commenting on an exposē by the local daily Berita Harian dated March 11, 2015 on this matter, SAM hopes that a thorough investigation will be conducted by the State Land and Mines Office, Johor Forestry Department and Local Authorities (LAs) as to how a 20-hectare forested area here can be exploited for agriculture purposes.
The forest that was converted for agriculture in 2012 has caused the water level in the dam to recede beginning 2013. SAM believes that if immediate action is not taken to stop the activity, the dam’s water resources will continue to be threatened and contaminated with hazardous chemical residue which may affect the health of residents here.
SAM recommends that the forest area that has been cleared is restored by replanting suitable forest plant species so that it can be rejuvenated to function as a watershed.
SAM also urges the responsible authorities to publicise their investigation report on this matter and highlight how approval to explore and develop the forest reserve and water catchment area can be given.
SAM calls for stringent legal action to be taken strictly on those found responsible to have caused damage to the environment and have violated regulations stipulated under the relevant laws. SAM is concerned that if such destructive activities are allowed to persist they could seriously affect the environment and lives of the local population.
S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS