The exploitation of water catchment forest areas surrounding Sungai Lebam Dam in Johor is getting so bad that it will soon affect water supply to some 100,000 residents if left unchecked.
Environmentalist group Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) urged the state government to act promptly to stop the rot before it was too late.
SAM’s study found that the dam in Pengerang near Kota Tinggi faced a severe water shortage due to destructive farming activities in the forest area that had gone from bad to worse.
Among the areas badly affected were FELDA Air Tawar 4, Desa Rhu, Bandar Penawar, Pengerang and Teluk Rumania.
SAM’s study revealed that the forest area was converted to agriculture land in 2012 and that the water level at the dam had been receding since 2013.
SAM president SM Mohamed Idris said the destructive activities had and would continue to affect the lives of the 100,000 people, who were dependent on water supply from the dam.
He said if immediate action was not taken to stop the farming activities, the dam’s water resources would be threatened and contaminated with hazardous chemical residue, affecting the health and lives of the residents.
He called on the authorities to take stringent legal action on the culprits responsible for the environmental damage and violation of the law.
“The dam now faces a worsening water shortage problem due to the forest exploitation.
“The Johor government must take immediate action to save Sungai Lebam Dam,” said Idris in a statement here today.
The state’s Land and Mines Office, Johor Forestry Department and local authorities were jointly inspecting the 20-hectare area of forest to find out how it was exploited for agriculture activities.
Idris has demanded that the findings of the investigation be made public and for the authorities to reveal how approval was given to explore and develop a forest reserve and water catchment area for purposes of farming.
“The authorities should restore and rejuvenate the cleared forest area to function as a water shed by replanting suitable forest plant species,” he suggested.
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