A man stands near dead fishes on the banks of Sungai Tongak in Kuantan today.
Photos: Afif Abd Halim
Malaysia: Dead fish leave Kuantan residents uneasy over bauxite spills
By Muzliza Mustafa, 5th January 2016;
Hundreds of dead fish washed up in Sungai Toggek in Gebeng, Pahang, this morning have put residents in the area on alert to the possibility of bauxite contamination.
Businessman Idahar Zulkupli, 40, said this is the first time he saw the dead fish washed up from the river in the area and feared it could be because of bauxite mining.
Idahar, who has lived in the area since childhood, said that the suspicion was valid as the state was hit by the effects from uncontrolled bauxite mining.
“I cannot say for sure that bauxite was the cause of what happened today but i fear that this could be the reason. It can also be because of the chemical accidentally released by the factories from the industrial area here,” said Idahar.
He added that two days prior to today’s incident, the water at Pantai Balok went murky.
“It was pretty bad. It’s not the normal sea water. It smells of dirt, earth. Then this happened. I can’t help thinking that this could be because of bauxite,” said the man.
The dead fish along Toggek River were spotted by passers-by at 8.30am who then alerted the authorities, including the Fisheries Department.
PAS’s Beserah state assemblyman Andansuran Rabu said that the agency came at about 10am to take dead fish and water samples from the scene and would be sending it to the Chemistry Department for tests.
“All we want is for the result to be made available to all once it’s ready. We do not know if it’s from bauxite but people are scared,” he said.
He added that the river is also near to bauxite stockpile storage.
“The storage is on top of a hill some 1.5km from the river. When it rained, the water will flow into the river,” he said.
Rampant bauxite mining has been blamed for turning rivers and the shoreline off Kuantan, on Peninsular Malaysia’s east coast, red after two days of heavy rain earlier last week.
Since Kuantan ramped up its mining of bauxite for export to China last year, residents in the area have complained about pollution, caused by red dust from the mining and leakage from lorries transporting bauxite to the Kuantan port.
It was reported that in the first 11 months of 2015, Malaysia exported more than 20 million tonnes of bauxite to China, up nearly 700% on the previous year.
In 2013, it only shipped around 162,000 tonnes.