Prawns, crabs and fish caught from Sungai Sarawak can be consumed at the public's own risk as the river is among the most polluted in the state.

State Natural Resources and Environmental Board (NREB) controller Peter Sawal, however, did not press the panic button yet as there are many local fishermen whose livelihood still depended on the river.

"We know that the river, especially near Bintawa Industrial Area, has higher level of metal content compared with other parts of the river, between Batu Kitang and Kuching Barrage.

"However, we do not want to cause panic among the the people over the situation."

According to a book entitled A Field Guide to the Fishes of Kuching Rivers: Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, written by Katherine Atack, a student of University Malaysia Sarawak, there are more than 100 species of freshwater fish thriving in the Sarawak River.

Sawal pointed out that even though fish, prawns and crabs thrived in the river, that did not mean that they were safe for consumption.

A check with the Malaysian Fishery Development Board, State Veterinary Department, the Agriculture Department and the Health Department revealed that no government agency have been designated to ensure the safety of the fish, crabs and prawns of the river for consumption.

According to Sawal, what made the aquatic lives of Sungai Sarawak hazardous for human consumption was the intake of black and grey water from the residents of Kuching.

"What made matters worse is that four of Sungai Sarawak's tributaries, such as Sungai Maong, Sungai Bintangor, Sungai Padungan and Sungai Sekama are highly polluted."

According to NREB's Environmental Quality Reports 2008, the monitoring results indicated that the rivers were all polluted by coliform bacteria (FCC and TCC).

All these rivers were located in the vicinity of, or flowed through, the urban centres of Kuching city.

Captain Goh Chin Guan, controller of the Sarawak River Barrage, concurred that the toxicity of the river lately had been very dirty as the water from the source upstream carried with it all the rubbish and waste.

Goh said the frequency of flashing the river water above the barrage would depend on tides, rain and drought.

Sawal said that despite the bleak picture, Kuching could brace for a better waste water management system which is in the pipeline with the soon-to-be-constructed Kuching City waste Management system.

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Felda is filing a defamation suit against several Pakatan Rakyat leaders, Suara Keadilan publishers and reporters for making a false claim that Felda was bankrupt and in disarray. Petronas, Felda, Sime Darby, MISC, Bank Bumiputra, etc. When are we going to learn? Come election, the rakyat vote them back into government for a mere RM50. That's what most of the poor kampung folks get.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Ahmad Maslan said they would sue them for hundreds of millions of ringgit.

“Felda is certainly not bankrupt as it has RM12.2bil in net assets,’’ he said.

Among those who would be named in the suit are Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, PKR political bureau member Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, PAS’ Kuala Terengganu MP Mohd Abdul Wahid Endut, former Land and Co-operative Development deputy minister Datuk Dr Tan Kee Kwong who has now joined PKR, as well as Suara Keadilan chief editor Suhaimi Said, its owner and writers.

“We have spoken to our lawyers and we want to initiate a suit against them for making the false claims (in the Suara Keadilan June 22-29 edition).

“The title “Felda bangkrap” shows they have ill intention to discredit Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak,’’ he said.

Ahmad had earlier called for a press conference to counter the lies spread by the opposition leaders.

“The lies have adversely affected investors’ and stakeholders’ confidence in the agency,’’ he said.

He said although Felda’s cash reserve had dropped from RM4.08bil in 2004 to RM1.35bil last year, its fixed asset had appreciated greatly from RM9.17bil to RM15.37bil during the corresponding period.

Felda is the world’s largest fully integrated oil-based plantation group owning 92 factories worldwide. Felda is also Malaysia’s biggest plantation owner with estates covering 853,000 ha nationwide.

Ahmad said the agenda of the opposition was to erode Felda settlers’ confidence in Umno.

“We know what they are up to because Felda settlements are Barisan Nasional strongholds, and the opposition leaders are willing to resort to lies to fish for votes,’’ he said.

Felda is also taking action against Dr Tan for stating in an open letter that the Prime Minister was single-handedly destroying Felda.

Zaid and Klang MP Charles Santiago had called on the authorities to investigate Dr Tan’s claim.

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