Bauxite mining: Buyers fear harm from fish

No danger, we promise: Sungai Balok fishermen insist that their catch is safe for consumption, as it is caught 40km away from the beaches feared to be polluted with bauxite dust.
PHOTO: The Star

BENTONG - Consumers buying fish here are being extra careful - they fear the controversial bauxite mining in Kuantan, about 195km away may have caused environmental pollution and eating the fish may prove harmful.

At the Bentong market here, a fishmonger identified only as Wong said there were those who were scared to eat fish from Kuantan for health reasons.

"Falling sick is very costly these days," she said, referring to the high cost of medical treatment, when met at the Bentong market here.

She said she and her husband had been fishmongers for some 20 years and they sourced their fish from the Selayang wholesale market in Selangor.

She said there were several factors affecting the price of fish, and she reckoned that the bauxite scare might have resulted in a slight rise in prices recently.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam had on Wednesday advised people against drinking water from rivers in Kuantan following the bauxite mining and environmental pollution there, reported Sin Chew Daily.

On whether the scare had resulted in more consumers opting for chicken, a poultry seller at the Bentong market said she did not notice an increase in sales thus far.

Sungai Balok chief fisherman Raja Haris Raja Salim, 63, gave an assurance that the fish they caught were perfectly safe as they trawled around 40km away from the beach.

"Some customers were concerned, but we explained the pollution only goes as far as about 1km to 4km from the beach," he said.

He doubted that bauxite mining was to blame for the pollution, saying it was normal for the river to get a bit muddy during monsoon season.

Raja Haris said the fishermen would be the first to know if the pollution caused any illnesses as they spent most of their time in the water.

An education officer, Dzulkeffly Abdul Ghani, 45, said he believed the fish sold at the market here were fit for consumption.

Nevertheless, he said, people should not buy fish from the roadside, especially dead fish which might be from the beach in Kuantan.