Johor to gazette water catchments as protected areas

A vegetable farm situated next to the Sembrong Dam in Kluang.

JOHOR BARU - The state government wants to gazette all 15 water catchment areas in the state as "protected areas" to better manage its water resources.

Once they are gazetted by year-end, there would be better supervision and enforcement around the catchment areas, said state Public Works, Rural and Regional Development chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad.

"Only a few have been gazetted so far. With the gazette, signs and fences would be put up at certain spots to warn people against fishing or planting trees or crops within the catchment areas," he said in an interview.

Hasni said the state water regulatory body would also have to iron out some issues with the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID), as four of the catchment areas were within their purview.

He said the cost of gazetting would be huge, but the state government was committed towards better managing the water resources.

"Building more dams is not the best solution as it requires a lot of land," he said, adding that some of the state's water resources were under threat.

Hasni noted that the critical ones included the Sembrong Dam in Kluang, pollution in Simpang Renggam and Machap and salt water issues in Muar, especially during the dry season and changing of tides.

"The continuous drop in the water level at the Sg Lebam dam in Kota Tinggi is also a cause for concern," he said, adding that if the water level dropped too low, they might have to pump water from other rivers into the dam.

The Star had previously reported that the Sembrong Dam - a major water source for 120,000 people in the districts of Kluang and parts of Batu Pahat - was "slowly dying" due to an algae bloom, which threatened to halt water production and the existence of marine life in it.

The dam, which was built for flood mitigation in 1984 and managed by the DID, had been providing water for consumption since 1990.

Hasni said all local authorities had also been told to be strict in approving the construction of factories beside waterways.