Ever been in a plane and looked down carefully at the sea around Penang?
These satellite images paint a thousand words. Look at the mess around the island and mainland. And take a careful look at the colour of the rivers leading to the sea. Black. Siltation and pollution. Ugh!
Now, would you really want to swim in these waters? You can see the contrast between the murky waters around Penang and the deep bluish green hues of the Andaman Sea farther north leading up to the breathtaking islands of south Thailand.
Is this the price we have to pay for industrialisation and ‘progress’? Is this an acceptable price, do you think? Who is to blame for this? Industry (untreated discharges that flow into the sea)? Property developers (hill-cutting that leads to siltation and sedimentation)? Lack of effective sewage and effluent treatment plants? Government (for its ‘pro-business policies’ that fail to take into consideration compliance with tight enivironmental regulations and standards)? Or all of the above?
It wasn’t always like this. The older generation will remember how crowds used to enjoy swimming off the coast of Batu Feringgi and Tanjung Bunga (until the 1970s) and even on the beaches of Butterworth and Telok Air Tawar (until the 1960s).
Now, there is so much talk about promoting tourism. You can read the funny brochures talking about the five-star beach hotels, white sandy beaches – but the brochures don’t mention the polluted sea and the jellyfish which thrives in it.
It is possible to clean up the rivers of Penang and the sea around it – if we have the political will to come down hard on pollution and siltation. (Singapore has cleaned up its rivers.)
What is the Department of the Environment and the government doing about this?