JOHOR BARU: The authorities are taking the pollution and illegal dumpsite issue in Taman Bukit Kempas seriously and are in the midst of identifying the appropriate measures to take, including seizing and forfeiting the land being used for such activities.

District officer Datuk Abdul Rahman Salleh said he has since called for a meeting with all the relevant agencies to find a solution to the problem.

“We are looking at various acts or laws to use against these culprits as some of the structures are built on agricultural land.

“I assure the residents that we are doing our best as we too are concerned about the people’s wellbeing and health,” he said, adding that if there is a need, he will hold another meeting to coordinate enforcement efforts.

Abdul Rahman said that each agency has its own powers to act against those responsible.

Johor Environment Department (DOE) director Dr Mohd Famey Yusoff said the core issue of the problem is that the landowner had permitted outsiders to dump garbage onto his/her land to fill it up.

“Unlike sanitary land fields that are designed to treat the effluent discharged, these illegal dumpsites store the decaying garbage and waste and over time, the effluent emits toxic fumes and gases that ignite during hot weather.

“Untreated effluent can also flow into nearby lakes and water sources and pollute them,” he said, adding that the relevant authorities should take action to nip such operations in the bud.

Asked about talk that the DOE had found traces of heavy metals, including mercury, in its sampling of lake water, he said that after tonnes of rubbish have been piled up over time, the effluent coming out from such places is bound to contain some form of toxins or heavy metals.

“I hope that through this inter- agency group formed by the district officer, concerted efforts can be taken to tackle the issue at the source, especially those using farming land for such activities,” he said, adding that it is paramount to stop the effluent from continuing to contaminate the lake.

Mohd Famey said that once the discharge is stopped, the lake will clean itself up naturally over time.

Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) mayor Datuk Noorazam Osman said that MBJB has done its best to tackle the issue and he hopes the land office will act immediately to seize the land.

“We have issued compounds and fines but somehow these illegal activities continue to occur. It is time to take drastic action against this private landowner or those involved,” he said, adding that this problem has also cost MBJB almost RM200,000 to clear up the illegal dumpsite in the area.

Johor Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp) director Cairul Hisham Jalaluddin said that it too is waiting for information from the land office to wrap up its investigations and to take the landowner to court.

“We have also been carrying out several operations to nab those discarding rubbish or waste red-handed,” he said, adding that the area is too big for SWCorp to carry out surveillance effectively.

He said that SWCorp is unable to charge the landowners in court due to insufficient information as one of the owners has died and the land title has not been transferred to another person.

Cairul agreed that Bukit Kempas is among the hotspots in the state for illegal dumping activities.