Tuesday July 12, 2011, MIRI: A pioneer project is taking shape in the mountainous interior of Bario to devise an environment-friendly method of waste disposal for rural communities without modern waste disposal system.
If successful, this first such project in the state and perhaps even in the country, may become the model for other rural waste disposal options nationwide.
The pioneer project in the northern region is impressive not only because of its significance but also because it was sparked off by a group of university students and the local communities in Bario.
Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry, after getting wind of the effort, now wants to help make it a success and then use it as a blueprint for rural waste disposal and management for the nation, says Datuk Sebastian Ting, the political secretary of Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin.
It all started when several students from Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Campus visited the Bario highlands recently and found the once clean and clear rivers there polluted due to blatant waste discharge.
Kelabit student Rachel Kedung Bulan decided to rope in a few mates from John Curtin Leadership Academy, a volunteer group to start a project called ‚ÄėDon‚Äôt Dump In Bario‚Äô or in local Kelabit dialect ‚ÄĒ Ngebata Ngeribed Bario.
Rachel formed a team made up of Mohsen Taheri, Eze Oriekwo, Syed Jamal Kazmi and Joanne Liew to kick-start the project to carry out an education campaign to stop blatant rubbish and waste dumping into the rivers in Bario.
The group also set up a project to reduce, reuse and recycle, and then designed a proper system to dispose of human and household wastes in a green manner.
Rachel said the beautiful pristine image of Bario was getting tainted by too much development projects that had resulted in serious environmental repercussions because of the absence of rubbish or waste disposal treatment plant in the area.
‚ÄúIn the past, the rivers in Bario were so clean, people could jump in and swim any time. That is no longer possible. Rubbish are flowing down the rivers freely,‚ÄĚ she said yesterday.
She attrributed this to the development taking place in Bario today and the freer movement of goods and people.
According to her, the once isolated settlements there were now accessible not only by air but also by road.
‚ÄúBario is facing unprecedented influx of people and tourists and this surge in human activities along with the construction of roads have resulted in a sudden increase in the amount of wastes and rubbish generated. We need to restore the beautiful image of Bario.‚ÄĚ
Elaborating on the project, she said what they were undertaking would involve three phases.
‚ÄúThe first phase involves an education campaign against blatant dumping of wastes and rubbish in Bario.
‚ÄúThe second phase, to reduce, reuse and recycle while the third phase is to devise a sustainable long-term system to decompose biodegradable wastes and green disposal methods that will carry minimal impact on the environment,‚ÄĚ she said.
Curtin Sarawak University Life manager Haslina Abdul Malek told The Star that Rurum Kelabit Sarawak Association and Sarawak Shell had joined in the effort, with Shell giving RM10,000 to help finance the project.
‚ÄúAn environmental expert from Japan (Naoko Sumiyoshi) is also joining in to give technical advice on how best to handle the project.
‚ÄúWe hope to come up with a green waste disposal system for Bario before end of this year,‚ÄĚ she said.
Ting said the ministry was excited with the Bario project not only because it was the first of its kind but also because it could serve as a model for other rural communities, if successful.
‚ÄúIt is a well-known fact that rural settlements in the deep interior of Sarawak and other states do not have any modern waste disposal system or waste treatment plants.
‚ÄúIf Bario can come up a waste disposal system that is green, it can be used as model for other rural settlements as well,‚ÄĚ he said.
Asked what his ministry could do to help the Bario project, he said it could seek specialist help for the Bario team and also get more funds from other relevant ministries such as Rural and Regional Development Ministry.
Ting said he would be visiting Bario next week to meet the team and to see for himself what sort of help the ministry could offer.