Prime Minister Datuk Seri’ Najib Tun Razak launched the River of Life (ROL) project back in April of this year, and subsequently announced that the project will welcome approximately 27,000 new employment opportunities.
The project is aimed at reviving and restoring health and vitality to the Gombak and the Klang rivers but with the project being 80% completed thus far, media reports have surfaced of littering and garbage being dumped into the river hindering the project’s success.
"To date, clean-up efforts are currently commencing along a 110km network of 8 rivers, consisting Sungai Gombak, Sungai Batu, Sungai Jinjang, Sungai Keroh, Sungai Bunus, Sungai Ampang, Sungai Klang and Sungai Keroyong.
"At the start of the ROL project in 2011, the water quality was classified as Class 3 or 4 (unsafe for body contact). This will change in 2020 when water quality gets rehabilitated to Class 2B (defined as safe for recreation and body contact)," Najib wrote on his blogpost about the project.
However, all the government's efforts and investment will be in vain if the public continue with their habit of indiscriminate dumping.
Malaysian Digest decided to get in touch with several stakeholders to highlight and create awareness as to how littering and garbage-dumping harm the project and drain tax dollars, while ultimately robbing people of job opportunities.
“People Persist In Throwing Rubbish Into The River Out Of Convenience”
Malaysian Digest queried several members of the public and found that majority are either unaware of the ROL project or opine that river pollution do not have a detrimental effect on the city, the people and the nation.
“I think the ROL project is a commendable initiative, because it champions clean rivers – which in my opinion, is crucial in ensuring the health of the city,” 24-year-old Athena May said.
“But sadly people persist in throwing rubbish into the river out of convenience and lack of education. I know it’s cliché, but perhaps most of us refuse to acknowledge that flooding may be the result of polluted rivers.”
Asking Athena to take a guess on the benefits that the project will bring, the passionate environmentalist stated “a bountiful of career opportunities as the project will definitely produce more tourism-related businesses.”
Similar to Athena, Siti Maimunah applauded the government for the beneficial initiative as she foresees that the project will help boost the country’s economy.
“The fact that it breeds immense job opportunities should inspire Malaysians to hinder from littering and throwing rubbish into the river.
“Our devil-may-care demeanour may result in more setbacks for the group of entities that makes up the ROL project, and therefore delaying us further from reaping in the project’s benefits,” the 27-year-old opined.
The former Public Relations executive underlined that aside from job opportunities, she strongly believes that the ROL project will encourage a healthier lifestyle as the rivers can be used for recreational purposes.
Shay Munn on the other hand conveyed that the project is just another political agenda, whereby the government hopes to fish in more support in light of the forthcoming general election.
“Sure the project itself sounds impressive; but who’s to say that behind closed doors, a hidden agenda is not being carried out?,” she speculated.
“As for the matter of river pollution, I think the government should have focused on that more rather than combining it will a project that’s worth billions of ringgit because I think the project itself isn’t strong enough to call for the public to put an end to littering.”
“Someone Has To Take The Blame And That’s Often The Government”
Amongst the list of organisations that are contributing to the ROL project, EcoKnights is the ‘rakan kongsi’ to the Sungai Bunus River Committee and are currently assisting in the Public Outreach Component (POP) for Sungai Kerayung.
President and founder Yasmin Rasyid added that the Non-governmental organisation (NGO) also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Kuala Lumpur City Council (DBKL) and the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) in 2014 to be an active participant in river protection and restora
“We talk and engage with the communities,” Yasmin shared with Malaysian Digest as she elaborated further on how the NGO chipped in their efforts.
“From there, we engage with them through activities and programmes that are mutually agreed upon, and we hope that these activities can scale up and influence more people.”
The optimistic lady also relayed that the NGO also works on building the capacities of the communities whether it is facilitating learning about river conservation or teaching new skill via workshops on food waste composting, which is a method to reduce disposal of food waste in to waterways.
“We also enhance awareness and knowledge through communication by producing materials to inform the public and media,” she stated and added that the NGO advocates for better policies with relevant stakeholders as well.
While evidently the noble NGO is doing their bit, Yasmin regretfully revealed that society has this general consensus that it is solely the responsibility of the government to solve the issue with river pollution.
“If it’s inconvenient, someone has to take the blame and that’s often the government. That’s the mentality of Malaysians in general, but they don’t realise that we have to solve these problems ourselves,” she communicated.
On that note, Yasmin kindly conveyed a series of challenges that the NGO encountered whilst championing the ROL project:
“If people do not stop throwing rubbish into the rivers, floods will occur and therefore resulting in economic loses to the government and the people,” she underlined and emphasised that the quality of river water will subsequently deteriorate and the river’s usage will diminish.
“For our sanity and for our health, it is imperative for the public to maintain the cleanliness level of the rivers as the health of the river is indicative of the health of the city.”
If You Continue To Pollute The River With Rubbish, You Are Literally Paying For Cleaning It
To elaborate further on the ROL project, Malaysian Digest spoke with the Director of the Division of River Basin Management under the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) , Ir. Ng Kok Seng, who shared that the project is one of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) as identified by the 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEA).
“The project is broken into three components namely, River Cleaning; River Beautification; and Commercialisation and Tourism, with the third component indication the project’s completion,” he explained and revealed that DID is spearheading the River Cleaning component.
“We’re going to transform eight rivers with the length of 110km along the Klang and Gombak river from its current Class III – Class IV water quality, which is not suitable for body-contact, to Class IIB, which is suitable for body contact for recreational purposes by year 2020.”
With job opportunities often being regarded as the most significant benefit that comes with the project, Ng predicted that the third component of the project will entice investors and subsequently boost commercialisation and business activities.
“Look at the river of Thames in London or even the Malacca river; they have tourist attractions such as cafes and shops by the rivers, river cabs and so forth. So these future possibilities will definitely spur (more) jobs for the local community,” he pointed out and added that it will also help boost our economy.
But beyond that, Ng underlined that the project will also help to improve the quality of life within the city as they aim to encourage people to look at the rivers as assets rather than a dumping ground for them to discard their garbage.
“Look at the River City – our clean rivers will turn the city into a more vibrant and liveable area as it encourages more recreational activities. Not only that, the project will allow citizens to recover the historical and cultural aspect of Kuala Lumpur, such as conserving historical buildings along the rivers and so forth.
“The other benefit is that the river will depend less on treatment and will not spend so much on maintenance once the river is clean and safe to come in contact with local citizens,” he said.
Relaying to Ng that most Malaysians do not believe that littering has a direct effect on the country, he strongly emphasised that Malaysians are literally paying for the price of littering and throwing rubbish in the river as cleaning initiatives takes a chunk of taxpayers’ money.<p“They don’t think about it. The thing is, if you continue to pollute the river with rubbish, you are literally paying for it as cleaning initiatives are carried out using taxpayers’ money,” he unveiled.>
“Yes, the filters are created to filter out rubbish. But people don’t realise that the government will have to spend more in order to collect the rubbish and quite possibly invest more in infrastructure to address the littering problem, which is sourced from the public in general, wet markets, illegal quarters as well as nearby factories and shops.”
But while most believe that river pollution does not have a direct impact on the country, Ng emphasised that the condition of the river is reflective of its citizens, as well as the nation as a whole, which can be detrimental on the global stage.
“People may deduce that with dirty rivers, then the people must be unhygienic as well. How can we move forward in becoming a developed nation when he have difficulties keeping our rivers clean?,” Ng asked and urged Malaysians to stop littering in general.
With the ROL project bringing in more career opportunities and economic growth, we at Malaysian Digest call on Malaysians to do their bit in championing the project by putting an end to littering and to not regard rivers as dumping grounds.
If you would like to do your part towards rehabilitating KL rivers, Malaysians can also show their support this 24 September on World Rivers Day at Kolam Setapak Jaya, Kolam Titiwangsa, Taman Sungai Bunus and Kolam Kg Boyan as the involved parties help raise awareness on river rehabilitation.
- Malaysian Digest