Looking to the sky for water Desa Mentari community gets new rain harvesting system, thanks to tie-up


Since 2007, the Spark Foundation has assisted Sungai Way residents living in parts of Desa Mentari (Block 1 to 5) to set up a community environmental educational hub called the ‘Sungai Way Community River Info Centre’.

THE Desa Mentari Block 1 community in Petaling Jaya has embarked on rainwater harvesting with the water harvested used in their community garden.

It is estimated that some 1mil litres of water will be harvested annually through the project and it would benefit some 1,800 residents here.

The initiative is part of the Water Project, in collaboration with the Spark Foundation, formerly known as the GAB Foundation, a corporate social responsibility arm of Heineken Malaysia.

In its latest initiative, the foundation has helped the community instal water harvesting equipment with special pipes installed from the roof of the flats to channel rainwater to a 72,000-litre tank.

Dr Kalithasan (left) and Renuka have been championing water care efforts among the locals. They hope the public would appreciate the importance of the river as the main source of water for consumption

Dr Kalithasan (left) and Renuka have been championing water care efforts among the locals. They hope the public would appreciate the importance of the river as the main source of water for consumption

Resident Baharuddin Sulaiman, 50, said the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) has provided space for the residents to embark on the gardening project.

“The council allowed us to use a plot of land by the river bank for gardening. We have plans to plant chili, leafy vegetables and long beans,” he said.

The residents have formed a team of seven to lead the project and would rope in more residents later.

At present, the residents do carry out gardening on small vacant spots within the premises. They usually plant herbs used for traditional medicinal purposes as well as cooking.

Residents in Desa Mentari block 1, Petaling Jaya will be taking their gardening to the next level with the community gardening project. At present, residents convert small spaces to plant herbs.

Residents in Desa Mentari block 1, Petaling Jaya will be taking their gardening to the next level with the community gardening project. At present, residents convert small spaces to plant herbs.

Since 2007, Spark Foundation has assisted Sungai Way residents living in parts of Desa Mentari (Block 1 to 5) to set up a community environmental educational hub called Sungai Way Community River Info Centre.

Resident Zainal Kamarulzaman, 63, who is among those actively involved with the project, said the programme has been a success and it now conducts environmental education activities for students.

The community was also trained by Global Environment Centre (GEC), a non-profit organisation that champions the environmental issues of global importance.

“We have a cabin as our base here and the surrounding space has been turned into an educational herb garden. We have various elements of green living such as our mini rainwater harvesting system, used oil collection point, composting and fish ponds.

The community garden project will help the residents take their current gardening efforts to the next level.

The community garden project will help the residents take their current gardening efforts to the next level.

“Schools from the neighbourhood do organise trips here to understand the importance of preserving the environment and how the ecosystem works in correlation.

“In recent times, we have invited youths to be active with us. We need them to carry on the knowledge of green living,” Zainal said.

The community hopes to embark on aquaponic technology which will enable them to grow vegetables and rear fish for consumption.

Based on the Environment Department’s 2016 Environmental Quality report of 477 monitored rivers, only 47% were found clean.

With 90% of our water supply coming from rivers in the country, it is important to ensure the water sources are in pristine condition.

GEC River Care Coordinator Dr Kalithasan Kailasam said there were misconceptions among the public of where their drinking water source is from.

“People think that drinking water is sourced mostly from the dams. They fail to realise that most of our drinking water is sourced from the rivers and this is why we must take extremely good care of our waterways,” he said.

“In the old model, water from the dam is channelled to the treatment plant and distributed to houses.

Resident Baharuddin Sulaiman will be among those who will be part of the rain water harvesting project initiated by the Spark Foundation. Behind him is the 72,000 litre water tank installed in Desa Mentari Block 1.

Resident Baharuddin Sulaiman will be among those who will be part of the rain water harvesting project initiated by the Spark Foundation. Behind him is the 72,000 litre water tank installed in Desa Mentari Block 1.

“While this method still exists, the new model sees water directly extracted from the river into the treatment plant and after being treated, it is sent to houses.

“The water intake is taken even from the middle stream. The dam could be in Cheras but the water intake could be at a river in Beranang,” Kalithasan explained.

He said river pollution has to stop at all costs.

“People often ask what dumping rubbish or polluting the river has got to do with our drinking water?

“The truth is that everything you pollute the river with will eventually return to you,” he said.

The community garden in one of the blocks in Desa Mentari.

The community garden in one of the blocks in Desa Mentari.

Understanding the need to shift mind-sets, Spark Foundation trustee Renuka Indrarajah said the foundation hopes for the public to appreciate the importance of rivers as the main source of water for consumption.

“Since 2007, we have engaged with more than 25,000 people and adopted five rivers nationwide through our foundation. We hope to create a society that will nurture this natural resource in the long run,” she said.

The foundation, with its collaborative efforts with the GEC, government agencies and local communities, has embarked on activities spread over three phases from 2007 until 2020.

In the first phase, the foundation worked with the Sungai Way community since 2007 and in the second phase, it moved to other rivers such as Sungai Kinta and Sungai Penchala.

This year sees the start of the third phase, which is the water stewardship agenda that will take place until 2020.

Renuka said these projects have seen great impact among the local communities who are now championing the river care causes.

“The new rainwater harvesting project at Desa Mentari is another step for the residents to learn to tap into other resources for water,” she said.

Renuka said working with the communities over the years has enabled her to see how the communities have also grown wiser by understanding issues related to the environment beyond just caring for the rivers.

The residents who are part of the ‘Sungai Way Community River Info Centre’ are now able to pass their knowledge to others and be advocates as river rangers, she said.

The foundation, under its water stewardship agenda, aims to reduce the stress on local water resources and ensure watershed security.

It plans to focus on reducing or offsetting water consumption and continue to improve the water quality of the rivers.

“Reducing water use is done through activities such as rainwater harvesting, the use of inserts such as thimbles in pipes to reduce water flow and reforestation,” Renuka explained.

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