‘Involve public in river management’

Rubbish lining a bank of Sungai Kayu Ara where illegal dumping, open burning and wastewater discharge have polluted the river. — Filepic

IT IS important to adopt a holistic approach towards river management to contain pollution problems affecting waterways.

Global Environment Centre (GEC) river care programme coordinator Dr K. Kalithasan said when a particular river was not a source of water for human consumption, its care would likely be neglected.

“This attitude should be done away with because rivers are interconnected and there must be an integrated approach towards river management,” said Kalithasan.

“There will be some form of negative implication towards nature if any one river suffers from pollution.”

Kalithasan was commenting on a StarMetro report on July 16 over long-standing illegal dumping and open burning problems in Sungai Kayu Ara, Petaling Jaya.

Residents in Ara Damansara are at their wits’ end over the problems that have plagued them for more than a decade without any lasting solution.

The problems were exacerbated by thousands of fish found dead in the river two weeks ago by residents of Kampung Chempaka.

According to state environment, green technology, science and consumer affairs committee chairman Hee Loy Sian, the pollution could have been caused by wastewater discharged from sewage treatment plants.

Kalithasan felt that the relevant agencies – Selangor Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID), Selangor Water Management Authority (Luas) and local authorities – must determine the overall management of Sungai Kayu Ara.

“The Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) strategy by Luas is popular. The plan gives rivers an important role in the ecosystem over the long term.

“This requires policies and decisions across various sectors. Rivers have social, economic and ecological impacts that must be taken into consideration.

“Luas has the best model for river management. The issue doesn’t end with tackling illegal dumping but goes beyond and a key component for success is community involvement,” said Kalithasan.

When agencies are not proactive or effective in providing holistic solutions, it frustrates the community and public, he added.

“When the public is frustrated, they will say things like the authorities are not doing their job despite receiving numerous reports.

“The public is not interested in inconsistent enforcement that don’t offer sustainable solutions. There must be a plan beyond stopping illegal waste dumping.”

Kalithasan said riverbanks and river reserves could be turned into community activity spots as part of river care management, adding that a component of IRBM involved public engagement.

“No matter how good or efficient the authorities are, they still need to include public engagement as mentioned by the plan.

“There are many communities willing to adopt river reserves. They can turn them into community gardens or recreational spots. This is a way forward to tackle issues related to river pollution.

These communities could also be the eyes and ears of the authorities.

“Sungai Kayu Ara flows into Sungai Damansara. If you don’t solve the problem at Sungai Kayu Ara, which is easier, it will snowball into a bigger problem.”

Meanwhile, Ara Damansara Residents’ Association spokesperson Albert Lau said residents were willing to turn the polluted riverbank into a community garden project if given the opportunity.

“The irony is no one even bothered to contact us since the story was published by StarMetro, be it the local councils, the authorities, the state assemblyman or the MP. We want to solve this issue once and for all,” said Lau.

According to Shah Alam City Council (MBSA), the land owner where the illegal dumping took place was previously instructed to clear the area and asked to cordon off the location from intruders.

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