YOUTHS are change-makers who can make a positive difference.
Realising this, several university undergraduates embarked on a programme to engage with youths in Kampung Kuantan, Kuala Selangor, to form a youth environmental group, Inspirasi Kawa.
They have made it their mission to save the fireflies and mangroves of Sungai Selangor.
In 2013, Siti Norasiah Abd Kadir from Universiti Malaya’s (UM) Engineering Faculty and Affan Nasaruddin from the Science Faculty’s Geology Department embarked on the project with local youth Masbudi Abdul Malek.
“The idea for Inspirasi Kawa came about when we took a boat ride with a local called Ngah Razak. He is the son of the firefly tourism founder in Kampung Kuantan.
“He asked if we could help form an environmental group which focused on the conservation of fireflies in the village and Sungai Selangor.
“Today, Masbudi is successfully leading the group. He keeps in contact and comes to us for advice, ” said Affan who is a project officer at UM’s Sustainability and Living Labs Secretariat under the Water Warriors Living Lab.
Affan and Siti were inspired by a similar project in Tanjung Kupang, Johor, where a group of young villagers came together to care for the environment.
“We were also inspired by the Japanese culture of respecting and caring for the environment.
“The word kawa is river in Japanese. That is why we named our group, Inspirasi Kawa, ” he said.
Affan added that Masbudi played an important role in keeping the Inspirasi Kawa project active.
“It is important to find a passionate local champion who cares for the environment.
“With Masbudi’s help, we have managed to attract more locals to participate in efforts to protect the river, including conservation activities such as cleaning our waterways, planting riparian trees or working at the plant nursery, ” said Affan.
Over the years, the youths from Kampung Kuantan have been invited to give talks at conferences and seminars on river conservation.
“Our efforts have helped boost the local economy as well as tourism in the village.
“This attracts more locals to come together and unite for the sake of our rivers, ” he said.
Affan said the challenge was to ensure continuity by getting a new generation of youths to join in efforts to care for rivers.
“Sometimes people laugh when we pick up rubbish from the river because they feel the task will never end.
“But we must not stop cleaning the river and continue with efforts to stop the pollution of the waterway, ” he said.
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