Floodwaters wash up littering habit

Gross apathy: Tonnes of waste, mostly plastics, ended up at the Batu flood retention pond after the flash floods in Kuala Lumpur last Thursday. — SAMUEL ONG/The Star

IT IS five days since Kuala Lumpur was inundated by floodwaters and is still reeling from the aftermath.

Waste contractors, who have the unenviable task of cleaning up the capital city, told StarMetro that work was “no where near over.”

Waste was stuck along city drains, including monsoon drains.

Over the weekend, Alam Flora and private waste contractors were spotted cleaning the city drains.

Looking at photos of flood retention ponds filled with waste, Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan described them as “shocking”.

Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation Federal Territories director Mohd Zahir Shari said cleaning work by private contractors hired by Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) was ongoing.

“No doubt the recent flooding was caused by excessive rainfall with some areas recording between 100mm and 200mm, but we cannot ignore the overwhelming waste that was pulled out of drains and rivers, ” he added.

Last Thursday afternoon’s flash flood was described by the authorities as “unprecedented” and “extremely rare”, but the incident itself revealed some of the bad habits of city folk.

Evidence of their indiscriminate littering and lack of civic-mindedness washed up at the Batu retention pond in Jalan Ipoh.

Tonnes of waste consisting of plastic cups, bottles and bags, face masks and various other forms of rubbish ended up at the pond following the downpour.

They presented a shocking image that can only sum up human indifference.

Many questioned why this happened as Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) had banned the use of plastic and polystyrene containers.

“There should be less rubbish with all the public outreach programmes and educational campaigns.

“I am shocked by the amount of rubbish seen in the pictures shown to me, ” said Nor Hisham.

A DID spokesperson affirmed that the amount of rubbish was getting more rather than less.

“To be honest, it is quite normal to see mountains of rubbish end up at retention ponds particularly after a downpour, but it (rubbish) should be reducing, not increasing.

“It is happening in all flood retention ponds, not just at Batu.

“This is a result of people throwing rubbish indiscriminately and directly into the drains, which end up in monsoon drains, rivers and eventually into the sea.

“We normally intercept the rubbish, which ends up at the collection points where we have our gross pollutant traps, log booms and trash rake. Then our contractors will clean it up.

“But in the case of diverting floodwater, everything ends up at the retention pond and that is why there is a lot of rubbish there, ’’ he said.

Rubbish and silt also end up at the Nanyang, Wahyu, and Delima flood mitigation ponds.

The Batu and Jinjang retention ponds are part of a multi-million ringgit flood mitigation system built to prevent flooding from rivers in Kuala Lumpur bursting their banks and the Klang River basin overflowing.

The system that has been operational since 2009 diverts extra water from Sungai Gombak and Sungai Keroh into the Batu and Jinjang retention ponds.

On Thursday, the system was activated at about 2pm to divert water from Sungai Gombak into the retention ponds, and water was later released back into the river after the rain stopped.

However, large amounts of rubbish and sediments ended up at the retention ponds.

“Clean-up efforts will take time but the amount of rubbish is also stressing out the system and cost money, ’’ said the spokesperson.

Alam Flora workers who were deployed to clean up the city over the recent weekend, complained of rubbish especially plastic almost in every nook and corner of the city drains and culverts.

Private contractors cleaning the River of Life (RoL) project site at the lookout point at Medan Pasar area said more and more plastics were emerging and getting stuck along the sides of the river bunds.

“The thing about floodwater is that when it starts, there is no stopping it.

“And with the water comes rubbish, fish and even snakes, ’’ said a worker carrying out cleaning work at the RoL site.

“The only thing that remains after the rain is rubbish, ’’ he added.

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