RIVER activists in the Klang Valley are calling for local governments like Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to relook its zoning laws.
They hope that the authorities will tighten requirements with regard to density as well as set back restrictions and lot size pertaining to businesses which were allowed to operate near water bodies such as lakes and rivers.
This, they said, was crucial to protect the environment, especially in areas nearby rivers.
Universiti Malaya’s Water Warrior project officer Affan Nasaruddin said the key to change was urban planning.
“You can change the laws as much as you like but pollution is likely to happen even if people throw rubbish in the jungle, as it will reach the rivers eventually,” Affan said.
“We need better urban planning, zoning ordinance and better strategies on where, for example, a factory is supposed to be located and where it should never be located,” he said.
UM’s Water Warrior is an initiative to help revive and rehabilitate water bodies on campus.
KRT Kampung Kasipillay committee secretary Muruga Rajan Lingappan agreed with Affan, adding that businesses should not be allowed to operate nearby rivers and other water bodies.
He cited his neighbourhood, Kampung Kasipillay in Batu, as an example of an area with a backyard facing a river.
“Restrictions have to be put in place to limit the kind of activities that are allowed here,” he said.
Muruga elaborated that the community in Kampung Kasipillay worked hard to keep Sungai Batu clean but at times, were frustrated that the authorities who while applauding their efforts, chose to ignore the presence of businesses such as car workshops and car wash in the area.
He claimed that these businesses were inadvertently polluting the river with effluence.
The neighbourhood’s residents won the River of Life Public Outreach Programme Phase 5 (ROLPOP5) community champion category last year for their efforts in keeping Sungai Batu clean.
“It took us several years to get Sungai Batu clean and it was even harder to convince people not to throw rubbish into rivers.
“That’s why I get really angry when I hear stories of people and factories polluting rivers,’’ he said.
“The government must ensure that some types of businesses are not allowed to operate near water bodies, and that those allowed instal better filtering systems and adopt better cleaning practices on their premises.”
Both Affan and Muruga also called for higher penalties such as jail sentences and even community service like river cleaning.
Earlier this month, unscheduled water cuts in the Klang Valley affected millions of people and caused 1,292 areas in seven districts in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor to be affected.
Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd announced that pollution was detected in the rivers and that the culprit, a factory operator, was a repeat offender.
“Incarceration should be mandatory for those who pollute rivers,’’ said Shayley Hing, an environmental activist from Friends of the Sungai Klang Mid Valley River Three.
“Pollution should be viewed as a threat to national security and be tried as such,” she said.
“There was an uproar over what happened to Sungai Kim Kim but the fact is that the sentencing passed was not enough of a deterrent to perpetrators hence the disregard of current laws with impunity,” she added.
Hing said apart from criminal charges, river polluters must do community service and volunteer at river cleaning sessions.
“They need to understand what it feels like to clean up rivers and learn how their actions are harming the environment,” she added.
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