Young Puteri raises river awareness

Safwan (left), Norhidayah (back row, fifth from left), UTM lecturer and book contributor Dr Nina Diana Nawi (right) with kindergarten and primary school pupils as they hold copies of the book.

PUTERI is a six-year-old girl and she is here to educate children about the importance of being kind to rivers.

She is the title character in a storybook published by the Iskandar Puteri City Council (MBIP) targeted at children aged 12 and below.

The book, produced in collaboration with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and United Nations Development Programme, was one year in the making involving a nine-member committee from MBIP and the higher learning institution.

The council’s town and country planning officer and project head Safwan Shaari said MBIP hoped to use the Puteri character to drive home the message on loving our rivers.

“It is part of our ongoing efforts under MBIP’s Sungai Skudai Rehabilitation Plan to engage with the public so that the awareness of pollution and environmental cleanliness can be inculcated from a young age.

“We have published 2,500 copies of the book, which incorporates activities such as word games, stickers and infographics in the interesting story line.

“The books are meant to be distributed in schools in our jurisdiction and to the public during our engagement programmes, ” he told StarMetro.

A series of programmes have been held since the river rehabilitation plan kicked off in 2017, such as public awareness seminars, urban farming, compost projects and educational campaigns.

“All the programmes and engagements are aimed at conducting studies and engaging with the public to reach MBIP’s ultimate goal of a low-carbon society in our jurisdiction by 2030.

“So far, we have engaged with more than 8,000 members of the community.

“We usually organise programmes catered to different target groups to resonate with them better and get our message across in order to change the public’s behaviour towards the environment in overcoming pollution in Sungai Skudai, ” he said.

He added that the 46km-long Sungai Skudai, named one of the most polluted

rivers in Johor, flowed through areas under three local councils, namely the Kulai Municipal Council, MBIP and Johor Baru City Council.

Since MBIP started the river rehabilitation plan, the other two councils had also kicked off their respective efforts this year, he said.

Under its river rehabilitation plan, the council aims to incorporate landscaping and recreational elements along the river such as walkways, jogging paths, water activities, exhibition gallery and activity areas.

“With another 10 years to go in the plan, a lot still needs to be done, not only physical programmes such as river cleaning and infrastructure upgrades but also in terms of behavioural change.

“Previously, we conducted many awareness programmes but we noticed that awareness does not last so we try to organise more fun and educational programmes to influence behavioural change for the better, ” he said.

Meanwhile, UTM faculty of built environment and surveying senior lecturer Dr Norhidayah Md Yunus, who is also the book’s chief editor, said they tried to make it educational through storytelling.

“The title character Puteri is aptly named after MBIP and created to educate kindergarten and primary school pupils about the importance of caring for our rivers.

“It follows Puteri, who hears about the state of Johor’s rivers through the news and decides to do something about it after her parents brings her to a playground near Sungai Skudai, ” she said.

She added that her team would also be obtaining feedback from the young readers to assess their understanding about the subject matter so that improvements could be made for future publications such as the graphics, tone and language.

Dr Norhidayah said many outside of Johor, such as schools and universities, had expressed interest in getting their hands on the book.

She said it was not for sale but the public could access the e-book via MBIP’s website at

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