ARMED with grass cutters, litter picking tools and rubbish bags, about 200 participants gathered at Taman Tasik Rekreasi Baginda in Sepang, Selangor, for a plogging (jogging while collecting litter)event.
They were there to fish out rubbish from Sungai Air Hitam, which is a tributary of Sungai Langat.
Kampung Dato Abu Bakar Baginda village chief Ruzi Mat Juri recounts how plogging became a regular activity in the area.
“As children, we used to play and swim in the area but that changed.
“Rubbish as well as sullage and sewage from outlying areas started affecting the water quality,” he said.
Not willing to stand idly by, resident Darus Ismail, 68, who is a retired government officer, started plogging activities at the river with his friends.
“This was three years ago, we didn’t get much support then,” said Yusak Harun, 64, a close friend of Darus who spoke on his behalf.
Soon, a group of like-minded individuals including area councillors and community leaders joined them.
Over time, this circle grew to include students and staff from the area’s surrounding educational and training institutions who took part in the activity under their corporate social responsibility programmes.
As a result, the area which was once overgrown with grass has been transformed into a recreational space, complete with landscaping, a playground and open space for a morning market.
Total rehabilitation cost of about RM100,000 was borne by residents.
Plogging activities now take place as regularly as once every two weeks in Sungai Air Hitam.
One regular volunteer is none other than Environment and Water Ministry (Kasa) secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Zaini Ujang who has been going there to plog since 2019.
“The condition of this river has improved by 70%. There are now fish, tadpoles and other forms of life,” said Zaini.
Praising residents for taking the initiative to clean the river, Zaini pointed out that two water treatment plants are located downstream.
“I tell my friends if they want to drink clean water, they could start cleaning up this spot,” said Zaini.
The event was organised by Informa Markets in collaboration with Kasa. Participants comprised volunteers from Malaysian Water Association, National Water Services Commission, Indah Water Konsortium, University of Nottingham Malaysia and Universiti Tenaga Nasional.
Also present were members from Friends of Rivers, a non-governmental organisation.
Informa country general manager Gerard Leeuwenburgh, who joined in the plogging before taking part in a tree-planting ceremony, said this was an effective way to raise awareness on river conservation.
“Unlike my native country of the Netherlands, Malaysia has ample freshwater resources that can be used to irrigate agricultural areas.
“As such, awareness drives are important so people will realise that littering, illegal dumping and polluting the river come with serious consequences,” said Leeuwenburgh.
Ploggers managed to fill up a large bin with mostly plastic waste by the end of the session.
Those interested to learn more about water infrastructure may visit the Asiawater Expo and Forum, which is a bi-annual trade event for the water and wastewater industry organised by Informa.
The 12th edition will take place from Dec 7 to 9 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.