Greenie Shyam gathers volunteers via Facebook

EACH year thousands of people carry pal kodam (milk kavadi) up the stairs of Batu Caves on Thaipusam day leaving empty milk bottles in their trail.

The extent of the litter caused M. Shyam Priah, 35, an environmentalist at heart to put together a group of volunteers to clean up the historical and religious landmark.

“Although I am a Hindu I do not carry the pal kodam because I have seen the extent of damage it causes,” she said.

Priah sympathises with the Alam Flora workers who are deployed in large numbers to clean up the area.

So she decided to form a group called “Sampah Masyarakat” (People’s Rubbish) to help create awareness on cleanliness.

On Jan 9, Shyam sent a global message through the social network Facebook to all her friends requesting assistance for a massive gotong-royong. “So far I have 80 registered volunteers and I’m looking forward to more coming in,” she said.

The group comprising mainly youths from different races will begin work on that day from 6am to 7pm with a three-hour break in between.

The Selayang Municipal Council (MPS), Alam Flora, the Batu Caves assemblyman’s office and a group called Youth4Change have all decided to help out in some way or another.

“The assemblymen’s office will provide 30 volunteers, while Youth4Change will be bringing 20 volunteers. Alam Flora and MPS will be providing the logistics,” Shyam said at a press conference at the MPS building recently.

Also present was Selayang councillor A. Murugesu who Shyam initially contacted when she got the idea a month ago.

The head of MPS’ Public Cleanliness Department, Rosli Abdul Hamid said there would be large dustbins, 150 mobile garbage bins and 40 roll-on roll-off garbage dispensers at the disposal of the volunteers.

Shyam said she hoped to make people realise the importance of cleaning up after themselves. “I hope that when people see us cleaning up, they will feel guilty that we are picking up their rubbish,” she said.

She added that the group would be picking up rubbish and separating them into plastic bags to be picked up by Alam Flora.

To add spice to the campaign, T-shirt designers Notti Creations will be designing the T-shirts for the volunteers at no profit on their part. “We wanted the name of the group and the T-shirts to be funky and catchy so that it will appeal to the youths,” Shyam added.

The youths will also be given certificates of participation to create a sense of involvement in the project.

A number of well-wishers have come forward to donate mineral water and money to help fund the campaign.

Shyam said she was also planning to mobilise volunteers during night markets, carnivals and concerts held at open fields for the public.

Their next major project will be “Adopt a Kampung” where residents of the kampung will be invited to spruce up their village.

“Sampah Masyarakat” will provide flower seeds, vegetable seeds and plants to make it a nicer place to live in. Shyam can be contacted at

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