Saturday, January 31, 2009

How the Rivers in Malaysia are Dying

By: Tan Poh Ling

Rajang River, Sarawak

Sitting at the river bank behind my grandma house, the memory when I was small swimming in the river flew across my mind. The fishes were swimming up and down together in the crystal clear water with my cousin and I. Now, the memory will remain in my mind forever. The only view along the river now is floating rubbish. The scene of fishes swimming can no longer be seen. Who shall we blame for this? The answer is clear in everybody’s mind - humans.

Rivers has been an integral part of human civilization. In many instances, civilizations were formed on river bank itself. It is evident in Nile River which became the reason of existence to a successful Egyptian civilization. Besides being the source of water and easiest form of transport, rivers also provide food and revenues from trade. In today world, the advancement in technology, has threatened the value of rivers in human being. Such pollution caused by man's activities is an issue of growing concerns.

According to the National Resources and Environment Board (NREB), the trends for some parameters in the rivers in Sarawak showed a gradual decline in the quality of water from 1999 to 2006. The results of the 2006 state river water quality monitoring showed that the total coliform bacteria values for all the 39 rivers has rise and exceeded the upper limit of Class IIB of the National Water Quality Standard for Malaysia (NWQSM). Research by the Department of Enviroment (DoE), 1 litre of waste water pollutes about 8 litres of freshwater. There is an estimated 12,000 km3 of polluted water worldwide, which is more than the total amount of water contained in the world’s largest river basins.

This eye soring results are rooted by the urbanisasion along the river and also by the name of development. The existence of squatters and factories along the river reserves is detrimental to the river in a many ways. Humans are often selfish and always wanted to do things in the easiest way. At such, most of the sewage generated by the people living along the river bank find their way disposing the wastage directly into rivers without knowing the harm they bring to the river.

Another killer to the river is the logging activity where it causes soil erosion and high silt loads in the rivers. Logging activities are said to be the major activity, especially in the upper reaches of Rejang river in Kapit caused siltation in Rajang river. While humans greedily earn money in various way, they have totally forgotten on how important and how much the river have contributed to them.

To prevent further deterioration of water quality in urban stretches and its potential threat to public health, everyone should hold the responsibilty. We need to restrict people from discharging organic wastes directly into the rivers, otherwise there will be more and more dead rivers. The Government has made it mandatory to all industrial areas to develop their own waste treatment systems or mini oxidization ponds to treat all discharges from factories before they are released into the rivers. We must learn how to love our river before it is too late. Remember, the fate of river is in our hands.

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