Being a mother of two young children and living in the city, we often get out and in to nature as much as possible. My kids love the wilderness, and we love the feeling of being rejuvenated after spending some time amongst lush greenery.
Many of the trips involve rivers, and I am happy to say that the water runs clear but very often you will see trash scattered along the river, and well in the river too. If you travel along the river, and get closer to the developed areas, you will start to see an increase in rubbish. You will also begin to question whether the river is safe to swim in. In fact much of the Klang River is classified unsafe for body contact.
A recent event organised by Ecoknights, a non-profit environmental organisation had me jump out of my seat for the opportunity to get up close with our city’s trash. Along with other eco-conscious warriors, The Green Guerrilla, The Hive Bulkfoods, Syed Azmi, Rozy Ghaffar and Ruben Cortes we were invited to The River Of Life Log Boom Clean Up, along the Gombak River, which is a tributary to the Klang River. The event was organised to help bring more public awareness about the plight of our rivers.
“We often pass by rivers, not taking a second look because rivers today have changed a lot. What was once pristine and clear, is now severely polluted, and often it’s because of human impact. We hope that this activity will stir the social media influencers to look at the circle of life and we hope that this experience will be shared through their blogs and stories and raise more consciousness about better river care in the country,” said Yasmin Rasyid, president of EcoKnights.
Rivers are a catchment for trash. The six categories of pollutants found in rivers are rubbish from housing and squatter areas, construction waste, silt from land clearing, oil and grease from restaurants, sullage or organic waste, mostly from wet markets, and industrial waste from factories and workshops.
In Malaysia, five rivers have been classified as dead, as they can no longer sustain any life. The 120km long Klang River is considered the dirtiest river in the country, with an estimated 77,000 tonnes of garbage dumped into it each year.The Federal Government has allocated RM4bil to clean up Klang River and its tributaries under the 10-year River of Life project, which began in 2013.
Speaking to the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID), they spend RM500,000 every month to collect and dispose of rubbish from 10 locations along the river. There are several other locations handled by DBKL of which is a separate cost. So you can see how much of taxpayer’s money is being spent just to clear trash, whereby this money can be better utilized and spent elsewhere.
You’re probably thinking how we can help with this issue, that so much of waste comes from other sources. But we are one part of the problem and one that can be tackled the fastest. A lot of the waste was plastic bottles, glass bottles, cans, styrofoam boxes, nappies, plastic bags, items that we use on a daily basis.
Here are some ways we can reduce our waste:
- Bring your own bottle. One of the easiest things to start with is to stop buying bottled water and carry your own water bottle. Take this up a level, and bring your own containers for takeaways.
- Buy in bulk. Bulk food stores are popping up around the Klang Valley, go and find your nearest one and start doing the majority of shopping there. They are package free reducing your plastic waste significantly.
- Fresh from the farm. Fresh produce can be ordered direct from farms, just make sure they deliver the produce in boxes. You can also bring your own shopping bags to the wet market as fruits and vegetables are often not wrapped in cling film or packed in plastic.
- Fresh from the butcher. Buy your meats at the market or butcher and bring your own container, rather than pre-packed meat.
- Skip the unnecessary. If you’re organising an event or birthday party, skip the door gift or party pack. Very often these end up as waste.
- Again, only take what you need. If you are handed a door gift, check to see if you really need what they are handing out, again it often ends up as waste.
- Reduce waste at work too. When organising a meeting in hotel, request for water to be served in jugs or water dispenser and not bottled water. If you attend a meeting that serves bottled water, kindly request for a glass of water.
So this is where it starts, with us. You may think we are just a tiny piece of the bigger problem, but we are 7 billion people, that’s a pretty huge problem.
Photos credit: Reuben Cortes & Ecoknights