Malaysia’s dirty secret

By Victoria Brown

RUBBISH floating around in our teh tarik coloured rivers is not an uncommon sight in Malaysia.

If people don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with throwing their trash into the river, it is not a great leap for industries to condone dumping their toxic waste into the very same river.

But the moment our water supply is cut off due to contamination, everyone is up in arms over it.

I don’t understand this disconnect between pollution and water supply for many Malaysians.

Do they not realise that the body of water they are polluting is our primary source of water supply?

Perhaps many Malaysians have the “what’s a little rubbish” or the “it’s someone’s job to clean up after me” attitude.

But the moment the water supply is disrupted, they are the first to complain.

This widespread apathy is cause for great concern.

Water is our most precious resource. All living things need water to survive.

Even though the majority of Earth’s surface is made up of water, less than 1% is fresh water suitable for drinking, agriculture, industry and nature on land.

So shouldn’t we be taking better care of our water resources to ensure our future generations will have enough?

Our choices and our actions will result in either the improvement or deterioration of our water resources and environment.

This year alone, we have witnessed several unscheduled water disruptions due to contamination or pipe bursts, much to the frustration of Malaysians.

Perhaps the most worrying disruption this year was caused by an unidentifiable “odour pollution” in Sungai Buah last month.

It was worrying because our authorities were not immediately sure what exactly was contaminating Sungai Buah, and the pollution site was so close to our Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant.

It was later found that the river was contaminated with a highly poisonous substance, 4-Bromo Diphenyl Ether.

It is so poisonous that it had killed the fish in the river.

What angers me was that the pollutant was deliberately dumped in the river, and the person responsible will likely not get caught.

It is beyond me why someone would dump such toxic waste into a river so close to our water supply.

Not only is it against the law, it is also a serious health threat to everyone in the area!

Understandably, many Malay­sians were angry when they heard about this deliberate act of sabotage.

Many asked why there were no security personnel guarding our rivers, why there aren’t fences blocking access to rivers, and why there aren’t any CCTVs.

However, even if we had security personnel and cameras around our rivers, it is impossible to have eyes and ears along all our rivers and the drainage systems that connect to our rivers.

It is also not economical to build fences all around our rivers or to hire guards to monitor the area.

You must also remember that waste dumping (or sabotage) is only one issue that causes our water treatment plants to shut down.

High ammonia content and high levels of other contaminants from loads emitted by factories is another cause of shutdown.

I feel that the best way to prevent water disruptions is to have more advanced water treatment technologies so that our water treatment plants will be able to deal with these contaminants and pollutants without having to shut down.

Malaysians shouldn’t have to keep dealing with water disruptions on a regular basis. It is unfair and it does affect our daily lives.

The Government must take meaningful steps to address this.

But it also boils down to people like you and me.

We have to realise that if we want cleaner rivers and a reliable water supply, we must take steps to ensure the well-being of our water bodies.

That means we shouldn’t be littering!

Our mentality must change. We need more people taking responsibility in caring for our environment, and we must make them realise that their actions will affect their health and the health of future generations.