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The Klang River is an important source of water supply for Malaysians. It produces 145 million litres of treated water everyday. But this critical resource has come under significant threat.
In the past five years, the amount of trash removed from Malaysia’s Klang River is equivalent to 470 Boeing 747 aircrafts. In 2021, it was the second highest contributor to the world’s marine plastic pollution, posing a risk to human health and biodiversity.
To combat the issue, the Alliance of River Three (ART!), an environmental conservation group, began working towards cleaning up and rehabilitating the Klang River with the help of the community.
A river tells a number of stories - of beginnings, of endings and of life and all its travails. And so, often a river is a metaphor for life. Civilisations revolve around a river. Malaysia’s Klang River is no different. But in 2021 the river became famous for all the wrong reasons. The waterway was the second highest contributor to plastic waste in the ocean.
The river flows through Klang Valley, with a population of over 4 million people today. Because of this, it has become heavily polluted. The pollution comes from both the people and the industries.
The pollution in rivers poses risk to human health and biodiversity, disrupts the ecosystem and leads to the economic loss of the area.
The watercourse has a deep and long history meandering close to 120 kilometres through the river basin in Malaysia. Back in the 1820s, the river was the most effective means of transportation, described as ‘the highway through the jungle’ by historian John Michael Gullick.
Today, the river is a source of water supply. The water from the Klang Gates Dam is sent to a treatment plant, producing 145 million litres of clean water everyday.
For many Malaysians, the Klang River is the epicentre of Kuala Lumpur, holding valuable significance. A team of Malaysians who all love their city and its rivers, formed the Alliance of River Three (ART!) so that the waterway could be revived to its glory days.
Founder of ART!, Kennedy Michael remembers growing up near a Klang River whose waters were clean and pristine not too long ago.
“We'd walk on the pipes behind our house to get to the base of the dam, and that's where we’d picnic, lots of memories of this place especially during the school holidays.”
Looking at the river now, Kennedy feels “disgusted, disappointed, sad.”
With ART!, Kennedy set out to do three things - build amenities, build communities and build a sustainable economy. Essentially, he wanted to create a sense of community while doing good at low cost.
And so he began the River CPR Programme, referring to the Conservation, Protection and Rehabilitation/Rejuvenation of the Klang River. Every weekend, with a team of volunteers, Kennedy and ART!’s co-founder, Syuen Toh, run clean-up sessions - mainly in the Taman Melawati and Mid Valley river three parks.
Apart from cleaning up the trash, they build trails for walking and replant soil from damaged land.
Syuen believes “the youth are the future” and is pleased at the number of youths signing up to volunteer for the clean-ups.
Over the past five years, over 5,200 individuals have signed up to volunteer with ART! and through community efforts, they have built the Taman Melawati and Mid Valley River Three Parks into publicly accessible, low waste and high biodiversity river sites.
ART! has the goal of transforming the upper and midstream of the Klang River into a fully operational and rehabilitated riverine park by 2030. Kennedy and Syuen are optimistic that with the help of the community, they will breathe life back to the river - one cleanup after another.
In conjunction with World Bamboo Day on September 18, learn more about ART!’s Kena Bamboo program that engages students in planting, cultivating, harvesting and propagating Bamboo at the Taman Melawati River Three Park.
About Alliance of River Three (ART!)
Alliance of River Three (ART!) is an environmental conservation group founded in 2018 by Kennedy Michael that works to conserve, protect and rehabilitate the Klang River.