Expert tells why Klang River still looks like teh tarik

The River of Life project was launched in 2012 to clean up and beautify a 10km stretch of the Klang River.

SHAH ALAM: A water quality specialist has urged the government to consider new strategies to clean up the Klang River, notorious for its “teh tarik” or milk tea colour, saying efforts to address pollution so far have not been effective.

Zaki Zainudin, who has studied water quality and modelling for over a decade, gave the example of the River of Life project, launched in 2012 to clean up and beautify a 10km stretch of the Klang River.

The RM4.4 billion project includes river cleaning, river master planning and beautification, and river development. RM3.4 billion was allocated for clean-up operations and the remaining RM1 billion for landscaping.

“When the government announced the project, we were quite sceptical because the target was to achieve a river of Class IIB standard under the National Water Quality Standard (NWQS),” he said.

Class IIB refers to water fit for recreational use and safe for bodily contact.

But it was later reported that the target was switched to Class II, which excludes the criterion for bodily contact.

“This was following the Water Quality Index, which is not as accurate as the NWQS and translates into different achievement targets,” Zaki added.

Zaki Zainudin collects water samples during a site study.

Another factor complicating rehabilitation efforts at the Klang River is the level of coliform bacteria in the water, he said.

Before the project launch, he said, the stretch of river in question had a reading of 50,000 faecal coliform content, placing it in the Class IV and V categories.

For Class IIB rivers, the limit is 400.

Zaki said it was too ambitious of the government to target such a huge drop in level of faecal coliform.

He also noted what he called “grey areas” in the jurisdiction of federal and state authorities.

“If federal and state governments could come up with a comprehensive mapping of rivers, and who is in charge of monitoring activity at the respective rivers, it could effectively address pollution there,” he said.

Similarly, he said, there are no regulations on the amount of waste water that can be discharged into rivers.

“Whether it is a big or small river, the same amount of waste is discharged.”

The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) also urged local councils to up their game in monitoring the waste discharged by businesses.

Responding to recent news of chemical pollution along a part of the Klang River, MNS executive director IS Shanmugaraj said the river could only take so much “dumping”.

“The river is only able to dilute a certain amount of waste. When it reaches capacity, it gives up.

“All this goes back to the local council as it is their duty to monitor activity along the river,” he said.

The discovery of pollution believed to be chemical waste at the Klang River came shortly after thousands were affected by toxic waste pollution in Pasir Gudang, Johor.

The fumes from the toxic pollution forced the closure of all 111 schools in the district, with hundreds of victims seeking medical treatment at hospitals and clinics.