MCO lets nature repair rivers in the Klang Valley

Sungai Gombak in the city centre is cleaning itself up with the decrease in human activities and less pollutants entering the river.

PETALING JAYA: From butterflies flitting about in the sunshine to otters playing along the banks, certain rivers along the Klang Valley are showing signs of progress, thanks to the movement control order (MCO).

Implemented on March 18 to stem the spread of Covid-19, the MCO – which has now been extended to April 28 – has seen all non-essential businesses closed and strict travel restrictions imposed throughout the country.

Car workshops, restaurants and other commercial premises have either stopped or scaled down their operations, resulting in a significant reduction in rubbish and sullage (wastewater which does not go through the sewage system) entering rivers.

Speaking to FMT, Global Environmental Centre (GEC) river care programme manager Kalithasan Kailasam said he had received numerous reports from communities living along the Sungai Klang and Sungai Gombak about better water quality along certain stretches of the waterways.

“Based on observations by these communities, it’s clear that certain stretches of the Klang and Gombak rivers have improved in terms of water clarity,” he said.

“There is less rubbish compared to before the MCO, and even though we have not done any tests yet, from visual observations, we can say that to some extent Mother Nature has managed to heal herself from all the previous damage,” he said.

Sungai Klang in the city centre also looks cleaner.

Areas in Sentul and Kepong have seen marked improvements in their stretches of the Gombak River. Parts of the Klang River, from Melawati to Keramat, have also seen similar improvement in water quality, according to Kalithasan.

Communities in Sungai Way and Sungai Kemunsing have also reported better water quality along their rivers.

While he has been unable to conduct any tests due to the MCO, Kalithasan said in some stretches of the rivers, improvement in water clarity was observed after just the third day of the control order.

In addition, vegetation and wetland plants, which absorb pollutants, are helping the rivers to cleanse themselves in a process which Kalithasan said had never happened before as “pollution levels were too high”.

Under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 and other by-laws, drains are only meant for rainwater, although Kalithasan says this is rarely the case.

Besides improvement in water quality, there are also reports from some communities of an increase in biodiversity.

Kalithasan noted there are more sightings of birds along the rivers now and, lately, there have been reports of otters appearing as well.

Pointing out that the presence of otters and birds are a good biological indicator that there are fish in the river, he said birds are also attracted to waterways because of invertebrates such as butterflies and dragonflies – which play an equally important role in the food chain.

“I’m very happy to see all this. This is how the Earth can look after herself.

“We don’t need to spend billions on cleaning up rivers as long as we all play our part and make sure no pollutants enter the drainage.

“If we do this across all drains in the country, our rivers will be clean,” he said.