If you have seen pictures of Kuala Lumpur's rivers, you would have realised that our rivers have the colour of teh tarik and a lot of people end up using them as "big garbage bins"
While most of us would stay away from these rivers, DAP’s Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming, organised a kayak expedition and navigated through the polluted Sungai Gombak with his team. He wanted to better understand the ‘River of Life’ (RoL) project.
The RoL project, which comes under the Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley (Greater KL/LK) initiative, consists of three components – river cleansing, beautifying the river corridor to make the capital a world-class tourist destination, and developing government land to spur economic growth and to bring value to the government and the people.
The project covers a 10.7km stretch along the corridor of Sungai Klang and Sungai Gombak and will also include recreational facilities, landscaping and a network of pedestrian and cycling paths along the rivers.
"RoL project is supposed to turn the Gombak and Klang rivers from a Class III – Class V level rivers (not suitable for body-contact) to a Class IIB (suitable for body-contract & recreational usage) rivers," Ong said.
Seeing that it was a rather unusual experience, he did all the necessary preparations before embarking on this journey
Fearing the “toxicity” of the murky waters, his team of four brought wader suits normally used by fly fisherman to ensure they do not get wet for the expedition, which was a month in the works.
A seasoned adventurer, the MP also arranged for a support car for other logistical issues.
Before the expedition, Ong recruited his former intern, Tham Pei Ting, an outdoor enthusiast and Jeffrey Lim, an avid cyclist from Studio 25, to help him recce parts of the Gombak and Klang rivers
"This recce trip was not just helpful in terms of logistics planning for the RoL kayak expedition. More importantly, it provided me with a ground level understanding of the potential of and challenges faced by the RoL project," the Serdang MP shared on his Facebook post.
Ong, who has been documenting his RoL journey on Facebook, shared a few things that he noticed from his expedition, like how people regularly fish along and sometimes in the Gombak river
"We encountered 4 fishermen during our trip down river. 2 were individual fishermen using the normal fish and tackle. The other 2 fishermen were actually using nets to catch their fish."
"All of them said that they cook and consume some of the fish that they caught. Whatever they cannot eat, they would sell in the market."
However, it is worrying that people are fishing and eating fishes from the river because Ong revealed that there were many dead fish around the river. He has urged the Department of Environment (DoE) to investigate the source of the dead fish.
"Just last week, on Thursday, 14th of January, 2016, Jeffrey Lim, an avid cyclists and one of the members of my kayak expedition discovered a worrying number of dead fish along the Klang River while he was cycling near Brickfields. Jeff, who later tried to trace the source of the dead fish, concluded that the dead fish had originated further upstream, past Kampung Pauh along the Gombak River," Ong said in his press statement.
"I call upon the Department of Environment (DoE) to investigate the source of the dead fish and to determine if there was and still is serious pollution happening upstream along the Gombak River that may be poisoning the fish in the river."
The Serdang MP has definitely put himself through all kinds of inconvenience for this project. But why? He has a few reasons, three of which are about good governance and ensuring transparency:
"Firstly, the RoL project is potentially a game-changer in terms of how we can rehabilitate our rivers and turn them into a resource to be enjoyed by all, rather than an ignored asset, which is the current situation," Ong said.
"Selangor is also part of the larger RoL project since this Entry Point Project (EPP) under the Economic Transformation Program (ETP) entails cleaning up 110km of rivers in the Greater Klang Valley. If the initial stage of the RoL project is mismanaged, then the possibility that it will be rolled out to the non-KL sections of this project will be significantly reduced."
"I hope to learn from the successes and shortcomings of this project in the hope that I can do something on a smaller scale in my own constituency of Serdang (Sungai Kuyoh, for example)."
"Even though I grew up in PJ and am now residing in Serdang, KL holds a special place in my heart. It would be very satisfying for me to see a rehabilitated KL that could be enjoyed by more people in a variety of ways that does not include shopping indoors," Ong said.
"I have a somewhat selfish interest. I sincerely hope that the RoL portion of the project in KL will include an uninterrupted pathway for joggers, strollers and cyclists to enjoy alike. This way, I can get to do two things I really enjoy doing – running and cycling," he added.malaysiakini.com
If you haven't already started caring about RoL like Ong did, you should. A lot are at stake - there's a lot of money and precious waterfront land involved, and everyone wants a share of the pie.
"A lot of the taxpayers’ money is going to be spent on this project. In a recent article posted in Business Circle, which is managed by PEMANDU, the director of the Greater KL/Klang Valley National Key Economic Area, Krishnavenee Krishnan, quoted a figure of RM4.4 billion for the RoL project," Ong wrote.
"Of this, RM3.4 billion would be spent on river cleaning."
"The temptation to ‘hijack’ part of the RoL for private gain is immense."
Besides money, many communities around the area are also directly affected by this project
"People in some small kampung along the RoL have been moved as a result of this project, two of these villages being Kampung Puah and Kampung Puah Seberang," Ong Kian Ming said.
"While this may be an acceptable solution if proper alternative housing is given to them, the fear is that many of them will be displaced without proper compensation or alternatives."
"The number of kampung that will have to be relocated is likely to grow as the RoL project expands."
The journey to restoration is a long one but Ong Kian Ming is not about to give up as he is planning another kayak expedition, this time off the Old Klang Road to Klang.
Meanwhile, watch this video about Ong and his team's kayak expedition at the Gombak River: