MELAKA, May 5 — Since the movement control order (MCO) was implemented, there have been numerous reports on the improving conditions of Malaysian rivers due to the lack of human activities.
The Melaka River is one of the rivers that has shown physical improvements since the MCO began.
According to the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) river basin director Khairi Selamat, based on observation reports received, the condition of the Melaka River was improving and there had been signs of self-healing being done by the river itself.
From the observations, DID had also found a lesser quantity of garbage in the river while the water itself was clearer than usual due to the absence of activities being done in the river.
“In terms of garbage waste, maybe it’s because of the absence of people in the city centre which resulted in lesser garbage waste being removed from the river.”
“Even if we found any, it must’ve come from drainage in the housing areas or whatever is left in the drainage but one thing for sure, there has been a huge drop in the quantity of garbage waste,” he said.
Khairi added that rehabilitation works and clean-up in Melaka River had been going on since before the MCO and they were now working on completing parcel two of the clean-up which is from the Hang Jebat bridge up to the Tidal Control Gate at Batu Hampar, covering 5.2 kilometre of the river stretch.
“Part of the components for parcel two includes a water treatment plant, Gross Pollutant Traps, rubbish traps and the construction of bridges.”
“We have also built tidal gates through the amending and cleaning up process of the Melaka River,” Khairi said, adding that parcel one of the clean-up had been done by the Melaka city council.
A total of 40 rubbish traps has been placed to assure that no rubbish shall pass into the river.
Besides that, DID has also used a method called “flushing” as part of the rehabilitation process for the river.
“Flushing” is where sea water or excess water from the upstream is used to flush out contaminated residue from the bottom of the river out to the sea but this wasn’t an ideal method as it could jeopardise the state of the sea according to Khairi.
Although trash is not the main source of pollution in the Melaka River, there are other contributing factors.
According to the river basin director, among the main sources of pollution found in the Melaka River are sewage waste.
Such waste has been a contributing factor in determining the river water quality.
“We have to check in the water quality parameters for the Chemicals Oxygen Demand (COD) and Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD).”
“Which is why on the first parcel, we’ve built a sewage plant.”
“All the waste which was previously heading straight to the river are now intercepted to the sewage plant to be treated,” he said.
Khairi added that fats, oils and grease wastewater from restaurants and food stalls could also be considered as one of the main pollution factors to the river.
However, the improved conditions of the Melaka River have also led to an improved ecosystem after reports of marine life emerging in the river.
This includes sightings of fish, lizards and birds.
Mangrove trees which are usually hard to grow have been reported to be growing alongside the river.
In addition to that, another positive point was the presence of otters.
“The presence of otters is a good indication that the river condition is doing well.”
“If there are otters in the river, it implies that the river system has enough food for the otters to settle in there,” Khairi said, adding that there are also reports of cranes in the Melaka River.
Besides that, the DID has also been in contact with other Melaka state agencies like Syarikat Air Melaka Berhad and Melaka Wildlife Department to share and analyse all the data that they have collected throughout the MCO for future planning.
In addressing his concerns about the sustainability of the river after the MCO, Khairi suggested that sustaining the condition of our rivers should be part of the new norm.
“The real question is; can people accept the new norms?”
“it is important for us to see that in the new norms, whatever that we do, we should take into consideration how our actions could affect our source of water.”
“For us to succeed with these new norms, everybody will have to play their roles and that includes the state government, NGO’s and also the public,” he said, adding that, this was also important so incidents like the contamination of the Kim-Kim River last year in Pasir Gudang does not happen again.
Khairi added that the federal and state governments had laid out a few more rehabilitation plans to rejuvenate the Melaka River and part of it was by completing the water treatment plants and organising all of the rubbish traps system.