‘Caring for the environment is not the sole responsibility of the govt’

“Learn to appreciate nature and take care of it.”

That is the advice of the Environment and Water Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Zaini Ujang to those who feel that maintaining public facilities was the sole responsibility of the government.

“Sadly, most people don’t bother about the environment or don’t take care of the facilities the government has built,” he said after visiting the Friends of Sungai Klang Taman Melawati River Three (FoSK TMR3) last Saturday.

“People like those from Friends of Sungai Klang and Alliance of River Three are doing an excellent job of keeping our rivers and the environment clean.

“They are a great bunch of volunteers, but more needs to be done to educate the masses.”

He said the government had no problems building facilities for the public to enjoy, but the people must also ensure the surrounding areas were well maintained.

“Many are happy when we build pathways along riverbanks, but these same people don’t help to keep them clean,” said Zaini.

“The thinking is ‘the government built it; they should clean it’. That is wrong. We must educate them that cleaning or maintaining these facilities is something we must do together. They must also learn not to pollute or litter.

“The volunteers I met today are doing their part by ensuring the rivers are clean.

“They have worked hard. They also have a nice garden, and I was happy to help plant some mango trees to offset my carbon footprint.”

FoSK TMR3 founder Kennedy Michael said the community had organised weekly ‘gotong-royong’ for 166 consecutive weeks since 2018.

The weekly sessions are called ‘Gotong-Royong Education by Action’ (GREduAction) and use a STEAM-based approach – science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics – to clean up the rivers and educate the volunteers, some of whom are students from local universities.

Among the activities are upcycling old tyres, painting murals, photography, woodwork, biodiversity observation, multimedia communications, water quality monitoring, CPR training, food waste compost and used cooking oil recycling, and public outreach programmes.

“We have continuously done this, even during the various Movement Control Orders,” said Michael, who founded FoSK TMR3 in 2018 as he wanted to make a difference and save Sungai Klang.

He said ordinary folks were major contributors to river pollution but didn’t realise it. As a result, they incorrectly assume it was only big corporations that ‘dirty the rivers’.

“If you throw a wrapper into the river or on the road, you are the reason for pollution. The rivers are polluted because of public apathy,” said Michael.

“I wanted to change their mindset and to do my part to keep Sungai Klang clean.

“The laws should be amended to punish companies more severely if they discharge waste into the rivers. The fines they receive now is a pittance, compared to their profits.”

Michael said the core team of FoSK TMR3 comprises himself, three co-founders, five other members and 10 in the Iron Snowflakes.

The Iron Snowflakes are members aged 18 and below and are part of the succession plan to continue the movement.

Other members of the community help out from time to time.