Where The Water Flows
By Amal Ghazali
I remember the time when I heard the news about the chemical pollution of Langat River, Selangor. “Oh, that’s so unfortunate,” I said, feeling sympathetic for about one minute and thirty seconds, until an email alert about a shopping sale came up and I forgot all about it. I never really bothered to keep up on its following events again. For me it sounded like just another environmental incident somewhere far away, and didn’t really have anything to do with my life.
It wasn’t until one or two years ago that I started becoming more interested in environmental issues. It was probably brought on by the relentless commercials on global warming (so I guess commercials can be good sometimes!), and the increase of social media talks around this subject that got me intrigued to want to learn more about them and how I could play a part in making a positive impact. It started slowly, of course, with the baby steps of making less waste, and eventually grew into reducing plastic use and making active efforts to recycle.
Three weeks ago, I had the honour of being appointed as World Wild Fund’s (or more popularly known as WWF) ‘Water Hero’, and I was privileged enough to be invited to join their ‘Journey Of Water’ expedition. The Journey Of Water is basically an initiative to raise awareness on the arduous journey of our water source, beginning from the feeding of the river all the way to downstream, through our water treatment facilities and finally to the taps of our homes.
The Journey Of Water
Alright, I’ll be honest. I didn’t know much about water processes in the first place. All I knew was that when I flush the toilet, they all disappear and go to a ‘secret place’. On days when the water pressure is low at my house, I’d join the Twitter-verse on the rant of why we seem to have water shortage issues despite living in a tropical country where it rains all the time. I’ve had my moments of curiosity about the processes of water, and the Journey Of Water was an opportunity for me to learn more and help raise public awareness for it.
The thing that struck me the most about the entire experience was learning how our country’s ecosystem is just one huge perfect balance of water cycle. That is, of course, until human civilisation came into the picture with the unfortunate side effects of logging, deforestation, pollution and excessive waste production. We went to Hulu Langat Forest Reserve for a walk through the greens with a botanic expert who explained the history of the trees and how the Early Malaysia began logging activities as part of the growing economy in exporting high quality wood and amber. These trees play and important role in controlling soil erosion and the accumulation of water to be fed to the rivers, and the more we cut them down, the less effective these natural reservoirs become. I was also delighted to learn that almost 80% of modern medicine is derived from research done on forest plants - in a way, nature really is the best healer.
As we continued our expedition to the rivers, I was able to learn the significance of water organisms in indicating how clean the water really is. I was in awe of the academicians and scientific professors who were there and showed me how much work they have done in analysing water and its quality surrounding our communities. Did you ever notice the buzzing insects or the little critters whenever you’re out there enjoying the waterfalls and creeks? The presence of specific species are early signs of whether the water is clean or polluted, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never ignore them again the next time I go trekking.
I also had the privilege to visit some water treatment facilities, where I finally fed my curiosity about what happens when we flush the toilet, and how water ends up at our taps at home. I was educated by the water professionals at these facilities about the effects of river pollution such as the incident in Langat River not too long ago. Polluted water is harder to treat, and to ensure that it is safe enough for everyone to use and consume, treatment chemicals must be applied to them. What this means is that the more polluted the river system, the more treatment chemicals are used, and therefore more of these chemical are consumed by you and I. The impact of water pollution affects all of us, and not just merely animals living in them or people living near the water source.
Water Affects Everyone
Sometimes, it’s harder for us to care much about an environmental issue if we don’t directly see its impact on us or the real danger it poses. I am also guilty of this on some occasions. However, going for an environmental expedition like the this had certainly opened my eyes to the severity of water pollution and the importance of preserving the natural balance of our ecosystem. It’s not just because nature is great to look at. It’s also because our health and wellness depend on it.
I am hoping that my sharing of this experience can help increase our awareness and love for the beautiful natural state of our amazing country. At the same time, I am so appreciative of the opportunity to be introduced to the many local NGOs who work tirelessly to educate the public on important environmental issues surrounding us.
WWF is also currently collaborating with UiTM Shah Alam, MYCAT (Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers) and RIMAU (Hope for Malaysian Tigers) in an initiative to urge the prioritization of preserving Malaysian tigers, whose numbers are on a steady decline. Please visit wwf.org.my/tigerpledge to submit your plegde in making tigers a national priority. Every single one of us have the power to make a difference, so why not you?