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The river cleaning unit from The Ocean Cleanup docked near the Klang Municipal Council. PIC BY SADDAM YUSOFF
The river cleaning unit from The Ocean Cleanup docked near the Klang Municipal Council. PIC BY SADDAM YUSOFF

FOR decades, Sungai Klang’s existence and great potential have been overlooked. It was perceived as a mere river that flows from Ampang up to the river mouth in Port Klang, spanning 120km.

After decades of neglect, Sungai Klang eventually earned a negative perception as it became an illegal dumping ground, accumulating tonnes of rubbish and waste.

That perception is set to change in the next few months and years to come, as Selangor has set its sights on Klang’s section of the river; it wants to turn it into one of the state’s new key economic and tourism sectors.

Selangor’s Menteri Besar Incorporated’s (MBI) subsidiary, Landasan Lumayan Sdn Bhd (LLSB), has a comprehensive development plan focused on river cleaning, rehabilitation and injecting economic and tourism activities along Sungai Klang.

LLSB managing director Syaiful Azmen Nordin said plans were afoot to bring Sungai Klang back to its glory days through development in phases under Selangor Maritime Gateway.

Syaiful said long ago, Sungai Klang was the main transportation hub for the state, linking Klang and Kuala Lumpur. It took about two days to get from one point to the other. The principal commodity that was transported on the river then was tin, but other commercial activities were also carried out.

After Aug 31,1957, Selangor underwent industrialisation and saw the rise of a new satellite town called Petaling Jaya, and subsequently, sister towns such as Shah Alam and Subang Jaya.

Amid these developments, Sungai Klang was neglected and eventually, after the 1980s and 1990s, became a dumping ground for illegal settlements that dotted the riverbanks. The situation worsened with the discharge of effluents from industrial factories.

A wake-up call for the Selangor government and its agencies came in the form of a major flood in 1998.

Seeing Batu Tiga in Shah Alam submerged opened up the eyes of the authorities, making them realise it was high time a concerted effort was made to tackle the abundance of rubbish and waste in the river.

“Sungai Klang remains an invaluable resource for the state. Something had to be done because the river had been neglected for so long.

“In 2015, a team from MBI, including LLSB chairman Raja Shahreen Raja Othman and I, visited the river and was shocked to find that one could literally walk on the water due to the immense volume of waste floating on it.

“We presented the dire situation to the then menteri besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, the state secretary and the state Economic Planning Unit that the rubbish menace must end... we needed to tackle the most basic issue first, which was to get rid of the rubbish and we were given an allocation to conduct river-cleaning activities,” Syaiful told the New Straits Times recently.

Syaiful Azmen Nordin
Syaiful Azmen Nordin

The clean-up started in 2016. Waste flowing from Sungai Klang tributaries were tracked and seven log booms were installed, on top of conducting waste collection and removal, as well as eliminating illegal dumping along the riverbanks.

Syaiful described cleaning Sungai Klang, spanning 56km from the boundary near Midvalley Megamall to the river mouth in Port Klang, covering four municipal and city councils, namely Petaling Jaya City Council, Shah Alam City Council, Klang Municipal Council and Subang Jaya Municipal Council, as a huge undertaking.

Yet they persevered to send the message that making the river clean again was not an impossible dream.

He said in the last four years, over 50,000 metric tonnes of waste has been removed.

“Most people are wondering, how much is that really? Well 50,000 metric tonnes is the equivalent weight of 2,500 RapidKL buses. So imagine now — there were 2,500 buses sitting in our river, clogging it up, rotting and killing everything in it. There are many non-governmental organisations that play their part by raising awareness and organising weekly gotong-royong.

“This, together with Selangor’s policies on plastic and styrofoam use and enforcement activities, has made a difference, as we are starting to see a lower monthly quantity of waste extracted from Sungai Klang since the start of this year,” said Syaiful.

He added that the Sungai Klang Water Quality Index had been classified as Class 3 (moderately good) from Class 5 (contaminated). The aim is to hit Class 2, where the water is suitable for body contact and ideal for recreational activities.

Close to a year after the clean-up began, Syaiful said the relevant parties had regrouped and discussed what more should be done not just to restore Sungai Klang but also to unlock the potential of recreational, economic and tourism activities at the river, particularly in the Klang area.

A committee comprising agencies such as the Economic Planning Unit, Land and Mines Office, Drainage and Irrigation Department, Selangor Water Management Authority, Public Works Department as well as municipalities and city councils was formed.

“We concluded that if we wanted to bring back the glory of Sungai Klang, it should not be just about river cleaning but also improving water quality through rehabilitation. Water quality brings value to the state as it can be developed as an alternative source of water supply.

“We also felt it was possible to have river activities such as boat rides and canoeing. We have plenty of state land around it so how can we neglect all these assets.

“We drew up a masterplan at the end of 2017 and on March 1 last year, we went back to the state government and told them we were ready to move on to the next stage.

“We want to clean, rehabilitate, improve water quality, develop the areas surrounding Sungai Klang and make it a new economic and tourism central region.”

He said they had first presented the idea to Azmin. He gave the green light to establish Selangor Maritime Gateway, a commercial entity 100 per cent owned by the state via MBI, to spearhead the project.

Their ideas were then taken to the state Economic Planning Unit and subsequently to the current Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari, who was at first sceptical, but nevertheless, gave his blessings.

For referrence, Syaiful said they had looked at neighbouring Singapore where efforts to rehabilitate its river and develop it as an alternative water source took 10 years. They also studied the Melaka counterpart and Kuala Lumpur’s River of Life project and had looked forward to collaborations with international organisations.

Amirudin had on Oct 29 this year launched Phase 1 of the Selangor Maritime Gateway project that began last year and ends in 2022. It comprises eight components under cleaning, rehabilitation and urban rejuvenation.

Phase 1 sees the continuous cleaning efforts of Sungai Klang from its point at Midvalley Megamall to the Port Klang river mouth, including the Sungai Penchala, Sungai Kandis and Sungai Pinang tributories.

At the same time, the rehabilitation of Sungai Klang will go on for cleanliness and better water quality, while Teluk Kapas, a defunct landfill, will be rehabilitated to pave the way for possible new ways to use the revitalised site for community projects.

Eager for more river cleaning partnerships, Selangor Maritime Gateway forged a cooperation with Dutch non-profit organisation The Ocean Cleanup, helmed by chief executive officer Boyan Slat. This saw the deployment in August of a river cleaning unit called The Interceptor 002, which is now moored at the river near the Masjid Diraja Sultan Suleiman. (See accompanying story).

Given the vast land in the proximity of Sungai Klang near the heart of the royal town, Phase 1 sees five urban rejuvenation reprojects — Taman Awam Pengkalan Batu, Mangrove Point Recreational Park, Cultural Village, Grand Bazaar and Teluk Kapas — which Syaiful described as a stepping stone to unlock and realise its value and full development potential.

Taman Awam Pengkalan Batu is an existing park which is being upgraded and revived as an interactive destination playground and park which would be a point of connectivity and convergence for the people, even more so when the adjacent Light Rail Transit station is ready.

Mangrove Point Recreational Park will be developed as a new eco-tourism destination, being the first mangrove forest in Malaysia to promote a biophilic environment, conducive for relaxation and meditation through a collaboration with Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Dr Shureen Faris Abdul Shukor.

Both parks will be opened in stages beginning the first quarter of 2020.

The Cultural Village in Teluk Pulai,he said, will be used a centre to demonstrate social unity, arts and culture of Selangor where the Orang Asli lifestyle and activities will also be showcased.

The Grand Bazaar in Tanjung Putus, he said, will be a shopping destination where the crowd-pulling Selangor Agro Fest will held next year.

A new transportation system will be developed with the River Taxi project on Klang River as an alternative mode of transport which will initially ply 15km connecting Pengkalan Batu jetty, the Kampung Sungai Sireh fishermen's jetty and Mangrove Point jetty.

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