Cleaner waterways and rivers during MCO

IWK’s frontliners manage 8,147 sewage treatment plants to ensure that the sewerage system operates smoothly throughout the MCO

THE environment has improved since the current Covid-19 global pandemic as millions of people are forced to stay home, tens of millions of vehicles have been taken off the road and factories have ceased their operations.

A few reports had emerged that the reduction of outdoor activities had a positive impact on the environment. There were reports that waterways in many countries were clearing up and native animals were seen returning to their natural habitat.

The environmental improvement is also witnessed in Malaysia. Many who live along the Klang River have reported that the water in the river is noticeably clearer.

Global Environment Centre reported significant improvements in water quality and river conditions particularly in Sungai Gombak, Sungai Way and Sungai Kemunsing since the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18.

Rivers have been the dumping ground for rubbish, but with the advent of the MCO many people have reported that the water in the river is noticeably clearer

These are among the most polluted rivers and have been the dumping ground for rubbish which flows through commercial, industrial and residential areas. In fact, many rivers in Malaysia are highly polluted and have resulted in the disruption of water sources in many states, particularly in Selangor.

Several incidents of illegal waste dumping in Selangor last year had caused major treated water disruptions, leaving millions without the supply of water. Investigations showed that the criminals had dumped the toxic waste through manholes.

As a national sewerage company, Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd (IWK) had deployed additional resources to curb such activities. However, there are more than 400,000 manholes nationwide which could be used by irresponsible parties to channel untreated waste.

But IWK continues to operate and maintain the public sewerage system for the benefits of tens of millions of Malaysians.

The management of the country’s sewerage — commonly dubbed as difficult, dirty and dangerous (3D) — is often unseen by the public. Waste water from premises is treated before it can be safely released into waterways.

IWK’s frontliners manage 8,147 sewage treatment plants (STPs) and a network of pumping stations to ensure that the sewerage system operates smoothly throughout the MCO. These sewage treatment plants operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.

Despite restricted human activities, IWK’s STPs continue to operate, maintain and adhere to global standards before discharging the effluent into rivers. For instance, there are 954 IWK’s STPs with 9,800,000 population equivalent, which discharge equivalent to 2,200 million litres per day (mld) into the Klang River. All the STPs adhere strictly to the standards set by the Department of Environment.

While IWK maintains the highest environmental standards before discharging any effluent into the rivers, many people do not realise that other people have used the same waterways as the dumping ground of their untreated waste.

Wastes from industrial waste treatment plants, leachate treatment plants, wet markets, agricultural and farming areas without dedicated treatment facilities, sullage, illegal dumping and waste from squatter areas are making their way into the rivers. The absence of proper management of these wastes will leave our rivers in a torrid condition.

Recently, Sungai Tasek Anak near Pantai Tengah, Langkawi, has registered a better water quality compared to the pre-MCO period. Previously, IWK was blamed for discharging “black water” into the river by some sections of the communities.

But since the temporary closure of commercial sectors such as hotels and restaurants during the MCO, IWK’s Pantai Tengah Regional Sewage Treatment Plant LKI029 has contributed significantly to the clearer water in Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah, discharging 4.16MLD of effluent into the waterway.

While the MCO period has benefitted the environment, one wonders what will happen when the exercise is lifted and the masses and public revert to their daily routines. If we do not care for our rivers, destruction of our most valuable water resources is inevitable.

Samples of water taken from the Klang River which show significant improvements

During this MCO, IWK as part of its social responsibility continues to remind the public to be vigilant of any illegal dumping activities and all parties will continue to work in unison to care for the environment.

We hope the public will appreciate the services provided by IWK in maintaining a better ecological system.

IWK has over the years brought tremendous improvement to the efficiency in the operations of all public STPs despite tariffs remaining the same for 26 years and the operation is highly compensated by the federal government.

The current tariff, which is the lowest in the world, does not cover operational expenditure as the year-on-year collection efficiency remains at around 60%.

The public must realise the importance of treating sewage as a key component in ensuring a better living environment for all of us.

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