The SOS Status Of Malaysian Rivers And What We Can Do To Help

“The general state of our rivers is very, very dire. And at our financial expense.”

Some of our most simple habits can have disastrous consequences on the environment, and it’s taking a toll on our rivers. It’s not something that’s esoteric or unimaginable or in some remote, far-off land. It’s in our rivers and there is plain evidence to show it.



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Today is the International Day of Rivers. This is what a tiny part of our otherwise beautiful city river looks like in a single morning. As you read this, tens of thousands of ringgit from taxpayers is literally going down to drain trying to manage water pollution in the Klang Valley. We can all point fingers, or we can all join hands and work together. Please say no to single-use plastic whenever you can. The alternatives are already out there. We just have to start walking the walk. ?: @rubens_flow #internationalriversday #tbt #river #urbanliving #pollution #trash #cleanup #kualalumpur #malaysia #ecoknights #riveroflifekl #thegreenguerrilla #makegreenmainstream #ecoconscious #sustainability #awareness #environment #motherearth #saynotosingleuse #refusereducereuserecycle #thereisnoplanetb

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When #TeamCLEO saw this picture of plant-based advocate Davina Goh  scooping up tonnes of trash from the Gombak River, it was plain to see that our rivers are at choking point. While it starts with governmental policies and corporations doing their bits too, we as individuals can also make a difference. 

Here are some of her insights during a very quick interview with her on keeping our rivers and our lives and the earth happy.

“It was almost 100 percent plastic and most of it was single-use plastic water bottles.”

Davina, can you tell us a little more about when this picture was taken and what you were doing? 

This was taken in September 2018 at a closed visit to one of the log booms (river trash trappers) in the Klang Valley, jointly organized by Ecoknights and the Department of Drainage and Irrigation. My eco-conscious collective The Green Guerrilla was invited to take a first-hand look at the trash that enters the Gombak River, which leads to the Klang River, the dirtiest river in Malaysia.

The trash we see here had accumulated from just that morning (the boom had already been cleared the evening before). It was almost 100 percent plastic and most of it was single-use plastic water bottles.

What is the general state of our rivers from what you observed?

The general state of our rivers is very, very dire. And at our own financial expense. We learned that day that the Department of Drainage and Irrigation takes care of 10 out of 29 booms like this in the Klang Valley and spends HALF A MILLION RINGGIT worth of taxpayer’s money PER MONTH to handle trash collection and disposal for these 10 booms alone.



What do you think can be done to clean-up our rivers? How would someone volunteer or try to help out to clean up? 

Our experience at the log boom made it clear that trash is being irresponsibly thrown every single second, every single day. I think the issue is not how to clean up our rivers, but how to put a stop to littering… not just in rivers and drains, but everywhere, like roads and parks. When rainstorms hit, flash floods picks up all this trash and sends it straight into our rivers.

There are small plogging communities around Malaysia that helps to pick up trash in public areas. But you don’t even need to join plogging events to pick up trash. You can do it by yourself or gather some friends to do it together.

“A major shift in overall attitudes towards our trash … is key in building a more plastic-conscious Malaysia. But changing our own habits as individuals is something we can start on today.”

Plastic is a serious issue that people need to realise and not everyone is empowered or have the knowledge about single use plastic use. Can you advise on what can be done to cut this down?

One simple pledge: Say No to Single Use Plastic. This includes plastic water bottles, plastic straws, plastic bags, takeaway food containers and disposable cutlery. If we can drink coffee from a mug, why can’t we drink juice from a cup? If we have hands, why not use them to carry things? I’m sure all of us have at least one reusable shopping bag at home that we can bring out for errands, together with reusable food containers.

And bringing out a bottle filled with water from home, could save ourselves from drinking from a mineral water bottle outside. Even if a bottle is handed out to us for free, there is a cost somewhere else, environment-wise, that we may or may not see, but need to absolutely be aware of and accountable for.



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? Out of sight, out of mind is often how we treat our rubbish. And here is just a glimpse of what happens to some of that rubbish. . ?I try my best to reduce as much plastic use in my life. But yet when you come face to face with this, it makes me think … sh*t … how do I get more people on the bandwagon. . ?Here are’s tips to reduce plastic / waste: . ✅Shop at bulk food stores that are popping up. You will significantly reduce your plastic waste. Check out @thehivebulkfoods, @nudezerowaste, @blisszwstore, @byobdamansarakim . ✅Don’t buy pre-packed meat and bring your own containers to pack meat from the deli or markets . ✅Carry your own water bottle. This is a must … look at the amount of water bottles in the picture ? . ✅Refuse door gifts that have bottled water or useless plastic items. Also reconsider if you really need a door gift or party pack. Isn’t the party enough of a gift? . ✅Meetings in hotels, request for water to be served by the jugs / water dispensers and not bottled water. . . . . #thegreenguerrilla #ecoknights #eco #ecowarriors #riveroflife #riveroflifekl #awareness #community #pollution #consumerism #consciousliving #gogreen #saynotoplastic #refuse #reduce #reuse #recylce #responsibility

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Is there something else that the government or policies should think about to reduce plastic production and consumption?

I think policies can only work so much. The Green Guerrilla’s day out at the log boom was an educational experience for us to realize that the issue of plastic reduction needs to involve every single segment of society – and in a country like Malaysia with so many subcultures and demographic intricacies, getting the country to work as one is an extremely challenging task.

A major shift in overall attitudes towards our trash, as well as cooperation between consumers, educational institutions, corporations, NGOs and the government is key in building a more plastic-conscious Malaysia. But changing our own habits as individuals is something we can start on today.


Follow Davina and The Green Guerrilla on Instagram.