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Collaboratory update November 2023 | Malaysia

The latest news and updates from our Malaysia Collaboratory

30 November 2023

As populations grow and urbanisation increases, demand for fresh water and pollution levels rise, and we encroach more and more on the natural environment. As all these combine with intensifying climate change and drastically changing weather patterns, precious water-related ecosystems around the world come increasingly under threat. The time for action is now. This autumn our Malaysia Collaboratory team helped plant more than 100 mangrove seedlings at the Tanjung Piai National Park in Pontian. As well as being an important ecosystem, mangroves are highly effective carbon sinks, and provide natural protective infrastructure by reducing erosion and absorbing storm surge impacts. The ‘Mangrove Warrior Program’, designed to help both restore the mangrove and inspire environmental awareness in others, was collaboratively organised by UTM and the Johor Corporation (JCorp) Foundation. Volunteers also collected approximately 99 kg of rubbish, including a large number of plastic bottles and food packaging. 

“Not only do programmes such as this help the environment, it also helps strengthen Tanjung Piai National Park’s position as a tourism attraction to help boost the local and state economy.” - Prof Dr Zainura Zainon Noor

One of the hands on educational activities

Young people are the leaders of the future. For lasting sustainable change, we must help educate and inspire younger generations. Our Malaysia team is dedicated to strengthening climate change and water education and awareness amongst students in the Johor River Basin. Building on several successfully delivered programmes, 70 students from Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seri Pulai Perdana attended an awareness programme focused on climate change and the environment. Developed by the UTM team, the course covered climate change impacts on weather and water quality, and waste and recycling, including the opportunity to have a go at using rain gauges and try out water quality monitoring. Our global team hopes to inspire young people around the world to drive and contribute to lasting sustainable change.

Collaboration between stakeholders from all aspects of water security is key to meaningful action and lasting impact. Our Malaysian colleagues and the Johor State Water Regulatory Body (BAKAJ) have been working closely since the Hub’s inception. Our Malaysia team hosted an industry-community dialogue event aimed at fostering fruitful conversation between industry and community on their concerns around pollution from industrial activity. Held in collaboration with BAKAJ, the dialogue was attended by 28 participants from different communities and industries, and offered a crucial opportunity for open communication and for communities to highlight their key concerns to both BAKAJ and industry stakeholders, for example illegal dumping sites, and river water pollution that endangers both the health and livelihoods of communities. During the event participants were able to discuss potential next steps for industry-community collaboration, and how to co-create sustainable solutions to address their concerns. The Hub will continue to be an active agent in facilitating equitable communication and involving all stakeholder voices in water security.

Aerial photograph of flooded roads in Kuantan Malaysia following the 2021 flood
Aerial photograph of flooded roads in Kuantan Malaysia following the 2021 flood

Water is the most sensitive risk to climate change

Malaysian colleagues are also helping to strengthen capacity amongst our stakeholder partners. The team delivered a short course on integrated river basin management (IRBM) in the context of a changing climate, aiming to increase understanding amongst stakeholders working with the Hub. Additionally, the course helped stakeholders identify issues and challenges within IRBM in Malaysia, improving the coordination of stakeholders operating at different scales and within different sectors for improved management of water resources. A total of 27 participants from various agencies took part in the training, covering the impacts of climate change on water resources, comparisons between sectoral and integrated approaches, and discussions on how to carry out IRBM.

Water is intrinsically connected to human health and food production. Without safe, clean water we risk increases in disease burdens and health issues, and negative impacts on local and global food chains. Water quality monitoring is crucial in ensuring access to safe water, and understanding how things like land use change, urbanisation, agricultural methods, and other human processes can impact our water resources.

A recent instalment of our Malaysia team’s public webinar series, ‘Air Malaysia’, featured water quality and water quality modelling specialist, Ir. Dr Zaki Zainudin. During the webinar, ‘Water Quality Management in Malaysia: Past, Present and Future’, Dr Zaki explored how water quality targets may not be comprehensive enough, and we must take all possible factors into account to determine a true picture of water quality. This also affects the development and use of pollution early warning systems, which are currently largely based on typical quality parameters. Dr Zaki emphasised that whilst the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) approach could be an important way forward for the improvement of water quality, there are still many challenges surrounding the implementation of the method in Malaysia, and cooperation between multiple water entities is crucial.

'Air Malaysia' aims to increase public awareness of water-related risks

Community engagement and empowerment is critical to addressing water security and sustainability challenges, and driving socio-ecological justice around the world. Transformative action that leaves nobody behind must leave nobody out - everyone has a role to play. ‘Environmental Sustainability Through Community Engagement and Empowerment’, session 19 in the Malaysia team’s public webinar series, featured Dr Kalithasan Kailasam, manager of the River Care Programme (RCP) at the Global Environment Centre (GEC). Dr Kalithasan explained that the focus of the programme is the promotion of the protection, restoration, and sustainable use of rivers by enhancing multi-stakeholder participation and knowledge exchange for local action. Dr Kalithasan emphasised that integrated river basin management should be guided by both human and river ethics.

Finally, Professor Zulkifli Yusop was interviewed by Buletin TV3 to comment on the headwater tragedies that happened in Terengganu, and Professor Azmi Aris was interviewed by RTM News in conjunction with World Rivers Day, about the Positive Development of Rivers in Malaysia.

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