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A letter to the UK government from the Malaysian Collaboratory

As the UK government moves to catastrophically cut Official Development Assistance, our Malaysian team explain how ODA funding is helping address pressing development challenges.

28 March 2021

Malaysia is proud of its abundant water resources. Blessed with heavy rainfall, we recognise how fortunate we are and how vitally important water is to our nation, local communities, and industry.

Unfortunately, increasing river pollutions, climate change, fragmented governance and human factors are threatening our water resources. Now is the time to challenge these threats to our water supplies before irreparable damage is done.

Through the Water Security Hub’s award from the UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund, the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed) were granted the opportunity to collaborate internationally and tackle water security issues collectively.

Securing the quantity and quality of water resources

In the Sg Johor basin, we have been tackling flooding and water quality issues using modelled data that can be used to predict flood risk, pollution, and their impacts on local communities. This data will be used by ministries and policy makers to improve the fragmented water governance, water resources management, and resource distribution to vulnerable communities who are dependent on the river for survival. 

Capturing the voices of community and channelling them to policy makers

We have put considerable efforts into including stakeholders at all level, especially community residents, to prioritize our research work packages, and identify efforts that will have greatest impact on local communities. Working closely with local communities in the Sg Johor basin, we have organised several stakeholder meetings to orchestrate a basin-wide approach in evaluating community knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours around water using novel screening digital applications during the COVID-19 era.

Providing a platform for engagements among stakeholders

The diversity of various institutional frameworks, programs, and action plans in Sg Johor basin leads to challenges in enacting coherent and efficient action, which results in implementation gaps in water governance. This GCRF project enabled us to provide a platform that encourages conversations and engagements among the stakeholders, through organising workshops and meetings. Our stakeholders are water managers, NGOs, federal and state level of government agencies.

Exciting opportunities beyond the Water Security Hub

Continuous engagements with our stakeholders not only fuels their interest in our efforts, but also ignites their enthusiasm and trust to work together. Our team has received numerous invitations from government agencies to work together to improve the management and monitoring of the water resources in Malaysia, both at state and federal level.

It is crucial that we complete our planned work with continuing funding from UKRI. 

We are on track to achieve our outputs and objectives, namely establishing a multidisciplinary Integrated River Basin Management body in Johor. Let’s continue together to finish our journey in making Malaysia a better place.


  • Prof Dr Azmi Aris, Director, Centre for Environmental Sustainability and Water Security, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
  • Dr Cindy Lee Ik Sing, Core Research Fellow, Centre for Environmental Sustainability and Water Security, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
  • Dr Michaela Goodson, Dean of Research, Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia 
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