Water is Everywhere, and it is Always Precious

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River Rangers conducting river monitoring workshop for schools.

WWF-Malaysia calls for responsible use of water in conjunction with Earth Day 2016.

Water is one of the most overlooked and limited resources that is fast depleting. Most of the water we see, such as the ocean, is salt water and not suitable for human consumption. Only three per cent of earth’s water is fresh water. This is distributed in frozen glaciers and icecaps, below the ground and in rivers and lakes. Only one per cent can be accessed for our use; however, 70% of that is already being used for cultivating food crops and daily needs for the human population. As demand for food grows, the availability of water for human use also decreases. Water is so intensively used that 1.2 billion of the world’s population now live in areas that lack water for sanitation, agriculture, drinking and other daily uses.

Malaysia’s water profile shows that we are WWF-Malaysia calls for responsible use of water in conjunction with Earth Day 2016. By WWF-Malaysia a nation blessed with abundant rainfall of about 3,000mm annually, and there is a dense network of rivers and streams. Nonetheless, with occurrences of the El Nino phenomenon, Malaysia increasingly faces prolonged drought and drier weather, which also means that we receive less rainfall. Hence, this results in higher probability of water supply shortages and disruptions.

Moroli River.

Malaysians’ water usage per person is over 200 litres per day (lpd), which is among the highest in the region. Comparisons between states in Malaysian show that in 2014 Penang’s water usage was regarded rather high. In comparison, water usage per person in Singapore and Thailand is only about 150lpd and 90lpd respectively. The minimum water requirement is between 50lpd and 100lpd per person, based on studies done by the UN.

Recognising the risk of rationing during extended dry spells and compounded by the high per capita domestic water consumption, the Penang state government and Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBA) introduced a revised water tariff in 2013 that included a water conservation surcharge. The move aimed for better water management by reducing water consumption. Penang is the only state to date which has dared to take this bold adaptive step.While domestic water tariffs differ between states, as a whole, the tariffs are generally low. Low water tariffs, however, has contributed to the population not fully understanding the value of water and not appreciating water. Malaysians are wasteful when it comes to water.

While domestic water tariffs differ between states, as a whole, the tariffs are generally low. Low water tariffs, however, has contributed to the population not fully understanding the value of water and not appreciating water. Malaysians are wasteful when it comes to water.

Statistics

Source: www.span.gov.my

To address the threats and issues of our freshwater ecosystems and resources, WWF-Malaysia has undertaken freshwater conservation efforts. Working across Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, WWF-Malaysia strives to conserve healthy and biologically diverse freshwater ecosystems for people and nature through securing the protection of critical water catchment areas and freshwater ecosystems, and through the promotion of more efficient and responsible water consumption. The organisation pursues these efforts through partnerships that combine on-the-ground conservation, policy and advocacy, and engagement with businesses and industries as well as civil societies.

In the Klang Valley, the focus is on water security. This involves educating urban residents to value water, implementing good water management practices through which they can reduce water consumption, and building understanding on the connection between catchment forests, river systems and water resources. Changing the way the public thinks about and manages water, and providing the knowledge and skills needed for sustainable water usage are critical steps in securing the country’s water supply.

In Ulu Muda, Kedah, WWF-Malaysia’s work is centred on advocating and building an economic case for protecting the Ulu Muda forests and its water catchment functions. Beyond the wealth of biodiversity that it harbours, Ulu Muda is a major water catchment for the states of Kedah, Penang and Perlis. It engines the growth of these states and the nation by contributing to water and food security. Muda River and Kedah River, which originate from the Ulu Muda forests, provide 96% of Kedah’s and 90% of Penang’s treated water supply.

Local Fisherman

Local fisherman in Setiu Wetlands.

In Terengganu, WWF-Malaysia works with the state government and other stakeholders towards gazetting the Setiu Wetlands as a protected area. This is to ensure that the benefits of the vital ecosystem services from the wetlands can continue to be derived in the long run. The Setiu district is home to 53,470 people who depend directly or indirectly on the wetlands for their wellbeing. Setiu Wetlands is significant for its biodiversity, its wide array of ecosystem types, its unique wildlife, its ecological functions in mitigating flooding and its ecosystem services in providing water resources for agriculture and sustaining fisheries.

Water

The first Water Quest held at Citta Mall in Klang Valley.

Meanwhile in Sabah, WWF-Malaysia has conducted the Water Quest and Water Voice programmes as part of its public awareness and outreach efforts. In 2015 it organised three Water Quest events consisting of water-themed fun, educational and challenging activities in Kota Kinabalu, Tamparuli and Sandakan. These events provided the avenue for raising awareness and inspiring the younger generation to manage, conserve and ensure sustainable use of freshwater resources. The Water Voice programme uses a unique approach to get the public to convey their views, hopes and needs in relation to rivers and water issues in their surrounding environments, i.e. via images they capture through photography.

River Rangers in Rangau

River Rangers of Ranau.

Another community outreach activity is the River Rangers of Ranau in Sabah, where local communities are exposed to topics like freshwater ecosystems, including their biodiversity, functions, services, values and benefits to people, and are trained in practical skills for pollution mapping and monitoring in rivers. Subsequently, the trained participants initiate water-quality monitoring along rivers flowing through their villages as well as river awareness activities with schools. The River Rangers are essentially the guardians of the river in their area.

Drawing by Chong Shi Yi

This drawing is by Danielle Chong Shi Yi of SJK (C) Chung Hua Bintulu, Sarawak.

WWF-Malaysia’s freshwater conservation work in Sarawak focuses on advocating for sustainable hydroelectric power (HEP) development in the state. Among its activities are facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogues and gathering vital information as input for the planning and management of catchments for HEP dams. As complementary activities, the organisation carried out educational and outreach activities involving a “Love Our Rivers” drawing and storyboard competition targeted at primary and secondary students in Sarawak. Additionally, the Youth Green X-Change (YGXC) Seminar and Camp were undertaken in collaboration with the Natural Resources and Environment Board Sarawak, Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) and six other government agencies and private sector partners. One key output from the YGXC Camp was a project proposal to address river pollution issues in Sarawak, which was developed by the youths themselves.




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