Long-term solutions, holistic efforts only way to save Sungai Tabuan
By Jude Toyat
Rivers are a vital part of the ecosystem, besides providing for our overall well-being, it is also essential for wildlife habitats, as well as valued by local communities and enjoyed by tourists. However, the quality of rivers here in Kuching needs to be improved upon, one such example being Sungai Tabuan.
According to an officer from the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) Jonathan Manggah, numerous complaints have been received from the public on the floating waste problem on Sungai Tabuan.
“Based on the NREB monitoring programme, Sungai Tabuan is still not fit for human use,” he said when met during a site inspection along the river on May 14.
Based on surveys conducted by respective agencies, the Sungai Tabuan waste is mainly from the residents along Sungai Tabuan Melayu that include Kampung Tabuan Lot, Kampung Tabuan Dani, Kampung Tabuan Tengah, Kampung Tabuan Cemerlang, and Kampung Tabuan Haji Drahman.
These villages are not provided with individual waste collection bins – only limited communal bins. Most of the houses are also not accessible to the rubbish truck services; hence villagers dispose their waste into the river.
During high tide, the rubbish in the river is carried upstream and becomes entangled and trapped by the vegetation along the riverbank when tide subsides. Over time, this has caused the accumulation of floating waste in Sungai Tabuan.
A working committee consists of NREB, Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID), Sarawak Rivers Board (SRB), Kuching South City Council (MBKS) and Kuching City North Commission (DBKU) was formed on September 10, 2013 led by NREB to address this river pollution issue.
The agencies conducted several activities, one of them an outreach and awareness programme called ‘Let’s Keep Sungai Tabuan Alive’ held on September 1 last year and attended by 150 villagers. The Department of Environment Sarawak (DOE) and Trienekens (Sarawak) Sdn. Bhd. collaborated in the programme.
“The programme has successfully bridged the information gap between local entities and government agencies on issue of rehabilitating Sungai Tabuan,” Jonathan added.
Other activities also included installing boom gates and collection of floating waste at Tabuan Jaya Bridge, Tabuan Foochow Bridge, Sungai Pengiran Bridge, and Muara Tabuan Bridge, conducting alternative waste collection services at villages along Sungai Tabuan, as well as several ‘gotong-royong’ cleaning projects.
“The working committee also does waste collection which are to be conducted on a daily basis for three months this year. We did it in April this year and the next ones will be held in June and October,” he said.
Most of the waste consists of plastic items including bottles and food containers. Contractors working or living nearby were also instructed not to dump more rubbish into the river especially during rainy season as it will cause heavy floods in that area.
A long term solution the working committee proposed were a social survey to determine the socio-economic status of the Kampung Tabuan Melayu residents.
So far they have installed Gross Pollutant Traps (GPT) at two main drainage outlets at Premier 101 Commercial Center and Stutong Wet Market to prevent rubbish from flowing into tributaries of Sungai Tabuan.
Besides that, landscaping or beautification work will also need to be done along the river corridors from Tabuan Jaya commercial/residential areas to Foochow bridge area.
“There will be no single agency to be singled out responsible for this. It must be a collective effort done in a holistic and integrated manner by the working committee and participation of the local communities.
The unsightly river not only tarnishes the image of Kuching City, but also invites negative criticism from non-government organizations (NGOs) and is widely publicised in the media.
“We hope that we can all contribute to reducing the source of water pollution in this area, before we go to a more costly approach on water treatment so that it can be used for other consumption,” he said.