The “Waterways In Our Communities” webinar, organized in celebration of World River Day at the national level, brought together a diverse audience. This virtual event was held on September 20, 2023, from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. via the Zoom application. It served as a significant platform for fostering dialogue and raising awareness about the importance of preserving our waterways, focusing mainly on rivers. 

The webinar panel comprised three experts: YBRS. IR. Marenawati Binti Abd Malek, Director of River Basin Management from the Department of Irrigation and Drainage; YBHG. PROF. Dr. Chan Ngai Weng, President of Water Watch Penang (WWP); and YBRS. Tuan Haji Mansor Bin Abdul Ghani, Deputy Secretary of Friends of Rivers Malaysia. The moderator was Mdm. Siti Nooraznie Binti Abdul Rahim, Chief Assistance Secretary in the Water Resources Division from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change. 

During the discussion, experts highlighted the paramount importance of our rivers and addressed the pressing issue of river pollution. They also delved into the proactive measures taken by their respective organizations to combat this crisis. Notably, they emphasized the importance of community involvement in river preservation, acknowledging that 100% reliance on government initiatives might not suffice. Their call for collective action emphasized the vital role of individuals and communities in maintaining clean and healthy rivers.

Prof. Dr. Chan’s presentation provided a comprehensive overview of ‘The Role of Public Education and Community Involvement in Integrated River Management.’ He initially discusses the vital functions of rivers and highlights the issue of pollution resulting from irresponsible human actions. A specific case, the Pinang River, illustrates the transformation from a Class I river upstream to a polluted Class V river downstream. Furthermore, his presentation delves into the associated costs and challenges of cleaning polluted rivers.

Prof. Dr. Chan discussed factors contributing to river pollution and offered several solutions through cooperation from communities and public education. He also shared activities undertaken by WWP to raise awareness about water conservation. Additionally, he proposed the establishment of a National River Information Center, such as a River Museum, to educate the public about the importance of clean rivers. 

Following the presentation, a Q&A session allowed participants to ask questions in the chat box, with some inquiries receiving immediate live responses and others addressed in the chat. In a concluding remark, Prof. Dr. Chan stressed the critical need for society to be educated about preserving our rivers. He emphasized the importance of showcasing biodiversity, highlighting the origins of our rivers, and raising awareness about the various forms of pollution affecting these waterways.

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