Malaysia is no stranger to water problems. Indeed, for many Malaysians, access to a clean and reliable source of water is a pipe dream. And the climate crisis is only making the current situation worse
During World Water Day 2023, we are thankful for the organisations working hard to ensure that marginalised Malaysians have access to clean and reliable water. Here are 6 of these organisations and the water issues they are currently fighting against.
#1: Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Malaysia
Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Malaysia has been working tirelessly to improve the livelihoods of marginalised communities, ensuring that they have reliable access to basic resources such as water.
Among these marginalised communities is the Orang Asli. They depend on harvested rainwater or ponds or well water near the villages for water which they use for cooking, bathing, washing, and farming. Unfortunately, this also leaves them vulnerable to droughts (that are worsening year by year as a result of the climate crisis) which dry up their water sources, leaving their villages without any clean water.
As part of its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene initiative, GPF works to provide Orang Asli communities with clean and accessible water supplies. This is done by improving their hygiene practices and installing proper sanitation facilities.
Recently, 8 volunteers from all over Malaysia came together to help provide a consistent water supply to the Bidayuh village of Kg. Muk Ayun in Sarawak, as part of the fifth and final Global Peace Volunteer programme for the year 2022.
It was a daunting and back-breaking task but it was worth it. At the end of the programme, the volunteers built a permanent dam and water storage tanks. This will provide the villagers with a more reliable source of water that will save a lot of hours for the villagers. In addition, this will help them in their livelihood activities so that they are able to get a stable income.
The villagers took care of us really well, they made sure we always had enough food to eat. The nature surrounding Kg. Muk Ayun is so beautiful as well. Everything about this volunteering programme is awesome. – Nurbatrisyia, GPF volunteer
Thanks to their efforts, 96 villages have access to clean water with 51 washrooms built in 9 villages.
#2: Global Environment Centre (GEC)
The Global Environment Centre (GEC) is a non-profit organisation that has continuously tackled environmental issues locally and regionally for the past 20 years. Among the various environmental issues, GEC is involved in conservation projects for peatlands, forests and coastal areas in Malaysia.
Recognising the lack of awareness and education among the general public on the importance of river conservation (only 53% of Malaysian rivers are classified as “clean” and the remaining river basins are polluted), the GEC established the River Care Programme (RCP) to promote community participation in protecting our rivers and water resource protection.
The RCP currently focuses on three main rivers in Malaysia; Sungai Kinta in Perak, Sungai Penchala and Sungai Klang in Selangor. Over the past few years, the three rivers have been plagued with pollution due to their use as a source of water for the surrounding residents.
Currently, under the RCP, GEC is holding the Citizen Science Engagement Through River Adoption & Monitoring programme, which focuses on empowering the local community on issues that contribute to river care management including river monitoring and citizen science initiatives as well as fostering a network of smart cooperation between different stakeholders to preserve, conserve and monitor rivers and waste management for river care sustainability.
#3: Indah Water Konsortium
Indah Water is Malaysia’s national sewerage company, owned by the Minister of Finance. Its mission is to develop and maintain a modern and efficient sewerage system for all Malaysians.
The company aims to continue providing safe and efficient sewer treatment for the country. To that end, Indah Water continues to develop and improve its sewage treatment systems. This ensures that they meet the standards stipulated, and reduce the land area occupied by treatment works by accelerating natural treatment rates under controlled conditions. But even with these developments, Indah Water is still primarily concerned with ensuring the proper treatment of wastewater before it can safely be discharged into our rivers, thereby preserving the country’s water resources, protecting public health and providing a cleaner and safer environment.
Indah Water also runs community outreach programmes to help raise awareness of the importance of clean water. Friends of Rivers, for instance, hosts clean-up events to teach communities the importance of preserving our waterways and avoiding littering.
#4: HOPES Malaysia
Rural communities in Sabah are facing a crisis, with families barely surviving without the basic life need of clean water. This is a common issue in the over 74 remote poverty-stricken villages of Kota Belud, as most of these villagers are cut off from the public water supply. Underprivileged families find it a challenge to live each day without enough water for themselves, especially their many children.
Only relying on unsustainable streams, broken piping or rain harvesting for little water, this life-threatening issue causes isolated families to lack proper water supply for their daily activities at home and on their farms, making rural life much more challenging than it already is.
Recognising this problem and the need to empower the villagers in order to break the poverty cycle, HOPES Malaysia stepped in to help by installing gravity wells to carry precious water to the stricken villages. They installed gravity wells to carry precious water to the stricken villages. These sustainable gravity wells utilise 100% gravity force to deliver their contents, ensuring low maintenance and high resistance in the long run.
HOPES Malaysia initiated its work on the Kampung Tudan Gravity Water Project for 300 villagers in 2016. Since then, it has installed gravity wells in more than 8 remote rural Kota Belud communities, providing fresh, clean water to over 7,800 villagers.
HOPES continue to maintain the gravity wells to ensure their reliability and efficiency. In addition, it works to teach sustainable farming to Kota Belud communities, ensuring that they have better food security and income generation.
#5: Action Caring Team (ACT) Malaysia
Villagers in Lok Urai live in timber houses on stilts. Their houses are not equipped with a proper sewage system leading to human waste, household trash and plastic debris disposed directly into the sea.
Aiming to put an end to these deplorable conditions, Action Caring Team (ACT) Malaysia teamed up with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and researchers from University Putra Malaysia and Universiti Sabah Malaysia with the goal of improving living conditions in the “water villages” of East Malaysia.
This special pilot project called “Smart Sanitation for Water Settlements” ran from August 1st 2020 to March 31st 2021 and involved installing low-cost sewage treatment tanks under 9 homes and a school and training 10 local villagers in Lok Urai.
The pilot project utilised the Independent Sewerage Treatment Plant (ISTP) developed by a team of researchers from Universiti Putra Malaysia led by Professor Dr Rahinah Ibrahim. The ISTP technology is a 360-litre modular wastewater treatment technology that discharges SPAN Standard A treated wastewater into water bodies after 7 hours of treatment time.
Upon closing, the pilot project was a great success and villagers were happy with the results. The next step aims to install up to 200 treatment tanks in Lok Urai. This is followed by a possible plan to erect a fabrication yard to provide income generation for the villagers.
Sewage disposal used to be unregulated and it was not pleasant to see. Since the new toilet was installed at the school, I noticed the students are happier and much encouraged to be in school. – Normina Abdul, headmistress of the village’s alternative learning centre
#6: The Sea Monkey Project
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to our oceans and makes up 80% of all marine pollution (with about 50-75 trillion pieces of plastic and microplastics in the ocean). Around 8 to 10 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year.
The dire condition it is in and its effect on mother nature are evident to Sydney Steenland.
As we travelled, we saw some pretty amazing places and exquisite nature, but we also saw some pretty horrible things, like plastic everywhere. It didn’t matter where we went, what country we were in, what the financial status of the area was, there was always plastic around in every environment. – Sydney Steenland, Sea Monkey Project co-founder
Sydney and her parents decided to set up a social enterprise project, the Sea Monkey Project to help combat the pressing issue of plastic pollution.
Through this project, Sydney and members of the social enterprise are able to educate the public on the importance of reducing plastic waste through upcycling plastic bottles, bags, fishnets and other plastic waste into ethical souvenirs and accessories such as wallets and handbags.
As of now, the Sea Monkey Project has upcycled more than 22,500 products and organised close to 10,000 educational workshops.
Whatever you care about in the world, whether it’s poverty, hunger, climate change, plastic pollution, it can be anything. But when you want to start doing something, you have to physically start doing it. It can be anything, it doesn’t matter how small. – Sydney Steenland, Sea Monkey Project co-founder
Explore our sources
- N. Fong. (2021). “Why the Climate Crisis is a Women’s Issue”, a KAMY’s response to International Women’s Day 2021. Klima Action Malaysia. Link.
- Global Peace Foundation Malaysia. (2023). Restoring Broken Dams and Dreams for Kg. Muk Ayun. Link.
- HOPES Malaysia. Sustainable Community Development. Link
- UNEP. (2021). In Malaysia’s floating villages, sanitation arrives in portable form. Link
- M. Fava. (2022). Ocean plastic pollution an overview: data and statistics. UNESCO Ocean Literacy Portal. Link.
- N. Zahan & W. Chen. (2022). Meet the girl turning trash into treasure in Malaysia. euronews.culture. Link.