During the write-shop, different topics related to writing about the environment were discussed. We were taught how to write briefly but with points and facts. We were reminded never to base our write-ups on hearsay. "Reporting should be fair and based," the guide said.
We were also taught that when writing a report on environmental pollution, we should be careful, and that our reports should always be legal and ethical.
One of the highlights of the entire event was our cruising the Kinabatangan River, Malaysia's second longest river. I enjoyed the lush, colorful flora growing in the banks. Above us, birds were flying carelessly, as if happy that we were around. Even the monkeys shared the same joy, swinging endlessly from one tree to another.
Before stepping into the boat, I listened to our guide doing the safety briefing, an SOP for every business operator in this area. As with the other guests, I wore an orange life jacket.
Apart from the hornbills flying above us and the rather noisy Proboscis Monkeys playing in the distance, I saw plenty of white bubbles exploding at the surface of the river. They looked like a strange match to the colorful hyacinths that also appeared on the surface of the river. They smelled a little stinky. Like dead fish. I wondered what's causing them.
After I pointed out the presence of bubbles, Ms. Daria Mathew, a Freshwater Senior Manager of WWF - Malaysia who was on the other boat, confirmed that they, along with the presence of the hyacinths, were indicators of pollution and contamination.
Ms. Mathew also said that the pollutants and contaminants may have come from the oil palm companies nearby. That is why WWF was doing an awareness program related to environment and river conservation, Ms. Mathew further said. And one of their strategies is getting the community involved in helping monitor and document what is going on in the area. They partnered with different tour agencies as well, so guests taking river cruises would be more comfortable.
As we continued the cruise and listened to our guide, I got hit by a realization. As it is everyone’s responsibility to protect the environment and the river, I should also be responsible. It is also my responsibility to protect and teach youngsters how to keep the environment clean, especially the rivers, the main water-source of people in this area.
I left Kampung Bilit carrying a huge lump on my throat. As someone who is engaged in writing, I have the ability to inform many about what's going on.
I bade goodbye to the teen croc lying in the river bank that enjoyed looking at us as our boat passed by, leaving a trace of river bubbles around it. And while waiting for the van to pick us up near the wooden waiting shed and while thanking the staffs of the WWF-Malaysia for conducting the write-shop, I managed to write a short poem:
HERE COMES THE RIVER
I could never step on this river twice
Twice as it is today,
But I will never leave it as prey,
a prey to the savage and greedy.
And I know,
One day, I will come again.
When that time comes,
I want to smell good things
I want to see the beautiful scenes
I want to listen to a story of care.
Then I know,
Here comes the river
Here I am to cruise
Soon with the polluted bubbles
In a recent report, an oil palm company was fined RM50, 000 by the Session Court for discharge of effluent exceeding standardized quality limit. The company was charged under Section 16 (1) of the Environmental Quality Act 1974. They are punishable under Section 16 (2) of the same Act for discharging Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and discharging effluent containing suspended solids from the final discharge point, which exceeded the quality standard limit.