Connecting People to The River of Life
Working hand in hand with DID on one of the ROL-POP initiatives is Dr K Kalithasan, coordinator of the RIVER Care Programme for the Global Environment Centre (GEC) who affirms that river rehabilitation will not work if the human factor is not addressed effectively.
“People are both the source of the problem as well as the solution, and unless there is a change in mind set and behaviour, a permanent solution remains elusive.”
Dr. Kali asserts that the first move in mobilising people to care for the river is to reconnect people with the river and make them realise that they are both part of the river basin and the beneficiaries of the river, especially those who are living within its immediate vicinity.
“Once they are connected to the river, ownership and responsibility come naturally. This bottom-up or/and ‘heart’ approach (soft approach) works more effectively in changing behaviours and mind-sets than the hard approach or/and top-down instructions to take care of the river.”
“In 20 years of doing outreach programmes, our greatest achievement is the shift in the way people looked at river and river basin and re-connect, which I term as adopting the right picture of the river and river basin.”
Via ROL-POP, he shares that communities have started adopting river reserves and monitoring water quality. Some have transformed river reserves into vegetable and herb gardens as seen in AU2 with the support of the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) Malaysia, and community river centres in the Melawati Area and Taman AU3 community are planning to set up parks.
Overall, the ROL-POP shows that public participation is vital and should be the key element in future efforts for sustainable river basin management in Malaysia, he says.
Source: National Transformation Programme Annual Report 2015