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Introduction Of Water Resources Quality In Malaysia Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 4469 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Malaysia consists of two parts, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, which are drained by 150 rivers system. Within these river systems is an estimated 1,800 rivers and major tributaries, with a total length exceeding 38,000km. The longest river in Malaysia is Sg. Rajang with a catchment area of 51,000sqkm.

However, the water quality status of rivers in Malaysia has always been a cause for concern for various local authorities, government agencies as well as the public at large. Rivers in Malaysia are generally considered to be polluted with coherent.

The statistical account of polluted rivers in Malaysia remained at 14 as in the previous years which are Dondang, Sg. Jurn and Sg. Jejawi in Penang; Sg.Deralik and Sg. Raja Hitam in Perak; Sg. Kelang, Sg. Buloh and Sg. Sepang in Selangor; Sg. Tukang Batu, Sg. Pasir Gudang, Sg. Sedili Kecil, Sg. Kempas, Sg. Pontian Kechil and Sg. Rambahbah in Johor. Some of the Malaysia rivers are heavily polluted with mean BOD levels nearly six times the international standard. The higher level of BOD-related water pollution is due to the residential pollution, followed by agriculture and industries. Of the 119 rivers monitored for wastewater pollution, 34 rivers exceeded the standards. The numbers of affected rivers were nine in Johor, seven in Selangor, six in Sarawak, three in Terengganu, two each in Melaka, Pahang, Perak and Sabah and one in Negeri Sembilan.

From physical observation alone, one thing that can deduce that something is not right with the current water quality condition of rivers. From a scientific perspective though, it is still necessary to quantify the degree of pollution, in order to manage the pollution issues in a systematic and optimized fashion.

The existing methodology for river water quality classification and monitoring is quite extensive. In fact, the country¿½s current water quality monitoring network is at par, if not better, than many developed countries. At the moment, Malaysia has over 1000 manual and automatic river water quality monitoring stations in 146 basins maintained by the Department of Environment (DOE) alone. These exclude other stations maintained by other agencies such as the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) as well as the respective state level agencies. There are two primary methods employed to classify the river water quality monitored; the Water Quality Index (WQI), which in turn is rooted on the Interim National Water Quality Standards (INWQS), a set of standards derived based on beneficial uses of water.

1. For Malaysia, describe the main sources of river contamination and the options available to minimize their adverse impact on water resources.

Various sources of pollution occur in Malaysia, mainly from agriculture (fertilizers, pesticides and sediments from soil erosion), livestock farming (animal wastes), domestic homes (human wastes), urban areas (grey waters and untreated wastewaters) and industries (industrial effluent).

Malaysian rivers are degraded by both Point and Non-point sources of pollution. The major point sources of pollution are sewage treatment plants, agro-based industries, manufacturing industries, sullage or grey-water from commercial and residential premises, and pig farms. Non-point source (or diffuse) pollution is largely due to storm runoff after a downpour. Earthworks and land clearance activities contribute to siltation of rivers and can be both point and non-point sources of pollution.

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Point sources are wastewater that is discharged from known sources at an identifiable point or also defined as stationary locations or fixed facilities from which pollutants are actually discharged. Usually found in a plume that has the highest concentrations of the pollutant nearest the source and diminishing concentrations farther away from the source. They can be reduced or eliminated through proper wastewater treatment prior to discharge.

Non-point sources can be characterized by multiple discharge point such as urban and agricultural runoff. Much of non-point sources pollution occurs during rain storms. Reduction generally requires changes in land use practices.

Point sources

The main point sources being from:

i) Manufacturing

Discharging of solvent, petroleum products and heavy metals into rivers. Approximate 4 liters of pure trichloroethylene (solvent) will contaminate over 1 billion liters of water. The high temperature discharges will also causing subsequent decaying organic matter in water. The most serious kind of river pollution in Malaysia is the pollution by heavy metals and hazardous chemical discharged from the thousands of factories in industrial zones, especially those located upstream of rivers. Privatization of treatment of industrial wastes has made such treatment expensive, and there are a significant number of factories not treating their wastes. Some have even been caught dumping their wastes illegally. The economic slowdown in recent years has exacerbated this problem as there are more and more been incidents of illegal dumping of toxic wastes and leakages of waste products from improperly constructed containers as well as accidental spillage. This has caused serious pollution, especially to the rivers. Based on the current large volume (which is increasing alarmingly) of pollutants of all sorts, rivers can no longer perform their self-purification function. Consequently, river pollution monitoring by the Department of Environment (DOE) has shown a drastic decline in water quality of rivers. For example, out of the 117 rivers monitored in 1997, 24 were rated as clean, 68 slightly polluted and 25 polluted (Table). The situation improved slightly in 1998 but the conditions of rivers deteriorated again in 2002. In terms of heavy metal contamination, 55 rivers haven been found to exceed the maximum limit of 0.001 mg/l for cadmium, 44 rivers exceeded the iron limit of 1.00 mg/l, 36 rivers exceeded the lead limit of 0.01 mg/l and 24 rivers exceeded the mercury limit of 0.0001 mg/l (Hj Keizrul Bin Abdullah, 2002).

Table 1.1 : Quality of River Waters, 1987 ¿½ 2002

Year No. of Rivers Monitored Clean Slightly Polluted Very Polluted

1987 91 43 45 3

1988 91 48 40 3

1989 91 45 43 3

1990 90 48 35 7

1991 87 37 44 6

1992 87 25 55 7

1993 116 30 75 11

1994 116 38 64 14

1995 115 48 53 14

1996 116 42 61 13

1997 117 24 68 25

1998 117 33 68 13

2002 120 30 68 22

(Source: Department of Environment Malaysia)

Installation of wastewater treatment systems are needed to filter their water pollutants before being dumped into rivers. By implementing cleaner production, waste minimisation and waste re-utilisation can reduce water pollution further.

ii) Livestock farming

They are mostly pig farming. Animal feeding and animal waste treatment lagoons can carry nutrients, bacteria, viruses, and oxygen demanding substances that can contaminate rivers and cause major water quality issues. Aquatic life in rivers will be threatened. Once those pollutants discharge to rivers, it is difficult, costly, and sometimes even impossible to clean up.

We can reduce the pollution from livestock farming by planting of permanent vegetation as buffer zone between farmland and rivers/lakes.

iii) Agro-based industries

The pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that are used for killing pests, are used extensively in Malaysia. Once these substances entered rivers, rivers will be contaminated and harmful to aquatic organisms.

Fertilizers such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are excessively high level of nutrients. They can wash into the ecosystem in river and restrict recreational activities such as dragon boat and kayak.

When wind or water run-off carries soil particles from farming fields, sedimentation will occur. Sedimentation can cause clouding of water in rivers which can decrease the amount of sunlight provided to aquatic life.

We can reduce fertilizer runoff by:

i. Not using excessive amount

ii. Using none on steeply sloped land

iii. Application of pesticides only when needed

iv. Reducing the usage of fertilizers and pesticides on golf courses and public parks.

iv) Wastewater treatment plants

The wastewater contains substance like human waste, food scraps, oil, soaps and chemicals. Generally the sewage flows through an extensive network of underground pipes to wastewater treatment plant where the polluted water is treated using various methods to remove the pollutants. If the polluted water is fed directly in to the rivers lead water contamination. The reasons behind the sewage treatment are the scarce in natural water resources and the higher demand of clean water supply. Moreover the higher volume of wastewater back to natural water resources deteriorates quality of water in receiving bodies. These matters have emphasized technological development in water industry to provide innovative yet proven technical solution. The main goal of any sewage treatment plant is to reduce or remove organic matters, solids, nutrients, disease-causing organisms and other pollutants from wastewater.

Sewage treatment plants go through several steps in a treatment process in order to safely treat large quantities of wastewater. In addition to that each sewage treatment plant must hold a permit listing the allowable levels of BOD5, suspended solids, and other pollutants. Currently the systems like septic tank, activated sludge, oxidation ponds and aerated lagoon are used to treat the polluted wastewater. These wastewater treatment plants are not very efficient in treating sewage. The BioFilm wastewater treatment system is more effective than conventional wastewater treatment system.

Options available to minimize the impact

Figure 1. In Malaysia, The Department of Environment has recorded 17,991 water pollution point sources in 2004.

Non-point sources

i) Squatters

Squatters are another major source of river pollution. Most of the towns and cities in Malaysia grew from squatter settlements. Currently, squatter settlements line the banks of all the major rivers in the urban areas, with many such as along the Melaka River are built over the river itself. Since river banks are flood-prone, the land is seldom developed. Hence, these areas provide a cheap and convenient locale for the poor. In recent years, immigrants from neighboring countries have literally ¿½flooded¿½ these squatter settlements, just as the settlements themselves are flooded ever so often. Squatter settlements are not provided with sanitation facilities or rubbish disposal facilities. Hence, the squatters use the rivers both as a source of water as well as a means of waste disposal. It is not uncommon to find toilets constructed on stilts in the river. Squatters are also guilty of dumping all sorts of rubbish into rivers, including old furniture and broken down motor-cycles and cars. Along the Sg. Kelang alone, it is estimated that about 40,000 families live in squatter settlements. Hence the amount of pollution generated is enormous.

Installations of waste trap are needed at drainage system and rivers around squatters.

Soil erosion

When the impact of water or wind detaches and removes soil particles, soil erosion will be occurred. Overland flow gives rise to soil erosion when the shear stress aroused by the run-off water becomes sufficiently large to detach the topsoil particles during heavy rain. The eroded particles will be washed into the drainage which eventually leads to the river.

Soil erosion will cause the water to become very muddy, lowering the surface water quality. High level of nitrogen and phosphorus along with the higher sediments in rivers will reduce water surface quality. Eutrophication occurs rapidly due to the phosphorus and nitrogen enriched water, decreasing dissolved oxygen levels and light availability which will affect aquatic life adversely.

Soil erosion can be decreased by planting vegetation along waterways. By doing so, not only reduces surface runoff and protects soil surface erosion. Plant roots can hold the soil along the river banks together firmly to prevent soil erosion.

Other than planting vegetation, cemented banks and concrete walls also can reduce soil erosion along the river banks.

One of the choices to reduce soil erosion is reforestation of logged forest to control soil erosion.

ii) Domestic wastewater

When we do certain household chores like washing laundry, mopping the floor or washing the car, we dispose the dirty and soapy water such as detergent into the drainage system and contaminate the waterways. It affects the quality of water and affects aquatic life.

Most of the people are typically not aware of the water quality consequences of car or laundry washing, and do not know the chemical content of the soaps and detergents they use. It is a very difficult to change this behavior since it is hard to produce a better alternative. .

Domestic sewage discharge, in the form of treated sewage and partially treated sewage, remained the largest contributor of organic pollution load with an estimated biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) load of 883,391.08 kg/day. The estimated BOD loading contributed by other major sectors were agro-based and manufacturing industries (76,790.77 kg/day) and pig farming (213,215.00 kg/day). Table 1.2 indicates the total BOD load in kg/day discharged from sewage treatment plants throughout Malaysia in 2006.

Options available to minimize the impact

Table 1.2 Malaysia: Total BOD Load (kg/day) from Sewage Treatment Plants

State No. of STP Total PE Flow

(m3/day) BOD Load (kg/day)

Selangor 2,563 5,908,450 1,329,401 332,350.31

Perak 1,343 1,300,430 292,597 73,149.19

Johor 1010 1,198,417 269,644 67,410.96

Negeri Sembilan 928 931,458 209,578 52,394.51

Kedah 755 556,637 125,243 31,310.83

Melaka 725 570,192 128,293 32,073.30

Pulau Pinang 650 2,149,001 483,525 120,881.31

Pahang 486 314,830 70,837 17,709.19

WP Kuala Lumpur 299 2,571,877 578,672 144,668.08

Terengganu 224 75,184 16,916 4,229.10

Perlis 36 16,156 3,635 908.78

WP Labuan 32 39,265 8,835 2,208.66

WP Putrajaya 9 72,833 16,387 4,096.86

Total 9,060 15,704,730 3,533,563 883,391.08

Source: IWK Sdn. Bhd.

iii) Construction sites

During heavy rains, silt and sediments can get washed from construction sites into the rivers and drains. Other pollutants include diesel and oil, paint, solvents, cleaners and other harmful chemicals. They are carried by the water into the rivers and cause pollution.

With more construction sites emerging around Malaysia, construction sites have become one of the main contributors to the pollution of rivers. Some of the contractors do not know how erosion occurs and how sediments behave and make the pollution occurred.

We can reduce the pollution by using sedimentation basins or silt traps at construction sites

2. Discuss the short-term and long-term effects of the pollution of river and groundwater systems.

Water pollution will give negative impacts to people, mainly economic, environment and human health. Other than that, flora and fauna will also be threatened. The effects of the pollution of river and groundwater systems can be short-term and long-term.

Short-term effects

Impact on economic

In Malaysia, The¿½fisheries¿½sector is an important sub-sector in¿½Malaysia¿½and plays a significant role in the national economy.¿½Apart from contributing to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it is also a source of employment, foreign exchange and a source of protein supply for the rural population in the country. Fish constitutes 60-70% of the national animal protein intake, with per caput consumption of 47.8 kg per year. The rate of demand for fish as the main source of protein is expected to increase from the current annual consumption of 630 000 tonne to over 1 579 800 tonne by 2010.

If the rivers are polluted, seafood obtained from rivers will threatened people¿½s health. If people denied eating seafood, the economy in Malaysia will be affected seriously. Most of the fishermen will also lose their job and will seek helps from government. The GDP of Malaysia will also be reduced.

The cleaning of polluted groundwater systems and rivers is costly. If the government decides to clean the rivers and groundwater systems, the costs of implementing devices and hiring clean-up agencies can come up to millions of Ringgit Malaysia. In the event of unjust hiring of agencies due to corrupted government, the amount of money spent will be substantial.

Impact on Tourism & recreational activities

The rivers have become a tourist attraction and this has prompted the construction of hotels and resorts around the area. Some of the outdoor water recreational activities such as Kayak and fishing would be affected. Hence, a clean and pollutant-free river is needed for them to carry out their activities without any healthy issues. People will have a bad impression of the area due to the polluted waters.

If rivers haven been polluted, this will give a negative image to tourists and the reputation of the area will be damaged. Hence, the economy of country will also be affected.

Long-term effects

Impact on ecosystem & Eutrophication

With polluted rivers, the turbidity and impurity of the water would lead to the disappearance of marine life. By the way, land animal¿½s life will also be threatened by drinking contaminated water. Organic chemical such as oil, gasoline, plastic, pesticide, detergents and many water soluble and insoluble chemicals are threatened aquatic life.

The salts from the polluted water can cause an artificial enrichment of salt levels, which in turn provides a suitable environment for the growth of microorganisms, particularly the blue algae, resulting to what is known as eutrophication. The algae flourish and cover the water surface; since they respire anaerobically they require oxygen. Their existence results to oxygen depletion in the water and subsequently, most of the aquatic plants and animals in such polluted water die off. These dead organisms then decompose, causing a further decrease in oxygen levels.

Human health impact

Cleanliness of the area around the river would be disturbed, affecting the health of many people since poor hygiene and sanitization would cause the river and groundwater systems to become a breeding ground for many pests and diseases. If the groundwater is not treated properly before supplying it as drinking water, it could also lead to many other illnesses like diarrhea and poisoning.

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There are many ethnic aboriginal groups that still exist in Malaysia and the people depends on the rivers and streams to survive. They depend on the river for food, water supply for drinking, bathing and for their crops. The river happens to be the main centre of their livelihood and without the rivers the whole tribes cannot survive as their ancestors had done generations before them, all of them depending on the rivers.

People in Malaysia like to eat seafood, once the rivers contaminated, the seafood will be polluted at the same time. People can get Hepatitis B by eating contaminated¿½seafood.

Waterborne decease in world

The World Health Organization says that every year more than 3.4 million people die as a result of water related diseases, making it the leading cause of disease and death around the world. Killing more than 14,000 people each day and causing more than 80% of all illness (United Nations,2005) In developed countries, the disease caused by using insufficiently disinfected water, by implementing non-hygienic food preparation and by insufficient personal hygiene.

The environment is everything that surrounds us and gives us life and health. Destroying the environment ultimately reduces the quality of our own lives.

3. Describe approaches to remedy pollution of water supplies.


To remedy pollution of water supplies, awareness has to be raised so that the public will be able to do their part. The most important part would be educating the public. In Malaysia, the River Adoption Programme and River Watch Programme are among the awareness programmes targeted to schools in the past. To ensure continuity of this Education Programme, The Pencinta Sungai Club (Love Our River Club), will be set up in Kedah Darul Aman by the Kedah State Education Department, whilst others are being encouraged to follow suit. In this regard, the participation of the Ministry of Education syllabus (e.g Life Technic) and co-curriculum of Kindergartens, schools and Institutions of Higher Learning.¿½

Water quality management by Legislation

Laws are used as a form of management response to environmental problems in Malaysia. Amongst the laws relevant to water quality management include the 1929 Mining Enactment, the 1930 Waters Enactment, the 1954 Drainage Works Ordinance and the 1974 Street, Drainage and Building Act.

These laws are largely sectorial in character and focused on specific areas of activity. The increasingly complex environmental problems faced by Malaysia required a comprehensive piece of legislation which came in the form of the 1974 Environmental Quality Act. The Act came into force on 1 April 1974 for the abatement and control of pollution and enhancement of the environment. Three pieces of subsidiary legislation were formed as an initial legislative approach to water quality management. These were:

i. Environmental Quality (Prescribed Premises) (Crude Palm Oil) Regulations 1977;

ii. Environmental Quality (Prescribed Premises) (Raw Natural Rubber) Regulations 1978; and

iii. Environmental Quality (Sewage and Industrial Effluents) Regulations 1979.

Agro-based industries

The earlier post-independence years saw a proliferation of agro-based industries such as raw natural rubber factories and palm oil mills which polluted our rivers. The control of pollution from these sources involved a combination of both economic and command-control instruments.

They were induced to install effective wastewater treatment systems instead of paying the prohibitive effluent-related or pollution fees imposed under the licensing requirements that came into force since 1977. The organic pollutant load dumped into rivers has been greatly reduced by more than 90 percent of the total load generated.


All manufacturing industries are required to install wastewater treatment systems to arrest their water pollutants before being dumped into rivers.

The manufacturing industries are encouraged to implement alternative options such as cleaner production, waste minimisation and waste re-utilisation in order to reduce water pollution further. Such options could also enhance production efficiency, reduce waste generation and thereby its final disposal cost.

River quality monitoring

The Department of Environment (DOE) has established a river monitoring network since 1978 to establish the status of river water quality, to detect changes in the water quality and wherever possible to identify pollution sources of rivers. It also serves to support environmental management and planning in the country.

Love Our River Campaign (Kem Cintalah Sungai Kita)

The Love Our Rivers Campaign was first launched by the Department of Irrigation and Drainage Malaysia (DID) in 1993, to educate the public on the importance of rivers and the environment in our lives while consequently highlighting the critical state of pollution faced by our rivers.

Love Our River Campaign, is yet another effort by DID aimed at encouraging public awareness, empathy and care towards our rivers and the concerted efforts undertaken to clean our rivers nationwide. Apart from the continuous educational and awareness programs, this year¿½s campaign which included River Cleaning, River Beautification, Pollution Rehabilitation, River Adoption and Education Programs targets individuals, corporate bodies and the public sector.

However, there are hard approaches to deal with the group of people who are irresponsible and continue activities that pollute our water supplies. On the other hand, industrial activities which discharge large amount of wastewaters into our sewage are being controlled strictly. Only a certain amount of pollutants or chemicals are allowed to be released into the sewage and permission needed to be applied. Those who discharge more than the permitted level will be fined. This way, it restricts the amount of pollution, so it will be easier to treat the sewage which will eventually end up in our waterbodies. We should ensure our rivers are in the good condition for the new generation in future. If we fail to protect our rivers, the kids in the future will not be able to taste delicious seafood and enjoy the natural and clean rivers.

Book References:

Surface water pollution and its control (1989)

Water: Asia¿½s environmental imperative (1997)

Water Contamination ¿½ from molecular to catchment scale (2006)

Internet References:



















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