BEAUTY IN THE FRIDGE

Why Did Coldplay Feel A Need To Help Clean M’sia’s Rivers? Here’s Our Poor Report Card.

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Before Coldplay even plays Fix You for Malaysians in a concert, they’re fixing our rivers first. Coldplay has sponsored the Interceptor 005, a watercraft designed by the Dutch non-profit The Ocean Cleanup, to remove plastic rubbish from our rivers.

The Interceptor 005 called the Neon Moon 1 will be deployed in Malaysia, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, the US, Jamaica, and Thailand, to name a few countries.

“The system will collect plastic before it reaches the sea. The Ocean Cleanup plans to deploy these vessels in 1,000 rivers around the world, helping towards the goal of reducing floating ocean plastic by 90% by 2040,” Coldplay shared on their Instagram.

Prior to this project, Coldplay had already been a constant advocate for green initiatives, from pausing concerts for a while because of how much waste and carbon emissions they generated, to creating ethically-sourced tees to help with reforestation, and more.

Now, About The Interceptors…

According to Malay Mail, Malaysia is the first to receive the Interceptor 005, which is currently under construction and will be completed in mid-2021 to commence operations right after.

The founder, Boyan Slat, in an interceptor / Image Credit: Boyan Slat’s Twitter

This latest interceptor, the Neon Moon 1, is locally-built in partnership with Konecranes, a Finnish firm, at their MHE-Demag facility in Bukit Raja, Klang and is expected to catch up to 100,000kg of rubbish daily, especially plastics. It costs US$770,000 (approx. RM3,200,062).

Prior to this interceptor, however, Malaysia had the Interceptor 002, which was received in August 2019 (also from The Ocean Cleanup) and placed in the Klang River as a Selangor Maritime Gateway initiative. It was built at a cost of €700,000 (approx. RM3,405,809) and runs on solar energy, and was able to collect 10,000kg of trash every day from the rivers.

How Do They Work?

Basically, the river waste flowing with the current will be guided by the barrier towards the opening of the Interceptor, and that water flow path will carry the plastic onto the conveyor belt.

The conveyor belt then carries these wastes and discards them across six dumpsters, which will be filled equally until they reach maximum capacity.

When the interceptor is almost full, it’ll send a text message to a local operator to come and empty the dumpsters and send the waste to local waste management facilities and return the barge back into the interceptor.

These interceptors from The Ocean Cleanup don’t require people to handle dirty or harmful river debris, and have also been designed for mass production, so they can be manufactured, assembled, and installed faster and more cost-efficiently.

But Wait, Haven’t We Had Local River-Cleaning Initiatives?

While help is greatly appreciated to handle our river pollution, one has to wonder, why isn’t our own government and its local bodies doing anything more? Well, we did try.

Previously, we had the River of Life (RoL), a 7-year project that was supposed to be headed by the government to transform the Klang River into a vibrant waterfront with high economic value. It covered 8 rivers with a total length of 110km.

River of Life goals / Image Credit: Aecom

The project had 3 goals which were cleaning the river, beautifying it, and commercialising it for tourism. These goals were led by the Department of Irrigation & Drainage (DID) Malaysia, DBKL, and the Ministry of Federal Territory (KWP) respectively.

It was launched in 2012 and ended in 2019 but left a lot to be desired. Critics have pointed out the flaws in its beautification efforts as well as how the river was still muddy. The results did not seem to justify the RM4.4 billion sum pumped into it.

“I was very excited about RoL. It was touted as the most expensive and ambitious river cleaning project by the international press. But I was sad when I visited the place,” shared the Vice President of the Institute of Landscape Architects Malaysia, Dr Nor Atiah Ismail. She was also on the panel of judges appointed by the government to assess submissions for the project in 2011.

“The mist and the fountains were piped water and the river was still muddy. There could have been more plants, better water quality and the use of more sustainable material.” 

In 2018, Indah Water Konsortium launched an ongoing programme called Friends of River (FoR) that aims to clean up 21 rivers with the help of neighbourhoods, non-governmental organisations, government agencies, and higher education students.

River-cleaning activities are still actively being held, but Klang Member of Parliament Charles Santiago urged the government to go further and set up a National River Protection Authority (NRPA), additionally making it a part of the National Security Council.

“We need to think beyond the ‘Friends of River’ campaign because our rivers continue to be polluted despite ‘clean river’ initiatives over one and a half decades now,” he said.

Federal and state agencies for river management remain fragmented, and the NRPA could provide a platform for improved coordination across agencies.

The NRPA would also have the power to hold manufacturers accountable for the end-of-life impacts of their plastic products and packaging, indirectly leading to an adoption of more eco-friendly alternatives.

While those are strategies for the government to carry out, we cannot forget the role that the general public plays in keeping our rivers clean as well. We need to be better educated not just on the situation, but on what actions we can take on a smaller scale to do our part.

  • You can learn more about these interceptors here.
  • You can learn more about Selangor Maritime Gateway here.

Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia and Boyan Slat, founder of The Ocean Cleanup

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