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As Malaysia is fast becoming an industrial country, many of her rivers have become

polluted due to the many wastes that have been poured out into her rivers. Such as the
paper making industry, it requires chemicals, often poisonous in its production. The rivers
are used as an outlet for the chemicals to drain away, in turn harming the waters and the
lives that revolve around them.

There are many ethnic aboriginal groups that still exist in Malaysia and the people
depend 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.

The rivers have become a tourist attraction and this has prompted the construction
of hotels and resorts around the area. As a result, many of the forests surrounding the river
areas have been chopped down. The surrounding soil has no roots to hold on to and soon
erode when the rains come. The soil runs into the rivers and soon the rivers become murky
and shut out all the sunlight from reaching the aquatic life in the rivers and streams. This
causes them to die.

A good example is the construction of a new golf course near the waterfall at tourist
attraction Fraser’s Hill in the state of Pahang, causing it to become extremely murky and
dirty due to the silt and sand that comes from the construction. The waterfall which has
been the centre point of the hill has now lost all its attraction just because of the
overwhelming need to attract more tourists to the place by building more facilities.

The effects of water pollution are far-reaching and affect not only the environment, but
human beings and animals as well. Water pollution affects our oceans, lakes, rivers, and
drinking water, making it a widespread and global concern. Numerous diseases, health
problems, and even fatalities have been associated with water pollution. Water is
considered polluted when chemicals, pathogens, or contaminants are detected. Human
beings have the most crucial impact on our water resources. They also have the ability to
control or eliminate water pollution.

The causes of water pollution

1) Domestic sewage

Domestic households, industrial and agricultural practices produce wastewater that can
cause pollution of many lakes and rivers. Sewage is the term used for wastewater that often
contains faeces, urine and laundry waste.

With over 8 billion people on the planet, disposing of sewage waste is a major problem. In
developing countries, many people still lack clean water and basic sanitation (hygienic
toilet facilities). Sewage disposal affects people's immediate environments and leads to
water-related illnesses such as diarrhoea that kills 3-4 million children each year.
(According to the World Health Organization, water-related diseases could kill 135 million
people by 2020.)

In developed countries, most people have flush toilets that take sewage waste quickly and
hygienically away from their homes. Yet the problem of sewage disposal does not end there.
When you flush the toilet, the waste has to go somewhere and, even after it leaves the
sewage treatment works, there is still waste to dispose of. Sometimes sewage waste is
pumped untreated into the sea. Until the early 1990s, around 5 million tons of sewage was
dumped by barge from New York City each year. The population of Britain produces
around 300 million gallons of sewage every day, some of it still pumped untreated into the
sea through long pipes. The New River that crosses the border from Mexico into California
carries with it 20-25 million gallons (76-95 million liters) of raw sewage each day.

In theory, sewage is a completely natural substance that should be broken down harmlessly
in the environment: 90 percent of sewage is water. In practice, sewage contains all kinds of
other chemicals, from the pharmaceutical drugs people take to the paper, plastic, and other
wastes they flush down their toilets. When people are sick with viruses, the sewage they
produce carries those viruses into the environment. It is possible to catch illnesses such as
hepatitis, typhoid, and cholera from river and sea water.


One major cause of water pollution that has caused serious environmental and health
problems are the pollutants coming from chemical and industrial processes. When factories
and manufacturers pour their chemicals and livestock wastes directly into streams and
rivers, the water becomes poisonous and oxygen levels are depleted causing many aquatic
organisms to die. These wastes include solvents and toxic substances. Most of the wastes are
not biodegradable. Power plants, paper mills, refineries, automobile factories dispose waste
into the rivers.

The heated water from the power plants is called thermal pollution. This kills aquatic
animals and plants by reducing the oxygen content of the water. Power plants use water to
cool their machineries, thus changing the temperature of the water.

Aside from thermal pollution, there are also organic and inorganic pollutants. The organic
wastes include refuse from slaughter houses, fish and meat canning factories, and leather
tanning companies, manufacturing plants, pesticides and crude oil companies. Since
organic wastes are decomposed by microorganisms, much of the dissolved oxygen in water
is used up and the waster begins to stink.
Inorganic wastes include toxic and corrosive substances like acids, heavy metals, mercury,
cadmium and lead which can impair the normal body processes. Battery manufacturers,
mining, paper mills increase the concentration of mercury making the water dangerous
and poisonous for most living things.

I n the same way, if chemical factories are only equipped with better facilities that can
release treated wastewater, there will be no harm done to the lakes or rivers where they
dump their by products. If home owners associations will work to build and provide their
subdivisions with sewage treatment facilities, eutrophication can be controlled and dying
bodies of water will be spared. But as mentioned, polluters choose the easier way where
they can save on operation costs and where they can rid themselves of the hassles of
responsibility. Anyway, they are not affected by the effects of their misdeeds.

Aside from improper and careless waste disposal, another main cause of water pollution is
toxic substances coming from industrial, agricultural and domestic use. Trace elements of
lead, cadmium, mercury, dioxins are detected in different water sources which sometimes
accumulate in the water supply causing health problems. These toxic substances come from
industries such mining, power plants, automobile manufacturers and others that produce
toxic substances leading to bodies of water. Apart from these industries, these toxic
materials contaminate the water through accidents like chemical or oil spills.

Industrial and agricultural work involves the use of many different chemicals that can run-
off into water and pollute it.

• Metals and solvents from industrial work can pollute rivers and lakes. These are
poisonous to many forms of aquatic life and may slow their development, make
them infertile or even result in death.
• Pesticides are used in farming to control weeds, insects and fungi. Run-offs of these
pesticides can cause water pollution and poison aquatic life. Subsequently, birds,
humans and other animals may be poisoned if they eat infected fish.
• Petroleum is another form of chemical pollutant that usually contaminates water
through oil spills when a ship ruptures. Oil spills usually have only a localized affect
on wildlife but can spread for miles. The oil can cause the death of many fish and
stick to the feathers of seabirds causing them to lose the ability to fly.

Water disposal

People pollute the water with chemicals and other hazardous materials. People have no
regard to water - their source of life. They do not realize that this once abundant resource
is rapidly being contaminated due to their negligence and carelessness.

Waste disposal has always been a chronic problem, not only because of the quantity of
wastes, but because of its kind and the inadequate provision for a good system and
technology to address the problem. There are many sources of water pollution but it is not
the source that is really causing the problem but the improper disposal of the pollutants.
People resort to careless disposal because it is cheaper, more advantageous, or simply
convenient to them.

When you are taking a bath using your favorite shampoo or whenever you wash your
laundry using no other than the best detergent in town, it is certain that before buying
those products you really never consider asking yourself whether their contents can harm
the environment or not. What mattered more was the scent and softness of your hair and
the clean comfort of your clothes. Instead of finding an environmental friendly product,
you simply chose convenience and your satisfaction of meeting your interests. However, if
you will support environmental friendly products and become more conscientious of how
you can avoid contributing to water pollution, then the world has gotten rid of one polluter.

How to overcome

Water covers over 70% of the Earth's surface and is a very important resource for people
and the environment. Water pollution affects drinking water, rivers, lakes and oceans all
over the world. This consequently harms human health and the natural environment. Life
is ultimately about choices—and so is pollution. We can live with sewage-strewn beaches,
dead rivers, and fish that are too poisonous to eat. Or we can work together to keep the
environment clean so the plants, animals, and people who depend on it remain healthy. We
can take individual action to help reduce water pollution, for example, by using
environmentally friendly detergents, not pouring oil down drains, reducing pesticides, and
so on. We can take community action too, by helping out on beach cleans or litter picks to
keep our rivers and seas that little bit cleaner. And we can take action as countries and
continents to pass laws that will make pollution harder and the world less polluted.
Working together, we can make pollution less of a problem—and the world a better place.

If you want to help keep our waters clean, there are many things you can do to help. You
can prevent water pollution of nearby rivers and lakes as well as groundwater and
drinking water by following some simple guidelines in your everyday life.

• Conserve water by turning off the tap when running water is not necessary. This
helps prevent water shortages and reduces the amount f contaminated water that
needs treatment.
• Be careful about what you throw down your sink or toilet. Don't throw paints, oils
or other forms of litter down the drain.
• Use environmentally household products, such as washing powder, household
cleaning agents and toiletries.
• Take great care not to overuse pesticides and fertilisers. This will prevent runoffs of
the material into nearby water sources.
• By having more plants in your garden you are preventing fertiliser, pesticides and
contaminated water from running off into nearby water sources.
• Don't throw litter into rivers, lakes or oceans. Help clean up any litter you see on
beaches or in rivers and lakes, make sure it is safe to collect the litter and put it in a
nearby dustbin.
How can we stop water pollution?

There is no easy way to solve water pollution; if there were, it wouldn't be so much of a
problem. Broadly speaking, there are three different things that can help to tackle the
problem—education, laws, and economics—and they work together as a team.


Making people aware of the problem is the first step to solving it. Greater public awareness
can make a positive difference. The education can be starting from the children because it
will make as habit to them to control and manage the environment. It also can avoid them
from do the pollution and can avoid them from the virus that can cause many types of sick.


One of the biggest problems with water pollution is its transboundary nature. Many rivers
cross countries, while seas span whole continents. Pollution discharged by factories in one
country with poor environmental standards can cause problems in neighbouring nations,
even when they have tougher laws and higher standards. Environmental laws can make it
tougher for people to pollute, but to be really effective they have to operate across national
and international borders. In Malaysia, we had The Environmental Quality Act (1974) and
associated Regulations empowers the DOE to take action to control pollution of water
sources and the Regulations specify limits for the discharge of sewage or other industrial
effluents into watercourses. For industries that are unable to comply there is a period of
grace allowed through the issue of a contravention license. License fees for wastewater
discharge are imposed based on the type of industry and pollutant. In addition to this
legislation there are other measures to control contamination of water sources which
include guidelines and codes of practice for specific industries and environmentally
relevant activities.

The international laws governing the oceans, such as the 1982 UN Convention on the Law
of the Sea (signed by over 120 nations), the 1972 London Dumping Convention, the 1978
MARPOL International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, and the
1998 OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East
Atlantic. The European Union has water-protection laws (known as directives) that apply
to all of its member states. They include the 1976 Bathing Water Directive, which seeks to
ensure the quality of the waters that people use for recreation. Most countries also have
their own water pollution laws. In the United States, for example, there is the 1972 Water
Pollution Control Act and the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act.


Most environmental experts agree that the best way to tackle pollution is through
something called the polluter pays principle. This means that whoever causes pollution
should have to pay to clean it up, one way or another. Polluter pays can operate in all kinds
of ways. It could mean that tanker owners should have to take out insurance that covers
the cost of oil spill cleanups, for example. It could also mean that shoppers should have to
pay for their plastic grocery bags, as is now common in Ireland, to encourage recycling and
minimize waste. Or it could mean that factories that use rivers must have their water inlet
pipes downstream of their effluent outflow pipes, so if they cause pollution they themselves
are the first people to suffer. Ultimately, the polluter pays principle is designed to deter
people from polluting by making it less expensive for them to behave in an environmentally
responsible way.