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UNM calls for more efforts in local river management

University of Nottingham Malaysia and UNESCO IHP Malaysia Partner to nurture water management leaders of tomorrow 

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Water is the source of life. Listed sixth on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), SDG6 - ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’, ensuring a clean water supply for all is crucial in achieving a sustainable future. Rivers specifically, are vital bodies of water that can influence a nation’s environmental, social and economic development, with the ability to directly impact those in its surrounding communities.

In the global context, rivers contribute to economic growth, food security and well-being with an estimated two billion people relying on it for drinking water. It is also a source of freshwater fish for many, and in some nations, an energy source. Today, Malaysian rivers are in danger, with increased industrial pollution and presence of toxic substances causing numerous water treatment plant shutdowns and water cuts. Overflow during monsoon or flood seasons can also badly impact those living nearby.

The University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) and UNESCO Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP) Malaysia recently organised the UNESCO IHP Malaysia Water Awareness Programme. Themed ‘River as the Lifeline for Sustainability’, the event aimed to address local and global water concerns by educating students on the importance of protecting our rivers and the ways to conserve it. It also provided an opportunity for experts and stakeholders to network and exchange views regarding Malaysia’s water management concerns.

Chair of the organising committee and UNM Associate Professor of Water Engineering, Ir Ts Dr Teo Fang Yenn, said, “We wanted to raise awareness around global water issues amongst our youths, who will one day become the future leaders and champions in water management. To do that, we must first act locally by solving water issues impacting our immediate communities, through encouraging river protection and conservation.” 

With its campus based in Semenyih, UNM chose to centre the water programme on the Semenyih River, taking ownership for it. The Semenyih River is a water source that directly impacts UNM’s own community and numerous communities across the Klang Valley area. Previously, traces of micro-plastics were found in the river and just last year, water samples were taken from it due to suspected diesel pollution, further proving the need to protect it.

“We are proud to be collaborating with the University of Nottingham Malaysia to educate our future changemakers. We believe that youths are where change begins, and we hope to give them what they need to, one day, introduce innovative solutions to global water concerns and river care programmes,” shared UNESCO IHP Malaysia Honorary Secretary, Ir Hj Azmi Ibrahim.

Amping up local river management is also crucial in mitigating climate change, especially in tropical areas like Malaysia. Global warming has caused prolonged rainfall in these regions, increasing risk of natural disasters, including floods and landslides. Planting trees is one of the simplest ways nations can address this.

According to non-profit organisation, One Tree Planted, trees help to absorb and retain water from rainfall or flash floods, potentially saving governments the cost of investing in more hard structural stormwater systems. They also help prevent soil erosion and landslides. Realising these benefits, UNM, UNESCO IHP Malaysia and Semenyih EcoVenture Resort & Recreation planted 80 trees during the event, as part of their “Tree Planting Initiative: Plant a Tree for Rivers and We Plant Hope for Sustainability”.

On policymakers tackling local water concerns, Dr Teo said, “Positive moves by our Government such as the yearly budget allocations, will help related agencies, organisations and experts address these challenges. Nevertheless, we need continuous efforts from all stakeholders and stern actions taken against illegal activities impacting our rivers to see change.”

The recent Budget 2023 outlined major initiatives for environmental sustainability through the introduction of carbon tax, the promise to increase efforts in forest restoration and committing to planting 100 million trees by 2025. It also allocated RM216 million to cleaning rivers nationwide, a promising initiative towards a sustainable future.

The UNESCO IHP Malaysia Water Awareness Programme received enthusiastic participation from 120 representatives from government agencies, private organisations and universities, including the University of Malaya (UM); Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM); Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR); SEGi University; and Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur (IUKL). Academics from these institutions and other industry experts also acted as module facilitators.

"We believe it is important to teach our youths to preserve rivers from a young age, by organising more programmes on river ecosystems, what it is, the issues it faces and how best to address them,” shared module facilitator and National University of Malaysia’s (UKM) Chief Research Officer of the Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI), Nik Mohd Noor Faizul Md Saad.   

During the UNESCO IHP Malaysia Water Awareness Programme, UNM, with the support of numerous collaborators, successfully delivered eight modules on water and human interactions; water conservation and wetlands; water biodiversity and databases; water quality and monitoring; water flow and measurements; water environment and bio-indicators; water pollution and treatment; and water resources and forest conservation.

The programme was hosted by UNESCO IHP Malaysia and organised by UNM. The university also collaborated with other bodies like the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (or Jabatan Pengairan dan Saliran); Putrajaya Corporation (or Perbadanan Putrajaya); the National University of Malaysia (UKM); Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK); Global Water Consultants Sdn Bhd; and Semenyih EcoVenture Resort & Recreation.


For media enquiries please contact: Josephine Dionisappu, PR and Communications Manager University of Nottingham Malaysia at

Note to editors: The University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) offers a distinctly British education in an Asian setting with a legacy as the first overseas campus of a UK university to be established globally. UNM is recognised for its excellence in teaching and learning, as well as the outstanding student experience offered on its 118-acre campus just an hour south of the KL city-centre. UNM's extensive and diverse research community develops solutions that tackle key global challenges in the areas of food, health, the environment, sustainability, and socio-economic issues within the ASEAN region. The University of Nottingham is ranked 114th from over 1,500 institutions around the globe by theQS World University Rankings 2023 and is rated 5 Star (Excellent) in the SETARA rating system by the Government of Malaysia. Established in 2000, UNM has more than 5,000 students from over 75 countries with 15,000 alumni working with the world’s top 100 global brands.

Posted on 10th November 2022

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