Sungai Klang is not a river to look at

Thor Kah Hoong Hasnoor Hussain

The reservoir at the Klang Gates Dam as seen from the peak of Bukit Tabur. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Hasnoor Hussain, September 30, 2017.

The Malaysian Insight completes its travels down the two rivers whose waters feed and flow through the city of Kuala Lumpur.

TO view the multi-fingered spread of the Klang Gates Dam which supplies the water for the thirsty taps of Kuala Lumpur, one can ascend Bukit Tabur (500m), part of a quartz ridge that is the longest in the world at 22km in length.

On a cloudy day, they will be above a fleecy sea of clouds, studded with a few peaks, pushed through a gap in the hills to flow down and dissipate in the heat of the awakening town.

The ascent via the dam site is taped off after a few unfortunate fatalities. Intrepid Malaysians, of course, at 5.50am or 6am  in the dark, will not be deterred by a puny tape.

The Klang Gates Dam supplies the water via two large pipes to the Bukit Nanas treatment plant. It is the first dam in the country (1958).

The spillover from the dam flows through a small kampung, but soon after it wends its way past housing estates, an industrial site, a row of aged and oil-blackened car workshop shacks (best not think what they do with inconvenient, accumulating used oil).

In Keramat district, a tributary, Sungai Gisir, looks toxic. On a ramp down to the river, a container full of rubbish awaits to be hauled away, and the rubbish barrier in the river already looks overwhelmed.

In AU3 Keramat, there is a small earth-mover scooping up earth from one part of the river bank, moving it to another, and trying to tamp it down with his small teethed scoop, and rolling over the ground…and failing because it’s wet. He gives up, to contemplate life.

Asmad, a tall man dressed in black, is casting his net into the river a few metres away. Fish no bigger than his palm are released back into the river. He is surprisingly the only conservationist encountered in TMI’s river travels.

Asmad says: “If you take the small ones, there will be no big ones. I will be coming back again. I do a different stretch every day so I don’t overfish.”

He says he has a daily catch target of 20kg. It is not politic to ask what the fish  buy.

TMI’s downriver journey was interrupted by an afternoon storm. True to his word, Asmad is encountered the next day further downstream. He says he only managed 16kg yesterday.

Inland fisherman Asmadi releasing fish that are not bigger that his palm back into the Sungai Klang. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Hasnoor Hussain, September 30, 2017.

It could be that the dozens of people TMI saw on the banks of both rivers fishing amidst gunk-filled water didn’t seem fussy about what they caught.

In the stretch of the river under the Damai and Jelatek LRT stations there is an unseen sub-culture, not even by the dozens of fishermen on both banks – two long walls of graffiti.

An extended art gallery of disaffected youth expressing myriad international influences – portraits and caricatures, Malaysian scenes and icons, dark shades of Goth rock, the colourful splats and word-bubbles of pop art, the now ubiquitous anime – elfin girls and spike-haired boys with a Japanese fantasy of eyes half the size of their heads.

One can easily access the gallery from a ramp at the station, but one has to deal with a lot of rubbish. The pillars in the river have gunk hardened into Gaudi-like monuments, metres thick. There is a well-constructed shelter of carton-cardboard in a gap between one of the pillars holding up the Jelatek station, its resident probably absent for much of the day, what with the shaking and thundering.

Great violence has been done to a stretch of the river between the bridge at Jalan Dang Wangi and Masjid India. Behind buildings that decades ago used to house British trading houses, big trees have been wrenched from the earth. Big splintered stumps. Piles of big clumps of dug-out roots.

Were the trees diseased? Couldn’t they be saved? Don’t we respect the old?

On the opposite bank, restaurant staff are slinging lunchtime kitchen and dining slops down the rubbish strewn paved slope to the river. A moment’s slip of the hand sends a plastic plate tumbling down, to be flung up by workers toting bags of cement.

The short stretch here under the bridges reveals evidence of life – a line of clothes hanging in one spot, in another two piles of clothes, another a small pile of clothes and a plastic sheet. Hope they know high-water here will get them.

At Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Samad, workers were planting wispy, weepy trees, great for discouraging tourists from loitering in the heat of our long afternoons.

Otherwise, they might see that the bobbing procession of plastic bottles and other packaging down both rivers is endless. Seemingly endless, too, is the task of the workmen half-submerged in water trying to get the musical fountain to behave.

Billions to beautify riverbanks, visions of money back from trendy restaurants and boat trips to view a river of bottles.

Cue adapted children’s ditty:

 “Row, row, row your boat,

 Gently down the stream,

 Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,

 River of Life is but a dream.” – September 30, 2017.

Sign up or sign in here to comment.