CSI Community Stream Investigation 2017- Rivers never lie

by Cheam May Choo

Rivers never lie– Rivers are akin to our arteries and veins and the water that courses through them are akin to the blood that flows in us. The healthier the water the healthier the environment, the healthier our blood the healthier us. The rivers will tell us how they are faring -from their appearance, their colour, their smell and the creatures that live within them. They don’t lie. And this forms the basis of our CSI (community stream investigation) programme.

CSI remains a popular environmental education activity for us since it was first developed by Dr Liau Tai Leong, our vice president in 2009. We had wanted to come up with an activity that was both interesting and relevant to the locals and visitors alike. He used information he had gleaned from observing our very talented and industrious Dutch volunteers Antony van der Ent and Chantal while they were doing research for their thesis and incorporated it into a simple yet ‘hands-on’ programme. Over the years it was modified to suit the local condtions and a booklet detailing this was eventually published.

CSI programme was initially sponsored by CIMB (in 2009) and the excess funds were carried over to the next few years. In 2015 Prince Tunku Imran and Mr Paul Chuah gave us more funds and in March this year we received a small grant from the National River Care Fund under GEC (Global Environment Centre). This allowed us to continue and CSI has become an annual affair for our local schools.

The presence of bugs (in this case macroinvertebrates) is used to gauge the quality of the waters in our streams and rivers. Some of these bugs are so delicate eg stonefly larvae, dragonfly larvae, water pennies, that their mere presence indicate that the river water quality is and has been very clean and unpolluted. In contrast the mosquito larvae and the leeches can survive in contaminated waters. This water testing method comes at no economic cost and is in ‘real time.’ The children love this because they can frolic in the stream and ‘catch bugs’!

Normally at the start of each programme, Dr Liau or any of his trained volunteer will give a briefing on what this activity is about.

He will then explain the physical,chemical and biological ways to assess the water. Pictures of the bugs are given to aid identification.

The participants then adjourned to the rivers and results from a clean river Sg Pauh are compared to that of a dirty river Sg Bertam. Chemical testing

EEP in SJKC Kea Farm 17th November 2017

Kea Farm is a picturesque farming village nestled on a hill slope, 3 km away from Brinchang town in Cameron Highlands. It has the distinction of being the highest village accessible by road in Peninsular Malaysia being located at 1600 metres above sea level.

Some of its houses date back from just after World War 2 and consists of wooden and brick dwellings, with few on stilts. Most of the houses are very close together and appear ‘etched’ into the slopes. From afar they look absolutely charming and surrounded by terraces of water cress and other vegetables, they are almost postcard picture perfect. The elders would speak of the time when the road wasn’t ready and they had to physically carry provisions and harvested vegetables to Brinchang town. Once things were more settled, a primary school namely SJKC Kea Farm was built. As with most farming communities in Cameron Highlands, there is a close bond between the villagers and the school.

Today the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the pioneer settlers are in this school. But many things have changed. Some families have moved to Brinchang and Tanah Rata. Opposite Kea Farm village, hotels and apartment blocks are springing up in tandem with the number of roadside stalls. The road passing through Kea Farm has become a bottle neck for traffic in both directions.

On the 17th of November 2017 , Reach made a trip to this school and conducted our EEP programme to the 40 students of this school.

EEP programme at SJKTamil Ringlet-13th October 2017

Ringlet is the first town in Cameron Highlands that motorists reach when travelling from Tapah. It has a population of around 8000 and the residents here are mainly farmers. Ringlet subdistrict(or mukim) has an acreage of 5165 hectares and the town is surrounded by gentle hills. Sungai Ringlet runs through the middle of town as the earlier settlements were along the river banks and grew from there.

Perhaps it is timely that our environmental education programme has now reached the classrooms of the primary and secondary schools of Ringlet. Ringlet has seen past environmental tragedies. In November 2014, Sungai Ringlet overflowed its banks with resulting loss of lives and property. This was a result of uncontrolled land clearing upstream and the river being clogged by mud and rubbish. Flash floods and mud flows continue to happen but after steps were taken to widen Sungai Ringlet and its banks were strengthened the problem was somewhat alleviated.

SJK Tamil Ringlet is a high performance school and we have conducted a few programmes with them. This programme began with a video presentation on the pollution of a river in Cameron Highlands, followed by a discussion on what was shown.

High performance schools are awarded the merit by the Ministry of Education for excelling in academic and non academic work. They are given some form of autonomy and extra financial aid to run their programmes.

EEP programme at SMK Ringlet-14th September 2017

On the 14th of September 2017, REACH conducted an Environmental Education Programme EEP in Ringlet Secondary School for  230 Form 1 and Form 2 students.As with all EEP programmes, it started of with talks on environmental related topics.

Our volunteer, Roy Margaret, a power engineer by profession, spoke on global warming and the use of plastics. We are fortunate that most of our volunteers are good speakers and facilitators and Roy made a difficult topic interesting and easy to understand to the thirteen and fourteen year olds.

EEP -English based Environmental Education Programme Summary

This programme is the brainchild of Datin Aseema and Puan Mazlira, our dedicated committee members, who in 2015 suggested that we had to bring our environmental programmes to our local schools on a more regular basis so that it can reach a wider audience. The usage of English as our medium of instruction was also suggested as it would help to improve our local students English proficiency.

So with the assistance of the Education department of Cameron Highlands PPD, in July 2015 our EEP programme got off the ground at the Ringlet Tamil Primary School SJKT Ringlet.

Each school programme would start off with a video/talk on envrironmental related topics such as recycling, river pollution and other environmental problems here. The presenter may be an invited speaker, our local volunteers, our committee members or school teachers. This would be followed by a discussion and Q and A session.

Then the students would be divided into different groups for the ‘workshop.’ Tasks would vary depending on their age group which ranged from 7 to 17 years . For the 7 to 9 year olds they would be given worksheets for coloring and the like. For the 10 year olds and above, they would be asked to make slogans n collages based on nature and later present their work. Facilitators are mainly REACH volunteers and teachers. Each programme would take about 2 to 2and half hours.

Sometimes we would hold other environmental activities such as art competition from recycled materials in place of the regular programme.