Penang River Is Healing, All Thanks to The MCO!

While being stuck at home may not be the best thing in the world, there are many silver linings that come from Malaysians not being outside.

One of the dirtiest rivers in the country, Sungai Pinang, is no longer dirty anymore, all thanks to the Movement Control Order (MCO).

According to The Star, two photographs of Sungai Pinang captured by a drone, seven weeks apart, revealed that the 3.5km river has been healing since the MCO started.

The once polluted pitch-black river is now healthy, and jade green with algae!

penang river is healing, all thanks to the mco!Photo: The Star

The photographs of the river, taken by The Star on March 8 and yesterday, were all shot at low tide to make a fair comparison without seawater pushing into the river on a rising tide.

According to Prof Dr Chan Ngai Weng, who researches environmental management and hydrology in Universiti Sains Malaysia the pollution of the river pre-MCO was caused by human activity.

“It is all kinds of oil from workshops and factories that emulsified and mixed with organic matter from the wastewater of markets, hawkers and so on.”

“With the MCO, the dumping has stopped. You can see now how a river cleans itself if the pollution load is low. It is we humans who overload the rivers.

“We must either relocate polluting sources elsewhere or ensure they treat their waste before discharging them into the environment, ” said Prof Chan.

The Sungai Pinang river basin is about 50sq km, covering much of George Town and all of Ayer Itam plus Paya Terubong.

It was also reported that Sungai Pinang’s water quality was categorised at Class Four, just one step below the dead river category of Class Five.

“These photos are the game-changer. It proves that Sungai Pinang can be beautiful and have a nice waterfront.” Said Prof Chan.

Prof Datuk Dr Aileen Tan, a marine biologist, was also pleased when she heard of the river’s improvements.

“I am sure rivers all over the country are becoming cleaner by themselves now. We should treasure this phenomenon and take it as a chance for us to change for the better after the MCO, ” Prof Tan said, adding that more concrete results can be achieved with tighter enforcements after the MCO.

Another river that has reportedly made headlines for its improved quality is Sungai Melaka, located in the historical city of Malacca. It was pictured a couple of days ago looking green and healthy with even fishes spotted swimming around.

penang river is healing, all thanks to the mco!Photo: The Star

It is now so clear that people can see schools of fish swimming around!

Meanwhile, the Environment and Water Minister Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man announced in a statement that the Department of Environment (DOE) took 158 enforcement actions nationwide against premises and individuals for polluting the environment, especially rivers.

“Since the MCO began, DOE enforcers have conducted regular patrols and surprise checks. One of the places we focus on is areas upriver of water intake points. We use drones to look for pollution indications, ” he said.

Tuan Ibrahim urged the public to call DOE at 03-8889 1972 or its 24/7 toll-free hotline (1-800-88-2727). For emails, send them to

It warms our hearts to see that our nature is healing. Let’s hope we will continue to care for the environment even after the MCO is lifted.

By: Siti Farhana Sheikh Yahya