Saturday, July 02, 2011

Sungai Perak, our River of Life

Pristine and peaceful Sungai Perak

The boat belonging to JWW Birch anchored on Sg Perak near Belanja, Parit.

Yesterday, I was part of the crowd that gathered to see the PM launch the River of Life Project in KL. The project aims to revitalize the city's dirty rivers and transform the Klang and Gombak rivers into iconic waterfronts on par with waterways in cities like Amsterdam, London and Paris by 2020.

As a town planner, I think this program is laudable.

But isn't it funny how we allow our beautiful natural rivers to be clogged with rubbish and filled with foul effluents in the first place, only to spend billions to reclaim it?

The only plus point is that, according to the PM, this project is expected to contribute RM11 billion to the country's GDP until 2020.Which is good for the nation's economy and the creation of employment.

My late father hails from from Layang-Layang Kiri in Parit, Perak. He was born a stone's throw away from the banks of Sungai Perak. Even though I myself have not even once swum in the mighty Sungai Perak, Apak used to recount tales of how he would swim across the river and back with his friends just for the fun of it. He would tell us stories of how Atok would take his sampan to lead his buffaloes to the small islands which litter the centre of the river where the buffaloes are kept. And how he would spend hours by the river bank till the sun sets, fishing with his buddies.

It is stories like these from my father that makes me captivated with Sungai Perak and rivers in general.

Sungai Perak is, of course, the second longest river in the Peninsula running for about 400km from Hulu Perak down to Bagan Datoh before meeting the Straits of Malacca. Its history is very much intertwined with the history and development of the State of Perak.

The beginning of the current sultanate of Perak can be traced to the event when a descendent of the old Malacca royal family returned to the Peninsula from Sumatera when his entourage landed at Beting Beras Basah near Bagan Datoh in 1528. From there his flotilla sailed upstream along Sungai Perak to set up goverment. He was throned as the Sultan of Muzzafar Shah I, and chose a location on the bank of the river called Tanah Abang in Mukim Bota as his seat of government.

Since then, all sultans of Perak have their seats of government located by the Sungai Perak. There have been 15 of them to date including places like Kota Lama Kanan, Bota and Pulau Cempaka Sari. The current sultan has his seat at Bukit Chandan, Kuala Kangsar.

We are lucky because Sungai Perak is still clean and pristine. Perhaps it's got to do with it being such a big river. But if we aren't careful, with uncontrolled logging and large scale land clearance for development, even a river of this size might succumb to over development and deteriorate in its health.

Although I have not swum in Sungai Perak like Apak, I did have the opportunity to take the Perak River Safari boat ride from Kuala Kangsar to Pulau Cempaka Sari in Parit. I was treated to the sight of quaint riverside villages, buffaloes, monkeys and various flora and fauna of the tropical rain forest that reach down to the water's edge. Fascinating.

As I soaked in the experience, I imagined tracing the journey of the royal flotilla. And I imagined how Apak had swum and played in this beautiful river. And I felt that, whatever happens, Sungai Perak has got to be maintained in its present beauty and splendour.

It is the River of Life for Perak.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My late grandmothers houz was on the bank of Sg Perak in Telok Sareh, mukim Pulau Tiga. Used to bath in the river, drank from the river, eating anak udang galah bakar from the river and watching and waving at the regular passenger boats passing to and fro from Telok Anson. Tried to go back last year but it is uncommunicable now. The tracks are all covered with thick undergrowths. Quite Sad.