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6 Oct 2020 – The Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) Kuching Youth Ambassadors successfully hosted a World Rivers Day 2020 Webinar on 27 Sept from 10:00am to 12:00 noon.

The over 300 event participants comprised RCE Kuching Youth Ambassadors, RCE Kuching Fellows, and visitors. The visitors included UCSI University students, RCE Fellows from India, Indonesia, Srinagar, West Malaysia and the Philippines, and the following associations: Akademi Pariwisata Indonesia, Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, Centre for Innovation in Science and Social Action, Curtin University, Leo Club of Swinburne University of Techonology Sarawak Campus, of International Islamic University Malaysia, Iskandar Regional Development Authority, DID Sarawak, Imus Association, Kura Kura Homestay, Sarawak Research Society, and the University of Santo Tomas, Manila.

 The Youth Ambassadors of RCE Kuching strongly believe that it is of vital importance to clean up and conserve our rivers, especially here in Sarawak. To this end, they collaborated among themselves, with the help of RCE Kuching Fellows and stakeholders, and conducted this informative and inspirational webinar, scheduling it on the auspicious World Rivers Day. 

There were a variety of speakers who graced the event with their words of wisdom and insight. Mukvinder Kaur Sandhu, the Vice-chairperson of RCE Kuching and the COO of UCSI University Sarawak Campus, opened the webinar with her motivating call to action on cleaning up the rivers in Sarawak not just for ourselves, but also for the benefit of future generations. She emphasised that young people should be the driving force for any impactful change to the future of our natural environment.

The Chairperson of RCE Kuching, Assoc. Prof. Dr Yeong Siew Wei, then spoke about how rivers health impacts all of us in her presentation, “Rivers Health: You and Me”.  Dr Yeong shared some hard statistics and facts on how rivers around the world are being stressed by the actions of humans and that it was up to us, especially the youth to be agents of change. 

Mdm Nur Aida Nur Azman, the Senior Environment Control Officer, asserted, in her presentation, “Rivers: Arteries of Life” how our existence depends on the quality of the water in our rivers. She further discussed how only 5 rivers out of a total of 64 in Sarawak are considered clean. On hearing the dire condition of our rivers, it initiated a rallying cry among the participants to increase our efforts to clean up our rivers.

Assoc Prof Dr Hiram Ting, Chairperson of the Sarawak Research Society appropriately motivated us to re-write our history. He aptly expressed how we each can make a difference as we make changes in our behaviour. We can forge a promising future if we engage in mindfulness and initiate step by step improvements now. Yet we must be ever vigilant as the future is waiting for us to be responsible citizens.

The Youth Ambassadors President, Mohamed Arshad Azeerdeen, then shared about RCE Kuching, the Youth Ambassadors, and the many worthwhile activities the RCE Kuching Youth Ambassadors have taken part in over the past two years. They have volunteered in the ongoing 5R school programme, beach clean-up activities, eco-campus initiatives, and the campus garden just to name a few. Mandy Chen Wei Xing, the Youth Ambassadors Vice-president, also introduced the “Rivers Are Our Life” educational materials they are in the process of developing. The web-based interactive materials, once completed, will be embedded in many school programmes. They also encouraged the webinar participants to join them in their efforts.

 The Youth Ambassadors had the honour of presenting Mr Lars Larsen, the Manager of Kura Kura Homestay, with the “Community River Hero Recognition” Award. Mr Lars expressed his gratitude for the award, and he reflected on how he was able to make an impact on his community over the years. He systematically and consistently cleared the river in his community of rubbish. He stated that what he did was not unusual; it was the reasonable thing to do. He also celebrated the fact that he can now see a lasting positive change in the habits of his community members, proving that his diligence paid off.

Dr Abdhesh Kumar Gangwar, Coordinator and Focal Point, RCE Srinagar and Convener, Asia-Pacific RCEs Coordinating Committee RCE, graced the webinar with his presence and he presented the closing remarks. He congratulated the RCE Kuching Youth Ambassadors for a job well done. And he encouraged them to continue to be active in championing the cause of, not just the rivers, but life on land as well. He also stressed the need for the people of Kuching to act now because the condition of the rivers in Sarawak is deteriorating. The RCE Kuching Youth Ambassadors were very pleased with the outcomes of the World Rivers Day 2020 Webinar and they are looking forward to organising more webinars in the future.