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Report: Malaysia's 14-year Campaign to Clean-up Rivers a Failure; 10 Percent Unsafe to Touch

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- A 14-year campaign to clean up Malaysia's rivers has been branded a failure by the country's environment minister after nearly one in ten have become so polluted they are unsafe for humans to touch, reports said Wednesday.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Azmi Khalid said despite the "Love Our Rivers" campaign, increasing pollution had rendered 17 of Malaysia's 186 river systems so toxic the water was unsafe for humans to touch.

"This campaign has been a failure. From what I see, what people love are the riverbanks as they are well done up with flowers planted and the like, but not the rivers themselves," Azmi was quoted as saying by the state Bernama news agency.

"They didn't realise that the campaign was also aimed at keeping rivers free from pollution and rubbish," he added, according to the New Straits Times.

Azmi said the 17 rivers were unable to sustain any form of life, and that improperly treated sewage effluent was a major source of river pollution.

"Studies have shown that 91 percent of sewage treatment plants in the country are run inefficiently," said Azmi.

"It will take two billion ringgit (585 million dollars) to rehabilitate each of these polluted rivers," he added.

The minister said the government would spend seven million ringgit to re-launch the campaign in June with a new focus on preserving river environments, according to reports.

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