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This blog is written by Thea Babani, a participant of the YELL Conservocation Programme.

From October 2023, I had the privilege of working with the Alliance of River Three (ART) in their river restoration programme. Aside from the talented team – notably the leaders, Syuen and Ken – teaching me all sorts of tips and tricks with website development, the extremely knowledgeable bunch widened my eyes on biodiversity. Ranging from different forms of grass to the importance of mush in soil preservation, I was captivated by their bamboo plantation project!

It is no secret that bamboo plantations pay significant effort in river restoration and biodiversity conservation. What makes bamboo such a promising strategy in river restoration comes with its number of benefits such as its erosion control (bamboo stabilizes soil around the river bed) and improvement in water quality (bamboo filters pollutants and excess nutrients for healthier rivers around).

In fact, wildlife organisms and our communities share codependency. And as climate change accelerates (due to ongoing pollution and deforestation), scholars, specialists and volunteers alike recognise that natural habitat restoration is due.

Under YELL, our many projects continue to evolve and cultivate innovative methods to adhere to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), while considering the many demands of climate action and Malaysia’s biodiverse river ecosystems. And so, ART recognises how important it is to adhere to SDG impact standards, as well as preserve our rivers!

But some of you may be curious as to why bamboo?

Planting bamboo along community rivers such as Klang Valley River or the Mid Valley River in cities like Kuala Lumpur may seem tedious, difficult and, maybe unusual, but it’s actually a smart choice! Bamboo is extremely low-maintenance, so replanting is unnecessary. Environmental specialists, volunteers, and enthusiasts can simply cut bamboo culms, and they’ll grow back on its own. Which is all very easy to maintain, even if you are like me and can’t keep a succulent alive!

Unlike other plants, bamboo doesn’t disturb the soil. In fact, it helps prevent soil erosion and reduces landslides during monsoons, allowing surrounding ecosystems to thrive undisturbed. As for our community rivers, we need to boost diversity and create a sustainable habitat for all surrounding lifeforms. 

In addition, bamboo is also stellar at storing carbon. Throughout its life, bamboo absorbs and stores carbon dioxide, which helps with reducing carbon emissions in the air. Helping us breathe better and combat global warming!

In case you’re wondering what are the other benefits of bamboo, experts across Vietnam and Colombia rely on bamboo to restore rivers! Beginning with Vietnam, scientists revealed that agricultural experts use bamboo fences to encourage fish population in rivers and improve water quality. On the other hand, Colombia uses Guadua bamboo – which is also known as the world’s strongest bamboo – to regulate river quantity and quality. 

So, next time you see bamboo by the river, know that it’s not just a plant—it’s a sustainable, carbon-storing, soil-protecting powerhouse!

But if that doesn’t sound impressive enough – think of how much more we could achieve with ART’s Kena Bamboo project.

Of course I won’t leave you bamboozled, read on to find out more about Kena Bamboo!

ART’s environmental restoration project looks into river biodiversity by considering all aspects of life in and out of riverbanks. Their projects extend determination beyond riverbanks, to the surroundings. It may seem like “a lot” of work to consider, but it is simpler than we realize! Like obstacles, if we removed litter obstructing the nutrients around and inside of the river, they could effectively clean themselves. The same way we could clear traffic with constant moving cars (and nothing blocking the road)!

Beginning with the “Kena Bamboo” programme, it is classified as a Citizen-Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics (Citizen – S.T.E.A.M.) approach to ensuring inclusive and accessible education, and opportunities for sustainable development. In fact, this programme is aligned with the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD); and, the Environment, Social & Governance (ESG) impact metrics.

The concept of “Kena Bamboo” draws motivation between students and sustainability; the Impact Sponsorship Programme encourages students to plant, nurture, harvest then propagate bamboo for 12 months. Sounds tough for a beginner, doesn’t it?

Promise, it’s easier than it sounds!

All participants will be trained under ART’s EduAction plan to grow their very own bamboo sapling, accompanied with a bed of pollinating agent shrubs (to name a few examples, think of gardens with dragonflies, birds, bees, and/or butterflies).

And if you’re wondering where the bamboo will be planted, ART has spacious Bamboo & Pollinator Gardens under the AUra@RiverThree and Flora@RiverThree initiatives; both of which are signed to the Selangor Government’s Friends of River campaign. 

So your hard work in cultivating bamboo will never go to waste!

Think of all the limitless possibilities you can achieve with bamboo! Creative minds and hands, as well as talents from varied disciplines, enjoy coming together with the Alliance of River Three to work on Kena Bamboo! Truth be told, with every new fun fact shared by Syuen or Ken, I feel inspired to take on initiative and have my own plantation at home!

Thank you, Thea for sharing your learnings at the Alliance of River Three!