Sungai Perai Programme


Sungai Perai is Penang’s longest river and is also its largest water catchment area. It has been identified as a potential future water source to serve the state’s growing water demands and catalyst to Butterworth’s urban regeneration. The river’s natural charm provides an ideal setting for eco-tourism and recreational opportunities. However, the pressures of growth and urbanisation has degraded the waters of Sungai Perai to an undesirable level. Hence, the Sungai Perai programmes aims to address identified issues affecting the river through the Sungai Perai Action Plan. The plan considers strategies for rehabilitating the river to a level safe for human activity and consumption, reconnecting riverside communities with the river, and raising river awareness through active programming and celebratory events.

Expertise: Resilience, Analytics

Services: Analytics, Research, Coordination and Facilitation

Flagships: Climate & Social Resilience

Keywords: Environment, River, Sungai Perai, Climate Resilience, SDG, Water, Rehabilitation

Project Premise

The Sungai Perai Basin is a transboundary basin located between Penang and Kedah. It also forms as a natural district boundary that separates Seberang Perai Utara and Seberang Perai Tengah. Sungai Perai is approximately 60.5 km long and the basin covers an area of approximately 447km2 making it not only the longest river in Penang but also its largest water catchment area. With its origins in Kulim, Kedah, the river flows westward as it empties into the Straits of Melaka. The Sungai Perai consists of 17 tributaries with the main tributaries being Sungai Kulim, Sungai Jarak, Sungai Kereh, Sungai Pertama/Derhaka and Sungai Maklom/Tok Sani. The Sungai Perai Basin consists of 26 sub basins. Overall, due to rapid urbanisation and development in the basin Sungai Perai is classified as a Class III river as the main trunk river, especially downstream, is contaminated as it flows through various commercial, residential, agriculture and industrial areas in Seberang Perai.

Considering the logging activities in Ulu Muda, the subsequent deterioration of Sungai Muda’s water quality, and the growing demands of Penang, Sungai Perai can serve as a potential water source for the state. Aside from offering water security, Sungai Perai provides vital and irreplaceable ecosystem services such as irrigation for Seberang Perai’s paddy fields, and its mangroves provide nursery grounds for many aquatic species which inshore fishermen depend on for their livelihoods. The river is also home to a wide diversity of flora and fauna with approximately 150 plant species, 125 bird species and 35 fish species observed and recorded. The Air Hitam Dalam Educational Forest is such an area where the wetland is fed by the river and is home to a wide diversity of birds making it a prime birdwatching spot. Downstream, the river becomes increasingly polluted as it meanders largely unnoticed and neglected through the urban areas of Butterworth and Perai. However, with the appropriate investments and interventions into its rehabilitation, the river can be the catalyst for their urban regeneration with the river acting as a conduit and focal point for community, activity and connectivity.


What We Did

The Sungai Perai Action Plan was developed to address issues identified from a Think City commissioned baseline study of the river. The plan proposes four pillars of intervention: 1) Rehabilitation, 2) Connection, 3) Activation and 4) Celebration.


7 completed comprising community engagement events and space activation. – Perai-yaan Taman Kimsar, Perai-yaan Taman Sembilang, 2X RiverWalks, 2x Paddy Festival, Taman Ampang Jajar Phase 1.


A workshop was conducted to develop a cycling path along Sg. Perai which crosses Sg. Perai and 4 tributaries between Sungai Dua and the Air Hitam Dalam Educational Forest. The plan was to activate the river for recreation and awareness.


Two RiverFests were conducted at Taman Ampang Jajar Linear Recreational Park to promote the space for recreation, and demonstrate the potential of river recreation activities. Other family-oriented events were held to draw the neighbouring B40 community to the space.


Ongoing Works

Commissioned in 2020, a pollution mapping study was commissioned to address gaps from the baseline report. The purpose of the mapping is to identify point source pollution in Sg. Perai and its tributaries and determine appropriate mitigation strategies. 3 out of 4 Milestones completed. Substantially delayed due to the various COVID-19 CMOs Expected completion by end of 2021.


Project Outcomes

Outcomes from the ongoing programme include increased interest and confidence by Seberang Perai City Council to hold river-oriented events and upgrade its existing riverside linear parks.

The ongoing programme has also produced learnings to bring the programme forward including:

  1. Forming a multi-disciplinary task force to drive river restoration in Sg. Perai. Implementation needs to be coordinated to ensure the river is an asset for water catchment, eco tourism, and public space
  2. Addressing the drying wetland of the Air Hitam Dalam Educational Forest
  3. Addressing severe animal husbandry pollution at Kampung Selamat
  4. Forming a multi-state taskforce to address any issues with Sungai Perai’s headwaters in Kulim, Kedah.