PETALING JAYA: About 14 billion litres of water was extracted from Malaysian rivers in 2013 – almost double of what was extracted 10 years earlier. This has resulted in an escalating water security challenge. Efforts invested in protecting and conserving the rivers and catchment areas cannot commensurate with the rising demand for water. Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma, the executive director of World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Malaysia said food security is also at risk as rivers are one of the sources for fish – which serves as a major source of protein. “Malaysia is among the top consumer of fish protein, averaging at 56.6kg per capita in 2014. The global average is estimated to be less than 20kg per capita”, he said, citing a recent study by Infofish. Parallel to that, he said fish stocks and fish catch have also declined tremendously, quoting information from data published by the Malaysian Fisheries Department. On another note, Sharma said the decline in river pollution is seen as promising, as the numbers have fallen by almost a 10%, in the span of eight years, although the percentage of clean rivers remained almost the same. “In 2013, 58% of rivers monitored were classified as “clean” while 36.6% were deemed “slightly polluted” and 5.3% were described as “polluted”. As of June last year, only 51% or 245 rivers were said to be clean,” added Sharma. Besides, Malaysia is still far from reaching the United Nation’s Aichi Biodiversity Target, in conserving 17% of its terrestrial landscape, as well as venerating one-tenth of its marine landscape. To date, less than 7% of Malaysia’s land and 1% of marine parks have been conserved. “In 2009, waters surrounding 66 islands in Malaysia were gazetted as marine parks. Of these, 42 are in Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan -– a rise from 38 in 1994 and 40 in 1998. “As of 2013, the percentage of marine protected areas in Malaysia was 1.05%, excluding the Tun Mustapha Park, in Sabah, based on the Interim Master List of Protected Areas December 2013,” he said.