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How a pond connects nature and well-being

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The DIY pond established at PASUM

By: Dr. Norli Anida Abdullah

Nature encompasses a broad spectrum, from lush green spaces like parks, woodlands, and forests to serene blue spaces such as rivers, wetlands, beaches, and canals. Even the trees lining urban streets, private gardens, and indoor plants in our homes contribute to this expansive definition.

Research consistently highlights the profound impact that time spent in natural environments has on our well-being. It is not just a luxury; it is a necessity for a balanced and fulfilled life.

A study from 2019, published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research, demonstrated the remarkable influence of nature on our psychological and emotional health. Surprisingly, it showed that just 20 minutes spent in a park, without any exercise or specific activity, can significantly enhance one’s overall well-being. The benefits are not exclusive to those who engage in physical activities within these natural settings but extend to anyone who immerses themselves in the tranquillity of nature.

The Mental Health Foundation in the UK, in their 2021 report, underlines a profound connection between an individual’s relationship with nature and their happiness in life. Those who feel a stronger connection to the natural world are more likely to report that their lives are meaningful and worthwhile. The report emphasizes that for many, nature is not just a preference; it is a fundamental need. It plays a pivotal role in sustaining us emotionally, psychologically, and physically.

The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) further underscores the therapeutic potential of nature. A study conducted in Helsinki, Finland, in 2014, discovered that even brief visits to natural settings could significantly reduce perceived stress when compared to urban environments. This indicates that nature possesses a unique ability to alleviate the tensions of our modern, fast-paced lives.

In light of this evidence, it becomes clear that recreating natural ecosystems within our urban environments can serve as a powerful antidote to the stresses of our busy lives. Whether it’s planting more trees on city streets, creating pocket parks, or simply cultivating a small garden at home, integrating nature into our daily routines is essential for nurturing our overall well-being.

Recognizing these positive impacts of nature on our well-being, a dedicated team of eight support staff from Pusat Asasi Sains Universiti Malaya (PASUM), embarked on an inspiring project. Their mission? To create a do-it-yourself (DIY) sustainable pond within the grounds of PASUM. This special pond, even serves a dual purpose: as a peaceful retreat for students and staff and a source of valuable biological resources.

Muhamad Illzam Ishak and his team took an innovative approach to construct the pond. They repurposed waste materials found on the UM campus, like discarded printer and PC boxes, unused pipes, and timber from fallen trees around the Universiti Malaya (UM) campus. Various plant species, such as Dieffenbachia (commonly known as dumb cane), Xanthosoma Violaceum (black elephant’s ear), taro, water lettuce, Syngoniums (arrowhead), and Alocasia (giant taro), were thoughtfully relocated from the UM campus to create a thriving natural habitat within the pond.

The benefits of this sustainable pond extend beyond its appearance. It serves as a valuable educational resource for the academic community too. Over 500 PASUM students in the Life Sciences Program, use this pond for their biology experiments. Two specific types of mosses, Spirogyra Algae and Oscillatoria, are collected from the pond, aiding students in their studies of cellular structures and cell membrane characteristics.

Dr. Mahanom Jalil, the Head of the Biology Department noted, “We use Spirogyra Algae and Oscillatoria from the pond to explore the world of cellular biology. What’s truly remarkable is that this pond is entirely self-sustaining, needing no ongoing maintenance. Guppy and catfish call this pond home, effectively preventing larval larvae from proliferating.”

Beyond its educational significance, this initiative aligns seamlessly with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG11), focusing on building resilient and sustainable communities. This simple, albeit impactful, project aims to foster a spirit of innovation and environmental responsibility among PASUM colleagues and students. This project not only deepens the connection with nature but also sets an example for a more sustainable coexistence with the environment.

In the heart of PASUM, this DIY sustainable pond stands as proof of the potential within sustainable practices, promoting well-being and academic excellence while aligning with global sustainability goals.

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The author is the Deputy Director for Research, Value Creation and Entrepreneurship at PASUM. She may be reached at norlie@um.edu.my

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