Friday, July 1

Boiling point at Sg Asap


10,000 people from 15 longhouses demand quick fix after 18 years of muddy water, dry taps

BELAGA: Patience has reached boiling point for the Sg Asap community of 10,000 over the long drawn inconsistency of clean water supply and yesterday put the state on notice for second-class treatment despite sacrificing their lot for Bakun Dam.

Yesterday, some 50 incensed people representing all 15 longhouses at Sg Asap Resettlement Scheme staged a boisterous albeit peaceful protest to voice dissatisfaction over the latest incident of murky water running from their taps since June 5, with placards vilifying some prominent ministers of the state.

Some 1,600 households from all the villages have had to endure dirty water and dry taps over the past fortnight despite reassurances from the Public Works Department (JKR) and other relevant authorities that measures are being taken to resolve the issue.

Also joining the queue on the latest water woes are three schools, namely SK Long Gang, SK Batu Keling, SMK Bakun and a health clinic.

Villagers had to depend on collected rain water and resorting to buying cartons of bottled water for their drinking, washing and bathing needs. Boarding school students were asked to return to their villages due to water shortage while the Sg Asap health clinic suddenly recorded an increase in patients with diarrhoea and skin rashes.

Sg Asap folk is now demanding that the government find a quick solution to this latest water predicament.

“Murky water coming out of our taps, sometimes looking like ‘Milo’ (chocolate malt drink), sometimes with that smell of rust, is a normal occurrence every few months over the past 18 years since we moved here. Incidence of dirty water would normally last four to five days.

“During the festive seasons such as Christmas, when many people come home, we would definitely experience low water pressure or dry taps altogether.

“The Public Utilities Ministry may have announced the building of a new water treatment plant and supply system which is expected to be completed in 2017 but what is their temporary solution for now? For these next two years?

“We are tired, we are frustrated and we are angry,” Kasim Mering, 44, told thesundaypost when met during the protest in front of Sg Asap health clinic near here yesterday.

The self-employed from Uma Kelap added that numerous complaints have been forwarded to the respective authorities since the Orang Ulu communities moved to Sg Asap in 1998 to make way for the building of the mega Bakun Dam.

He hoped the government would take heed of their predicament and find measures to resolve the matter once and for all.

“How can the government provide dirty water to us, exposing our families, our children to health hazards?” he ranted.

Kasim’s statement was echoed by Amit Ului of Uma Bakah who stressed for fair treatment and government attention.

“We have voiced our opinions and complaints numerous times but to no avail. There seems to be no concrete solution every time we suffer dry taps or murky water.

“In the cities and other districts, when there is water shortage, JKR is quick to send water and bottled waters to help the people. What about us? We want our basic rights, we are tired of being treated as second-class citizens especially, considering that we have sacrificed so much when Sarawak built Bakun Dam,” the 33-year-old farmer pointed out.

A medical staff of the health clinic, a bystander at the rally, said the dirty water supply made it difficult to treat patients. Transferred to Sg Asap only a year ago, she expressed her shock at the quality of the water supply.

She agreed that the water was often muddy and smelt of rust. In addition, she mentioned that the health facility often had to treat patients with diarrhoea and skin rashes which she attributed to the dirty water supply.

She wondered aloud why the community of Sg Asap had been rendered such poor treatment: “I’ve only been here a year and would be transferred but what about the people here? They have suffered for so long and now they have to spend on medication and mineral water in light of this predicament.”

You could almost see smoke coming out of their ears when the angry crowd dispersed after holding their protest for about 30 minutes.