‘1 in 50-year theory’ not acceptable

Sg Asap folk are suffering from either no water or drinking water from poisonous source

Chukpai Kennedy Ugon

KUCHING: The preference of Rural Water Supply Department (JBALB) to use conventional water supply system is a choice based on prediction of what may or may not happen in future.

In the meantime, the people of Sungai Asap Resettlement Area have been given a choice: no water or drinking water from a poisonous source.

On Sg Asap water woes, Murum assemblyman Chukpai Kennedy Ugon has brought up a related issue that Sg Koyan, the water intake of the conventional water supply system, is highly polluted by herbicides as an oil palm plantation is located next to the river.

“JBALB prefers looking at the drought 50 years down the road rather than stopping our people from drinking water from a poisonous source.

“As a resident of Sg Asap myself, one thing I know for sure is this: The ‘1 in 50-year drought’ is a prediction of the future while the water intake at Sg Koyan now is located immediately next to an oil palm plantation discharging herbicides and other poisons,” Chukpai said in response to JBALB’s statement yesterday.

Chukpai said JBALB also seemed to ignore the fact that Sg Koyan has become shallow over time due to siltation.

“Although the surface area, deemed to be the catchment area for Sg Koyan is big, the river is shallow and full of mud. As a result, we are pumping mud.

“It is logical to consider other factors besides the ‘1 in 50-year drought’ period report,” said Chukpai in a statement.

He went on to question JBALB’s choice of conventional water supply system which is based on the theory of ‘1 in 50-year drought’.

“Logically speaking, if all rural water supply need all these detailed hydrology reports and satisfy the stringent ‘1 in 50-year drought period’ before anything can take place, then our rural people have to wait a long, long time for treated water supply.”

“For me as a YB, it is simple. I see what works and what does not work. Look at Jiwa Murni road. Look at Bailey bridges. Do they satisfy all these criteria by JKR (Public Works Department)?

“No. But they are meant to serve as connectivity to rural people while waiting for their areas to be developed and have tar-sealed JKR R5 roads. If all rural roads need to satisfy all criteria set by this test and that test, then no Bailey bridges and no Jiwa Murni road will ever be built.”

He said the same principle should apply to rural water supply  in Sg Asap.

“The same applies to rural water. Rural Water Department is set up to focus on solving problems and bringing treated water to rural villages as fast as possible and as efficiently as possible in a cost-effective way.”

“It’s ‘Jiwa Murni of water’ if I may call it that. Within 20 years or so, our rural villages will hopefully grow to become towns. By then, these rural villages would be connected to the main water treatment plant like big towns and cities!”

Thick mud that has accumulated at the sendimentation tank of Sungai Asap water treatment plant. The flushing of the filter will solve the problem temporarily.

“In short, rural setting requires rural methods and village-friendly systems with a whole different approach which cannot be a ‘one size fits all. Otherwise, why bother to establish a separate department for Rural Water in the first place?”

Still insisting that alternative water supply system is a better option, the first-term assemblyman argued that the catchment areas that feed the water source should not be taken at face value because depending on the soil and ground conditions among others, each mountain stream has different volume of water at the outlet.

“Some areas may have rain water that just flows right out and not retain any water at all. Other areas may have retained water which slowly seeps into the mountain streams.”

“The mountainous area of Sg Asap is very huge. I believe the few streams mentioned are only water outlets for certain parts of the mountain. The catchment area could be the whole mountain itself,” said Chukpai.

He said the 10,000 or so residents of Sg Asap could not ‘feast’ on JBALB’s ‘1 in 50-year drought’ theory because they could not ‘consume’ these studies as treated water.

“We want water now and not in 50 years’ time. JBALB director has assured us that there will be no more murky water. If it happens again, as YB of the area, I will personally take him to task and send him the sample of murky water for him to drink.

Chukpai was responding to JBALB’s statement that the department preferred conventional water supply system for Sg Asap because of the ‘1 in 50 years’ theory.

Water woes have been a major problem faced by the Sg Asap resettlers, and since moving there, they either experienced no water or muddy water that is undrinkable.

A protest was even staged in 2016 to make sure their voices were heard and proper action taken.

The recent water woe sparked another round of outburst, frustration and disappointment. It brought back that old sore that after two decades of settling in the area, the government is still unable to fix their water problem.

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