50,000 in Papar affected by temporary closure of water plants



KOTA KINABALU (March 16): Today (March 17) marks a month since the Jetama Water Treatment Plant (LRA) and the Emergency Water Supply Scheme (EWSS) LRA in Papar temporarily ceased operations due to saline intrusion.

Papar Member of Parliament (MP) Datuk Armizan Mohd Ali said this situation had evidently affected 50,000 people around the district, exacerbated by the drought season which is expected to last until March, and water intakes at both plants had recorded increasing salt water levels with a check at 8am on Saturday showing 4,277 miligrammes per litre (mg/L) as opposed to the 120 mg/L safety threshold.

He explained that sufficient rainfall in the district which translates to higher water level in the river usually prevents such situation but due to the drought, the nearby rivers’ water level had decreased, allowing saltwater to enter from the sea and into the water intakes, causing the water at both plants unable to be treated, adding that the two plants had also ceased operations last year due to a similar incident.

“So for me, aside from waiting for the Kogopon LRA, which is a long-term solution, to be completed, something has to be done so that the issue does not repeat. Hence why the suggestion to create an alternative water intake for the plants is important as it will serve as a backup in the event of another saline intrusion and can save the plants from having to be shut down temporarily.

“This matter has reached the attention of State Works Minister Ir Datuk Shahelmey Yahya, and I will also bring it up to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Normally the cost of building a water intake can reach RM20 million, and even though it is high, I am pleading to the State Government to give special consideration and to approve an allocation for it. The construction would take around six months.

“Water projects are unlike others such as building roads where there are other alternatives as the day-to-day lives of the people are affected, hence I reiterate for this second water intake plan be given the green light by the State Government so that it can be immediately started to alleviate the water issue in the Papar district which has two parliamentary constituencies, namely Papar and Kimanis,” he told reporters after a walkabout near the Papar Tamu grounds here on Saturday.

Armizan said the most important thing now is to identify which areas receive barely any water or none at all. One of the villages in Papar most affected by the predicament is Kampung Kuala due to its high population distribution.

He said he will be chairing a meeting with the relevant parties on Sunday to discuss and coordinate the issue, adding that the private sector such as Jetama had also offered a helping hand in the matter.

“Even though there are people saying the Papar MP is not doing his job, we have actually been sending water every day to static tanks that we created, and last year we managed to build eight of these tanks which have a capacity of 20,000 litres each. Kampung Kuala also has one of these static tanks.

“And we also had a discussion to seek any parties that can help us build mini tube wells at identified areas. Villagers in Kampung Kuala had actually built two of their own and we assisted by providing pipes and water pumps so that even though the water is untreated, it can still be used for bathing, etc.

“So I think allocation should not be an issue for this, and I will put all my effort into it. However, as for more short-term alternatives besides intensifying the sending of water to affected residents, we are looking into whether we can obtain any unused or abandoned wells which still have water to fix them up,” he said.

Armizan said it is unfortunate that they have to resort to reverting to using wells like in the older times, and despite the hot weather and the El Nino phenomenon, this would not have happened if the Kogopon LRA upgrading works which had commenced in 2019 was completed according to schedule, which was 2022 or before the Twelfth Malaysia Plan (RMK-12).

“Who or what was the cause for the delay? That question should be asked to the people in power at the time because I was not yet the Papar MP then.

“However, this is not an excuse. I have to take responsibility and ensure the project is completed immediately,” he said.