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– by Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, Oct 10: The state government has allocated RM2.8 billion to implement the water supply grid programme for stressed areas. This will effectively resolve water supply issues affecting the rural folk in these corners of the state.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state Rural Water Supply Department (JBALB) would implement the projects under this initiative immediately.
“A total of 247 projects have been identified to be implemented and completed within two years to resolve water supply woes in stressed areas across the state.
“The projects will include water treatment plants, distribution network systems, improvement works, pipe replacement, non-revenue water management, modernisation initiatives and Sarawak Alternative Rural Water Supply (Sawas),” he said when opening the 4th Borneo Water and Wastewater Exhibition and Conference here today.
Utilities Minister Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom was also present.
Abang Johari said the projects would be implemented simultaneously across the state. He warned contractors against sub-contracting their work packages, adding that Sarawakian contractors and material suppliers would be given first priority.
“The contractors must be able to know new technology, while suppliers must be able to provide materials at affordable cost. We want a quality supply of materials, companies with engineers and consultants that can ensure quality implementation of the projects,” he emphasised.
After the completion of the ‘Sarawak water supply grid programme for stressed areas’ in 2020, Abang Johari said the state would embark on the second phase of the water supply programme to connect these areas with its RM8 billion water supply grid project to ensure the whole state has safe and clean water by 2025.
He added that the water supply grid would be digitalised, where a central management centre would monitor and would be able to locate problems along the water grid system for immediate rectification.
“There is a lot to be done in order to supply water to the rural people. Water functions not only for consumption or generating power, but moves economic activities, including agriculture and manufacturing. It is a precious commodity to spur the economy.
“High-altitude fresh-water reservoirs like Batang Ai, Murum, Bakun, Bengoh and probably Trusan (in the future) will be distributed and enable long-term sustainable provision of drinking water through the systematic state water grid,” he said.
Abang Johari cited the need to rectify water supply issues that include solving problems of non-revenue water supply due to pipe leakages, old water treatment plants, undersized water tanks and other issues, which cost the state about RM1.4 million per year.
On a related note, the chief minister said the government was looking to send post-graduate students to Canada to learn the latest water technology. He encouraged local universities to collaborate with their foreign counterparts to enhance water research.
The state government is learning from Ontario’s best practices to manage and develop its high-altitude fresh water reservoir at the state’s hydro dams as well as to create more economic benefits for the people.
Sarawak will also set up a lake development authority to ensure proper management and development planning. — DayakDaily