= by Wilfred Pilo
LUBOK ANTU, Oct 9: Nonagenarian Laing Manggie of Rumah Munan in Ensawang here often asks her grandson Jesley Jabu Bajang to fetch some water for her from “the tap”.
She is joking, of course, because since Day One, her settlement never had treated tap water. And to think that she is now 96 years old.
Laing — who has seven children, 18 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren — has to use rainwater stored in a plastic tank at the back of her house for showering, drinking and other purposes. The same goes for all her neighbours.
During the dry season, they will fetch water from a murky stream nearby. Alternatively, they would get it from the crocodile-infested Batang Ai.
Jesley, 44, told DayakDaily that if the government could not give the villagers clean, treated water, the least they could do is install a gravity-feed system to supply water from the mountain.
But that simplest of requests proved ‘too difficult’ for the government to fulfil, too.
“I have helped fellow villagers to clear a jungle path for the installation of a piping system for gravity feed. We were told to do so by the village development and security committee (JKKK),” he said.
But until today, the project was never implemented because the promised pipes and other equipment remained just that — a promise.
Ironically, the Health Department had once wanted to impose summons on the whole village for allowing their containers that were used to collect rainwater to become mosquito breeding grounds.
“We reasoned with them that not everybody in the village is able to monitor the mosquito larvae every day as we have to go to the farm. In addition, we live near a jungle, so it’s a natural habitat for mosquitoes,” related Jesley.
He added that the water woes in his village and two others nearby had been highlighted in the print media before, but it did not bring any change.
“The government wants to help rural folk in order to close the development gap between the urban and rural areas, but nothing has changed. It is sad that we are being marginalised,” he lamented.
Representatives from the State Barisan Nasional (BN) did drop by the village many years ago and promised to help, but their words all turned out to be mere lip service.
But after all these disappointments, the Rumah Munan residents have not given up hope. On June 6 this year, Jesley wrote a letter to the Department of Minerals and Geoscience Malaysia, Sarawak, for assistance. The letter was signed by his father.
“I wrote the letter in Bahasa Malaysia and attention it to Dr Dana Badang. The subject of the letter was ‘Permohonan Pemangsangan Paip Graviti Di Rumah Munan, Enswang, Lubok Antu’.
“This is probably my last letter, and I really need the assistance of the mass media to act as another bridge to the authorities concerned,” he said.
He hoped the government would finally install at least a gravity-feed system quickly as his grandmother is very old already and has never ever gotten to enjoy piped water.
Meanwhile, Desmond Banglin Yii, a villager from Wong Pandak here, said his village was also suffering the same fate even though his people were staunch supporters of the government all these years.
“The government is the only saviour for us in dealing with our water problems, and we need their urgent attention,” said the 32-year-old.
He pointed out that the whole situation was strange because Rumah Ensawang, Wong Pandak and Wong Panjai, with a combined population of about 1,000 people, never experienced a single drop of piped water although they lived very near to the Lubok Antu Water Treatment Plant.
Desmond said it is a crying shame that the government often boasted of spending billions of ringgit on infrastructure development, yet they allowed the rural populace to suffer such indignity.
“I am sure people in many other parts of the state are also suffering like us, so we hope our little voice will be heard loud and clear,” he said. — DayakDaily