SAWAS brings clean, treated water to Rumah Ninting, Batang Ai

Rundi (right) signing the plaque marking the launch of the SAWAS system as Mussen (second right), Jong (left), Bloom Richmark Sdn Bhd executive director Angie Kueh and Tr Ninting Jantan (centre) look on.

LUBOK ANTU, March 26: Residents of Rumah (Rh) Ninting in Nanga Jambu — some three hours away by longboat ride from the Bakun Dam jetty — can now enjoy clean and treated water supply thanks to the Sarawak Alternative Water Supply (SAWAS) programme.

The nine-door Rh Ninting with a population of about 35 is one of the most remote longhouses along the Batang Ai river only reachable by boat. Despite so, thanks to the efforts by the Ministry of Utilities, the community there can enjoy the most basic amenities.

Minister of Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom said SAWAS which is in its first phase for the Batang Ai area, was the best solution to provide clean and equivalent quality to treated water supply to remote areas such as Rh Ninting.

“This effort began during (the late former Chief Minister) Tok Nan’s (Pehin Sri Adenan Satem) time where his policy was for the progress of rural development. So my Ministry is at the forefront of this policy and we had to think of ways to realise it.

“Being raised in a rural area myself, I understand your needs to close the development gap between rural and urban areas. We begin this SAWAS programme here at the farthest remote area of Batang Ai, because if it’s possible here, then it will be easier for the rest of the longhouses here,” he said during an official launching ceremony at the longhouse on Sunday.

A local resident demonstrates how easy it is to maintain and clean the system, observed by Rundi (left) and Jong (right).
Jong (second right) ​explains the workings of the filtration system to Rundi (second left), Mussen (left) and Liwan (right).

The SAWAS programme aims to bring clean and treated water supply to the most remote areas of the state, prior to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s aspiration to set up the state water grid in the future.

In a statement, the Rural Water Supply Department said that the state water grid would take some time to be implemented and to reach remote areas such as Rh Ninting in Nanga Jambu, Batang Ai so SAWAS is a stop-gap measure to provide basic amenities in terms of safe, clean and treated water to the people here.

To ensure the sustainability of SAWAS, the department formed a special unit specifically to look after the implementation and operation of this system. The system is also easy enough to be operated and maintained by the locals.

The department explained that the system would be preferably operated via gravity feed to minimise power requirements with no/or minimal needs for chemicals and pumping.

Rh Ninting’s SAWAS project costed RM672,975.22 excluding GST, and is capable of storing 5,400 litres of raw water and another 5,400 litres of treated water. The filtration system uses the Safewater Genie System.

The system for the SAWAS programme was provided by contractor Bloom Richmark Sdn Bhd, and is being monitored by the company’s project director Jeffery Jong.

Currently in Sarawak, some 114,375 households or 39 per cent of the total 292,900 in rural areas do not have access to treated or safe water supply.

The remaining 178,525 or 61 per cent do have access to treated water supply but are experiencing frequent interruptions or low pressure.

With the SAWAS system, water storage tanks are built on towers and get their water supply from the most reliable sources upstream upon extensive studies and surveys, hence minimising the risk of low pressure or supply.

In 2016, the longhouse also was a recipient of a 15kw mini hydro electricity system, which had since provided it with a continuous supply of electricity. The system was the brainchild of Prof Dr Richard Belanda Dagang, and cost around RM450,000.

It was launched by Lubok Antu MP Datuk William Nyalau Badak in 2017.

Rundi also pledge RM2,000 per household for Rh Ninting for the longhouse to improve the condition of their longhouse.

The hardware for the SAWAS programme.
Rundi (left) and Nyalau (third right) trying out the treated water as Liwan (fourth right) and Mussen (second right) look on.

Meanwhile, Batang Ai assemblyman Malcolm Mussen Lamoh thanked Rundi for bringing SAWAS into the most interior communities of his constituency, and requested for two more such systems to be set up near the Nanga Delok area.

“I’m thinking two more areas need this system, like Nanga Delok near here, and one more not far away.

“I think this programme is good to help improve livelihoods and provide much needed basic amenities for the rural areas so as not to be left behind those nearer to urban areas,” he said.

On top of that, Mussen, who is also Assistant Minister for Industries and Investment, also thanked Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) for providing electricity to the remote areas of Batang Ai not only from the main grid but also through the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by providing solar hybrid systems to several longhouses there.

“It is because of the stability of our government and politics that we are able to achieve this. I hope you will continue to show support to the implementation of such policies by the government so that more rural areas will not be left behind,” he told those present.

Mussen announce a RM5,000 contribution to the village’s security and development committee (JKKK).

Assistant Minister of Water Supply Datuk Liwan Lagang gave assurance to the people that such development projects that benefit the rural people would continue as long as the people continue to show their support for the government.

He also announced a RM10,000 contribution to the village’s JKKK. — DayakDaily