Sawas To Speed Up Full Water Coverage In Rural Sarawak

KUCHING: Only 39% of people in the state’s rural areas have yet to enjoy treated piped water supply and Minister of Rural Electricity and Water Supply, Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom, said for them to do so under the water supply coverage, the state government would have to expedite the implementation of its alternative rural water supply programme.

Rundi described the speeding up the water supply to this 39%, representing around 114,000 households, as of “utmost urgency”.

“This Sawas (Sarawak Alternative Water Supply) programme will be implemented by JBALB (Rural Water Supply Department) in collaboration with Mineral and Geoscience Department and the Health Department through its Unit Bekalan Air dan Kebersihan Alam Sekeliling (Bakas),” Rundi told the state assembly when winding debates on his ministry yesterday.

He said the Sawas initiative was under the government’s rural transformation initiative aimed at addressing the lack of basic infrastructure and social amenities in rural areas.

On the many water supply problems faced by consumers, from low pressure to dry taps, Rundi said the root causes of these problems stemmed from old treatment plants of inadequate capacity, overloading the treatment plants to meet increasing water demand, aged and leaking water mains and water tanks, high non-revenue water, inadequate raw water sources, water mains becoming undersized as the water demands increase over time as well as operational and maintenance issues.

“These are the numerous challenges my ministry has to overcome in the upgrading of the existing water supply infrastructure in order to be able to provide quality and efficient water supply services that can meet the higher expectations of the consumers.”

Rundi also told the assembly that RM17 billion is required for the implementation of the various water supply programmes over the 11th and 12th Malaysian Plan periods.

Breaking down the costs, Rundi said RM10 billion is for the provision of water supply to the rural areas under the Sawas and ministry of rural and regional development water supply programmes while RM7 billion is for the overhauling of the existing water supply systems which have become inadequate and deficient together with the implementation of the numerous proposed improvement and development projects.
“In view of the huge amount of funding required, it is therefore necessary to seek for more state and federal funds as well as to adopt other non-conventional means of financing these works.”

They include, he said, getting financing from the proposed Development Bank of Sarawak. –