UN’s committee chairman on water sanitation Leo Heller (left) visiting interior Miri to check on water issues affecting natives.
MIRI: A team from the United Nations committee on water sanitation and hygiene is in Sarawak currently travelling to several parts of the state’s interior to check out the ground situation in places where the community still do not have clean water to consume or use.
It is learned that the team came to Miri over the past few days and met up with the natives and held meetings with social rights organisations.
Non-governmental body Save Sarawak Rivers were one of those that the UN team met.
Its chairman Peter Kallang confirmed that the UN team was in Miri visiting various places where the residents had no clean water supply.
The team members visited several settlements in Bakun, Bakong and Lapok.
These settlements had no piped water supply even though there are sources of treated water from treatment plants built by the government.
“The UN team is compiling reports about these social woes pertaining to water supplies,” he said.
Peter said the UN team may give details of their visit to local reporters before they leave the country.
He said matters pertaining to clean water supply are basic human rights everyone is entitled to.
“We in Sarawak still face plenty of issues with regards to treated water.
There are still rural and semi-urban settlements where folks have to rely on rivers and ponds for their daily water source.
“During times of drought, the situation gets worse,” he said.
In July this year, more than a thousand people in the interior Marudi district in northern Sarawak were hit by a water crisis due to acute shortage of clean water.
These rural folks living in Puyut, Lubok Nibong, Rumah Entawal, Rumah Philip, Rumah Merikan and along Sungai Sebatang settlements saw their water tanks dried up from the drought.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia officer for Marudi, Jok Jau Evong said for months these villages had no more clean water for cooking, drinking or bathing.
These places have no piped-water and the folks there depend on rainwater but due to a drought, they have to resort to using murky pond and stream water for daily use.
The Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) office in Marudi received an SOS for help from the desperate residents in July.
SAM headquarters in Penang and the Marudi branch deployed officials to check the situation in places hit by the water crisis.
SAM president S.M.Mohamed Idris later said the situation was distressing.
“After receiving appeals for help from the affected villagers, we sent in a team of officials to check.
“We found more than a thousand folks from these villagers living in distressing conditions.
“They were using murky and polluted water from stagnant ponds and streams because they had no clean rainwater due to the hot spell. These villagers have no piped water.
“The government has not connected them to the water treatment plant.
“Their only source of clean water is from the mountain watershed and from the rain but these sources dried up during the drought.
“These residents are resorting to travelling long distances to Marudi town to buy mineral water for drinking and cooking.
“That is very costly. These rural folks have no stable income since most are subsistence farmers.
“The water from the murky pond and streams are not safe for human consumption,” he said.
Idris said the murky waters in the streams are caused by erosion from land and plantation development projects.
SAM called on the state authorities to swiftly look into the plights of these folks.