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Why is clean water still a pipe dream in Kelantan?

A muddy source of water for the Orang Asli at Kuala Koh - Photograph: Sinar Harian

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It is pathetic to learn that villagers in Kampung Sungai Tias have been desperately dependent on a shallow well, dirtied by animal carcasses and rubbish, writes Mustafa K Anuar.

It is morally unacceptable that after more than 60 years of independence, there are Malaysians who still suffer from a lack of clean piped water facilities in some rural areas, particularly Kampung Sungai Tias and Kampung Gertak Kankong in Kelantan, as reported by The Malaysian Insight.

This is especially so when the rest of the country, specifically its urban centres, have been enjoying a good flow of piped water all these years, to the extent that most urbanites take it for granted. Interruption of water supply is often met with stinging criticism from city folk.

In fact, clean piped water these days is generally perceived, consciously or otherwise, to be as essential as having easy and fast internet access.

Indeed, the importance of clean water for domestic consumption at this stage of the country’s development and progress cannot be overemphasised.

The United Nations General Assembly clearly recognised on 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, “the human right to water and sanitation, and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.”

The resolution also called on governments and international organisations “to provide financial resources, and help in capacity-building and technology transfer to help countries, in particular developing countries, provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all”.

Against this international backdrop, it is therefore pathetic to learn that villagers in Kampung Sungai Tias have been desperately dependent on a shallow well, dirtied by animal carcasses and rubbish, as their primary water source all these years.

It is incumbent upon the authorities to ensure that steps are taken to alleviate the water problems of these people, so that we can eventually draw a line between our situation and that of other developing nations.

The UN stated that, for example, “in rural sub-Saharan Africa, millions of people share their domestic water sources with animals, or rely on unprotected wells that are breeding grounds for pathogens.” And “the average distance that women in Africa and Asia walk to collect water is 6km”.

During the dry season, the well dries up, forcing Kampung Sungai Tias residents to rely on a nearby river. It is no easy task carrying water home. At times, they have to resort to bottled mineral water for drinking and cooking.

The villagers rightly complained that the Kelantan government has done little to address the decades-long problem.Kampung Gertak Kangkong villagers are fortunate enough to get assistance from civil society group Mercy Malaysia to build a gravity-fed water system in their area, following the unavailability of support from the state government.

Clean water is not only for drinking, but also to prevent health problems arising from dirty water and poor sanitation. It is also a way to reduce the increasing cost of healthcare from treating people with water-related illnesses.

It is obvious that ensuring clean water supply for domestic consumption and proper sanitation should be prioritised by the authorities concerned.

Equally important, steps should also be taken to ensure that water catchment areas are not tampered with by so-called “development” initiatives, such as logging, plantation and factory activities, and by profiteering predators.

It is important to note that one of the UN’s sustainable development goals calls for the safeguarding of the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Source: The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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