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Title: Living in waste
Date: 07-Mar-2012
Category: Solid Waste & Human
Source/Author:         STEPHEN THEN
Description: Human are affetcted by river water pollution due to waste issues from industrial and agriculture projects.

MIRI: The problem of river water contamination caused by waste from industrial and agriculture projects is believed to be widespread in river systems in many rural and sub-rural districts throughout Sarawak.

In the wake of the recent incident involving oil leaking into the Sungai Liku water-intake source and forcing the Lambir Water Treatment Plant to shut down for a day, The Star has been receiving information from people in faraway districts complaining of similar serious pollution affecting their water supplies.

The complaints were received from villagers in various localities here, in Marudi and Tatau districts.

Among the complaints, the most serious case was related by a teacher from Tatau district, located in the outskirts of Bintulu, about 280km south of Miri.

The teacher, identified only as Cikgu Christine, even emailed photographs of the badly contaminated water at her school and the teachers quarters.

From the photographs, it was obvious that the water looked reddish and brownish in colour while the filter coated with thick layers of muddy sediment.

“We in the Tatau district have been suffering for a long time because of the polluted water supply situation here.

“The schools are seriously affected, so are the villages and longhouses. The piped water is often dirty.

“Often, the pressure is so low, we cannot even get enough water into the tanks.

“There were also times where they were totally no water for up to two weeks,” she said.

The water treatment plant in Tatau belongs to the Public Works Department (JKR).

A check by The Star found that the treatment plant sourced its raw water from Sungai Anap Tatau.

That river system runs through many oil palm plantations and sawmills on the way to the water treatment plant.

Cikgu Christine said residents in Tatau could not drink the water direct from the pipes because of the contamination.

“We have to filter the water from the pipe many times before we can use it for cooking or drinking. The filters have to be changed very regularly.

“The clothes we wash using the pipe water turns yellow in colour,” she said.

She appealed to authorities to look into these water supply woes in Tatau, saying that the folk there had complained many times to JKR but the problem remain unsolved.

Long Berawan’s Berawan Association secretary Willie Kajan claimed that residents in his settlements had come across rampant pollution of rivers even in the vicinity of the Mulu National Park.

“There are some factories carrying out construction-related projects located very near to the rivers inside the national park.

“The locals have found river-water contaminated by what looks like oily waste. There seemed to be no enforcement carried out by any enforcement agencies in these rural regions,” he further claimed.

Willie said that in view of the seriousness of the incident that affected the Lambir plant in Miri, the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) should not allow any polluting industries to operate in ecologically-sensitive or populated areas.

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