The average Malaysian uses around 201 litres of water a day. That is higher than the recommendation of 50 – 100 litres of water a day by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Despite the high volume of water usage, Malaysians pay an affordable amount due to low domestic water tariffs.
However, not all Malaysians have access to clean water. A majority of those who suffer from a lack of supply or access to clean water are often living in rural areas. Still there are those in urban areas for example squatter areas and impoverished urban areas that are excluded from the national waste management.
Globally as we commemorate World Water Day 2022, we must be reminded that access to clean water and proper sanitation is a necessity and should not be a privilege. On the ground, six changemakers are working to ensure marginalised communities are connected to clean water and proper sanitation.
#1: Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Malaysia
Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Malaysia has been tirelessly working to improve the livelihood of the marginalised communities. In 2014, GPF launched the Communities Unite for Purewater (CUP) initiative to improve access to clean water for the Orang Asli communities. As a result of free-flowing water, sanitation and hygiene improved significantly.
In 2020, GPF collaborated with Forest Interactive, a mobile platform developer, to improve the access to clean and safe drinking water for Jakun villagers in Kampung Patah Pisau. With a sponsorship of RM23,400, new water pipes and solar-powered water pumps were successfully installed in the village.
The villagers of Kampung Patah Pisau have been collecting water from a self-dug well for years. However, this daily water collection is both time-consuming and exhausting for the community, particularly women and children. – Dr Teh Su Thye, CEO of GPF Malaysia
This is followed by briefing and training sessions on the installation, usage and maintenance of the solar water pump system. Further, the villagers were taught good hygiene and sanitation practices through their Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH) training.
This meaningful partnership with Forest Interactive will not only enable us to improve access to clean water for the families but also the health and hygiene of the community through our WaSH training. – Dr Teh Su Thye, CEO of GPF Malaysia
#2: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
The villagers of Lok Urai have lived in timber houses on stilts with no sewer system underneath for years on end. With no proper sewage system, human waste, household trash and plastic debris are disposed of directly into the sea.
Putting a halt to this unacceptable living condition is the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Action Caring Team Malaysia (ACT Malaysia), a humanitarian group along with researchers from University Putra Malaysia and Universiti Sabah Malaysia embarked on a pilot project to improve the living conditions of ‘water villages’ in East Malaysia.
The pilot project in Lok Urai involved installing low-cost sewage treatment tanks under 9 homes and a school. The closure of the pilot project sees the success and the satisfaction of the villagers.
Sewage disposal used to be unregulated and it was not pleasant to see. Since the new toilet was installed at the school, I noticed the students are happier and much encouraged to be in school. – Normina Abdul, headmistress of the village’s alternative learning centre 
The next part of the project involved installing up to 200 treatment tanks in the Lok Urai village. This was followed by a possible plan to set up a fabrication yard in the community allowing the villagers to generate a new source of income.
#3: World Vision Malaysia (WVM)
World Vision Malaysia’s (WVM) involvement in reducing poverty incidences and injustices needs no further introduction. Since the Malaysian arm was established in 1997, the organisations have expanded their programmes from the primary focus of growing child sponsorship initiatives in Malaysia and its neighbours.
Their dedication to providing clean water and sanitation since 2016 have witnessed 5,941 adults and children provided with safe drinking water sources such as wells, boreholes and gravity-fed water systems.
WVM collaboration with different households and the government contributed to 320 latrines being built with 2,292 adults and children benefitted. World Vision Malaysia also actively raises awareness on the importance of hygiene and sanitation amongst local communities with 30,416 adults and children participating.
#4: Soroptimist International Region Of Malaysia (SIROM)
In 2018, Soroptimist International Region Of Malaysia (SIROM) commenced the ‘Clean Water to Rural Communities’ at the village of Kampung Gana in Kota Marudu, Sabah . The villagers had no access to a regular supply of clean water, only receiving water once a week and utilising a makeshift rainwater harvesting system.
In collaboration with Spark Foundation, a gravity-fed water system was constructed. This led to 450 households having access to safe and clean water. Following a proper water system, the womenfolk in the community set up organic farms that provide nutritious food to the community.
Over the years, SIROM’s ‘Clean Water to Rural Communities’ initiative has only reached out to more marginalised communities such as the villagers in Kampung, (Kg.) Long Tanyit, Sarawak. In 2021, a similar system would provide the indigenous community in Kg. Orang Asli Tibang Ulu in Slim River, Perak, and Kg. Orang Asli SungaiÂ (Sg.) Kepong in Raub, Pahang is being run.
#5: Global Environment Centre
Global Environment Centre (GEC), a non-profit organisation has continuously tackled environmental issues locally and regionally for the past 20 years. Among the environmental issues, GEC is involved in conservation projects of peatlands, forests and coastal areas in Malaysia.
The organisation also recognised the lack of awareness and education among the general public on the natural water resource the nation currently has, the rivers. Only 53% of Malaysian rivers are classified as “clean” and the remaining river basins are polluted. Heeding to the challenge of ensuring rivers in Malaysia are well-kept, GEC established the River Care Programme (RCP). A programme designed to promote community participation in protecting river and water resource protection.
The RCP currently focuses on three main rivers in Malaysia; Sungai Kinta in Perak, Sungai Penchala and Sungai Klang in Selangor. The three rivers are responsible for providing millions of litres of water to the nearby residents and have been faced with pollution over the past years.
#6: HOPES Malaysia
In 2019, Sabah recorded the highest poverty rate in Malaysia and many villagers in the rural areas were excluded from basic infrastructures such as clean water. Recognising that there’s a need to empower the affected community and to break the poverty cycle, HOPES Malaysia steps in to help at Kota Belud, Sabah. The organisation has worked with 74 poverty-stricken villages in Kadamaian, Sabah, cut off from the public water supply system.
The initial project ran from 2015 to 2019 and saw the completion of seven gravity water systems connecting seven different rural villages in the area. The projects include replacing and repairing the existing water system and installing new water pipes to accommodate the growing population in the villages. The closure of the project sees more than 8,000 villagers receiving access to clean water.
With a guaranteed water supply that allows residents to fulfil their daily basic needs, HOPES Malaysia’s next step is to ensure food security and income generation amongst the rural villagers. Villagers were introduced to sustainable farming subsequently, improving the villagers’ household income by 40 – 53%. Over 80 families have participated in the programme and have reaped its benefits.
Explore our sources
- K.Kamaruddin. (2020). Changing Consumer Attitudes Towards Water. Bernama. Link
- World Health Organisation. (2003). Office Of The High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Centre On Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE). Water Aid, Centre On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Right To Water. 2003. Link
- Forest-Interactive. (2021). Forest Interactive Pipes in Clean Drinking Water with Global Peace Foundation Malaysia for the Orang Asli Community in Pahang. Link
- UNEP. (2021). In Malaysia’s floating villages, sanitation arrives in portable form. Link
- World Vision. Clean Water. Link
- SIHQ. (2018). CLEAN WATER TO RURAL COMMUNITIES – MALAYSIA. Soroptimist International. Link
- The Borneo Post. (2019). Heineken brings clean water for over 5,000 villagers. Link
- J.Yeoh. (2021). CLEAN WATER FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES IN PENINSULAR MALAYSIA. Soroptimist International.Link
- Global Environment Centre. River Care Programme. Link
- HOPES Malaysia. Sustainable Community Development.Link