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“I am old and cannot go down to the river or walk up the steps while carrying buckets of water” – Rural Kedahans Still Do Not Have Running Water

Source: The Vibes

For many of us, clean piped running water is a basic necessity that every household has. But it becomes clear how much we take this simple amenity for granted when we look at the rural regions of Kedah. Even today, the rural folks of Kedah still struggle with obtaining clean, piped running water. We look at why this is the case and what is being done.

Source Of The Problem

Water disruptions are a common problem that we Malaysians face. However, the situation is far worse for the inhabitants of rural Kedah, where water supply disruptions and shortages have been a recurring issue since 2007[1]. In the village of Kampung Iboi in Baling, for example, the taps will only run from 12am to 2pm[2].

Source: Malaysia Now

According to Syarikat Air Darul Aman (SADA), this constant water supply shortage is caused by many problems; high water usage by farms and plantations, broken and old pipes leading to leakages, inadequately maintained water supply/treatment facilities and low water pressure caused by the region’s geography[3]. And the situation only worsens during the dry season when the community water sources in the nearby hills dry up[4].

When the dry season arrives, there is an increase in areas which face water disruptions. The problem is that ‘community water’ users are affected during the dry season, where there is less water from nearby hills. – Mohd Fazil Ismail, spokesman for the National Water Service Commission (SPAN)[4]

In especially bad, long-term cases, such as Kg Sungkap Para near Bedong, residents were forced to seek out nearby villages in the hopes of finding the clean water they desperately needed.

In the last 15 days, there was no water supply, and I traveled to my mother’s house in Sg Petani to bathe and wash clothes, dishes and cooking utensils. – S. Janagi, Kg Sungkap Para resident[5]

For A Sip Of Water

It is hard for us to get additional clean water supply from SADA within 24 hours. – Malik Arshad, water supply overseer for Kampung Iboi [2]

Without a steady and reliable supply of water from SADA, Kedahans have taken to using alternative sources, buying bottled water, water filters or water pumps in order for their daily supply[1].

Source: Malaysia Now

We have permission from Tenaga Nasional Bhd to use a hydraulic pump station to supply the villagers with running water. – Malik Arshad, water supply overseer for Kampung Iboi [2]

In places like Kampung Iboi and Kampung Bukit Sebelah, the residents rely on the nearby river for an alternative water supply, either pumping the water themselves or seeking permission from a nearby hydraulic pumping station to supply their homes. Many villagers have even taken to washing their clothes in the river when they find themselves unable to supply the much-needed water directly to their homes[2]

Unfortunately, the heavy rains will often churn up mud on the river bed, turning the waters into a muddy red colour unsuitable for washing anything. But that is the least of the villagers’ worries as the river water is also polluted by chemicals, siltation and raw water contamination from a nearby durian plantation and logging activities in the area[2]. In other words, the Kedahan version of the Sungai Kim Kim incident is just waiting to happen.

Once I was doing my laundry and without me realising it, red, muddy water came pouring into the washing machine and damaged my clothes. – Zaini Harun, Kampung Iboi resident[2]

Further compounding the problem is that the villagers will often have to travel long distances while carrying heavy equipment or buckets filled with water. And the equipment itself is very expensive, with villagers in Kampung Iboi spending as much as RM2,000 on water pumping machines, pipes and water tanks. They then have to spend another RM100 or so each month just to maintain the equipment or fix any damages they might incur[2]. All of this whilst still being forced to pay for the monthly water bill[1].

I am old and cannot go down to the river or walk up the steps while carrying buckets to put at the pumping tube. – Rahimah Yaakub, 70-year-old villager[2]

What Is Being Done VS What Needs To Be Done

Currently, SADA provides water tankers to Kedahan villagers afflicted by the water shortages and the Kedah Menteri Besar Office (MBO) has urged farmers and large-scale orchard owners to use alternative water sources to water their plants instead of depending solely on treated water supply[6], but those are only short-term fixes and a more permanent solution is required.

Source: NST

Groundwater has been suggested as a viable alternative water source and the best solution to the water shortage problem. Already, a number of tubewells have been dug by prior projects; 21 tubewells under the Clean Water Project from 2011 to 2020 and nine tubewells under the Groundwater Reserve Project from 2017 to 2020. These tubewells were largely used as a short-term fix, however; for the long-term, the Mineral and Geoscience Department (JMG) is conducting the National Groundwater Mapping and Development Project 2021-2025 to evaluate and verify potential groundwater sources to be dug as well areas[7].

As a short-term move to resolve the water supply issue in Kedah, JMG had constructed tubewells at several locations in 2020 among them in Jerlun, Baling and Sik as well as at the water treatment plants in Merbok, Tupah, and Gurun. – Datuk Suraya Yaacob, State Public Works, Water Supply and Resources and Energy Committee chairman[7]

Although new water treatment plants are being constructed, most of these will not be completed for quite a long while. This includes the Bukit Selambau water treatment plant, which is expected to provide much-needed water for Kg Sungkap Para but will not be completed until 2024[5]. As such, upgrading existing water treatment plants has become a greater priority. The Sungai Limau water treatment plant is one such plant, with one of its upgrades being the installation of a dedicated pipeline to pump water to ponds with inadequate supply; the project, which began in 2021, is expected to finish in 2023[4].

The Kedah state government had also proposed building 14 new water tanks along Sungai Muda as a means of providing enough water to Kedahan homes and paddy farmers. This proposal was, however, derided by the Water Watch Penang (WWP) as ill-conceived and unlawful, especially since the Sg Muda also provides water to the people of Penang. In light of this, forming a Muda River Basin Council will help the three states that depend on the river for their water (Kedah, Penang and Perlis) come to a proper solution on how to best tackle Kedah’s water woes without endangering the other two states[8].

Here is a list of NGOs/initiatives that are currently aiding the people of Kedah with their water woes. Get in touch with them to find out more about what they do. Support, donations and volunteers are always welcomed.

Explore our sources:

  1. Kedahans still face water supply disruptions – Sustainable Malaysia Association (2022) Link.
  2. F. Awaludin (2021) In rural Kedah, clean water supply is still a pipe dream for villagers. Malaysia Now. Link.
  3. P. Nambiar (2022) Kedah village taps dry due to high usage nearby, says concessionaire. FMT. Link.
  4. A.M. Zulkifli (2021) Authorities acknowledge water problem in Kedah villages. Malaysia Now. Link.
  5. A. Sinnappan (2022) Remote village in southern Kedah without proper water assured of temporary solution. Link.
  6. A. Zulkifli (2022) Kedah water supply woes won’t be resolved over a short period of time. New Straits Times. Link.
  7. Bernama (2022) Groundwater, alternative solution to water shortage in Kedah. Melaka. Link.
  8. Kedah’s plan for 14 water tanks along Sg Muda ill-conceived – Water Watch Penang (2021) Link.

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