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Sunday July 3, 2011

Saying goodbye to cloudy water

Rural communities can expect a better quality of life due to the Rural Basic Infrastructure National Key Results Area of the Government Transformation Programme.

THERE was a time not too long ago when the orang asli community of Kampung Songkok in Hulu Selangor had to be content with dirty and cloudy water channelled to their homes through makeshift bamboo pipes.

The water supply from the nearby river had to be filtered manually before it was usable. When it rained heavily, the bamboo pipes would get clogged up and a lot of time was spent unclogging them. If the water pressure was low, the villagers were forced to fetch water from the river.

Fortunately for them, times have changed.

Gift of water: An orang asli boy from Kampung Songkok happy with the new water system.

These days, the villagers enjoy clean and uninterrupted water supply to their homes, thanks to the Rural and Regional Development Ministry.

Last year, the ministry installed a system that can filter and treat raw water from springs and rivers for their household needs.

Under the new system, the water is properly channelled into a main storage tank, where it is filtered and treated before it flows into individual homes.

Each home, meanwhile, is provided with an individual water storage tank and three water outlets two for the toilets and one for the kitchen.

“I can say that it's 100% better now,” raves 27-year old Azmi Sahak.

Azmi, a father of one, says they can now bathe and answer the call of nature in the privacy of their own homes.

There are 23 families living in the village located on the road to Genting Highlands from the town of Ulu Yam.

Bet Anak Hashim, 24, agrees that the installed water systems have made their lives easier.

“We are guaranteed a clean supply of water. It was difficult for us before this,” says the mother of four.

The clean water initiative is part of the Rural Basic Infrastructure (RBI) National Key Results Area (NKRA) under the Government Transformation Programme (GTP).

In essence, the objective of the rural basic infrastructure NKRA is to improve the quality of life of rural communities. Approximately 35% of Malaysians currently live in rural areas.

Other than water, the initiatives under the RBI NKRA are roads, electricity and housing.

The 2010 target for the four programmes identified under the RBI NKRA is to: build or upgrade 751.9km of federal and state roads in rural areas; provide clean or treated water connection to an additional 70,181households; provide 24-hour electricity supply to an additional 25,312 households; and build or restore 16,626 houses for the rural poor.

Ultimately, the Government's vision is to ensure that 100% of the population is living within 5km of a paved road and have access to basic amenities such as water, electricity and housing.

Hence, for the community of Kampung Songkok, more development goodies are in store, with electricity supply slated as the next basic infrastructure on the cards.

Village head Alam Supah, who is thankful for all the help being given to them, shares that they cannot wait for their village to have power supply. “We need all these amenities to progress as a community. The children need light to study at night,” he says.

As outlined in the GTP, access to basic infrastructure is a fundamental right of every Malaysian, no matter where they live.

This basic infrastructure is important as it lays the foundation for the development of social amenities such as schools and hospitals. With the right infrastructure, access to economic opportunities in rural areas can also be enhanced.

These developments in turn pave the way for secondary development such as wireless broadband and Internet services that will further improve the quality of life for those living in rural areas.

According to the ministry, the agency tasked with implementing the RBI NKRA, the various strategies and measures put into action last year have delivered encouraging results (see charts). Three of the initiatives roads, houses and electricity exceeded their 2010 targets.

In some of the rural areas where road access and electricity supply are now available, communication towers are already being planned and constructed for telecommunications and broadband connectivity.

To expedite delivery further and meet the targets set for this year and 2012, the ministry is working on improving the administrative process of the development projects, specifically in cutting red tape and time for the procurement, tendering, land acquisition or resolution of land matters.

While the subsequent measures for further progress in the less developed parts of the country continue to be rolled out, the implementation of the initiatives in the ongoing RBI NKRA nationwide is not neglected.

And with the RBI NKRA rollout on track until 2012, soon the lack of basic infrastructure will be a thing of the past even in the most remote parts of the country.

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