KOTA KINABALU: Getting water for their families has become a daily risk for villagers in remote Tambisan island in the east coast Lahad Datu district.
Earlier this month, a villager cheated death when his boat capsized after being hit by strong waves while he was rowing across a narrow channel to transport water to the island.
Despite the dangers, the islanders remain undeterred and continue to transport water from the mainland to the only village there using their perahu (small boat) loaded with 800- or 1,400-litre tanks.
Tungku assemblyman Datuk Suhaili Said said the villagers knew that this way of transporting water was dangerous.
“But they have no choice as there is no water at all in Pulau Tambisan,” he said yesterday.
He said Tambisan’s population comprised about 200 families, most of whom were subsistence fishermen.
The island also has a police station and a school that serves children from the mainland.
Suhaili said there had been no rain in the area for several months, adding that existing wells in Tambisan had dried up.
The assemblyman said he had donated funds for a well on the mainland and a pump, pipes and hoses for the villagers to draw water.
“They still have to transport the water across the channel, which can get choppy and unsafe. But they have no choice,” he added.
Suhaili said he had appealed to the authorities to drill tube wells on Tambisan for long-term water supply in the island.
Assistant Infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Ghulam Khan said the tube well proposal for Tambisan was being studied.
Meanwhile, inter monsoon rains that brought relief to most parts of Sabah a week ago are showing signs of tapering off with isolated showers in the west coast area.
Meteorologists are forecasting rain over various parts of Sabah in the next 72 hours.
Getting water remains a struggle for many islanders in Banggi, Jambongan, Sebatik and other smaller islands.
State agencies providing assistance have sent supply to Banggi but villagers are still lamenting the difficulty in transporting water from Banggi’s main settlement of Karakit to other villages.
“It is too expensive for many people to charter a vehicle to collect water from Karakit. We hope the government can help,” said Banggi islander Salma Marais.