Water thieves cost Sabah up to RM180mil a year in losses

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Water Department (SWD) is cracking down on water thieves who are causing losses of up to RM180mil a year.

SWD director Edward Lingkapo said most of the illegal connections were in squatter areas as well as on state reserve land.

On Monday (Jan 24), an operation was carried out to destroy some of these illegal connections.

The illegal pipes were found buried at a depth of about 1m and tractors were brought in to dig it up.

"These thefts cost us between RM150mil and RM180mil a year," Lingkapo said after leading the operation to disconnect illegal water pipes at Tobobon Ratau in Manggatal new here Monday.

"These illegal connection have also affected genuine consumers, causing lower water pressure to their residential homes," he said during the three-day operation with police and Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd.

Citing an example of SWD's losses, Lingkapo said for the city's northern suburbs of Telipok, Manggatal and Sepanggar as well as parts of neighbouring Tuaran district, an estimated eight million litres of water was stolen per day through illegal connections.

"This costs us about RM160,000 every day," he said.

He said that they had identified key areas where water thefts are rampant and they hoped that it would help solve severe water shortages affecting consumers in the northern areas of the city.

Lingkapo said it was difficult to act against those stealing the water as many of them were illegal immigrants while the department could not act against those people even if locals were squatting on land owned by the government or its agencies.

"We need all relevant departments to be involved and to work together to help stop the illegal connections, be it illegal electricity or illegal water connections from taking place," he added.

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