Former water department director calls for drastic actions to solve Sabah’s water woes

KOTA KINABALU: Drastic actions with proper allocations of roles and responsibilities in water governance are needed to solve Sabah’s ongoing water woes, says former Sabah Water Department director Datuk Dr Amarjit Singh.

He said this situation is affecting many parts of Sabah, including students at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), who recently staged a peaceful demonstration to demand a resolution to the long-standing issue.

He emphasised the importance of policymakers clearly allocating and distinguishing roles and responsibilities for water policymaking, policy implementation, operational management, and regulation, and fostering coordination across responsible authorities.

Amarjit said in a statement that managing water at the appropriate scales within integrated basin governance systems to reflect local conditions and foster coordination between different scales was crucial as well.

"Encourage policy coherence through effective cross-sectoral coordination, especially between policies for water and the environment, health, energy, agriculture, industry, spatial planning, and land use," he suggested.

He said principles are articulated around three mutually reinforcing and complementary dimensions of water governance: effectiveness, efficiency, and trust and engagement.

"Effectiveness relates to the contribution of governance to define clear sustainable water policy goals and targets at all levels of government, to implement those policy goals, and to meet expected targets," said Amarjit, who is a member of the International Water Association (IWA).

Efficiency relates to the contribution of governance to maximise the benefits of sustainable water management and welfare at the least cost to society, he said.

"It relies on sharing water-related data and information, mobilising water finance, enforcing regulatory frameworks, and promoting innovative water governance practices," he said.

Amarjit said trust and engagement relate to the contribution of governance to building public confidence and ensuring inclusiveness of stakeholders through democratic legitimacy and fairness for society.

“It is about mainstreaming integrity and transparency, managing trade-offs across water users, rural and urban areas, and generations, and promoting regular monitoring and evaluation to make adjustments when needed," he added.

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