Expert: Drastic action needed as water issue gets heated


KOTA KINABALU: Drastic action with the proper allocation of roles and responsibilities in water governance is needed to solve Sabah’s continued water woes, says former Water Department director Datuk Dr Amarjit Singh.

He said the water situation is affecting many parts of Sabah, including at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), where students recently staged a peaceful demonstration asking for the long-standing matter to be resolved.

Amarjit said it was vital for policy makers to clearly allocate and distinguish roles and responsibilities in water policymaking, policy implementation, operational management and regulation, and foster coordination across the responsible authorities.

“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 said in a statement.

He added that this must revolve around three mutually reinforcing and complementary dimensions of water governance – effectiveness, efficiency, and trust and engagement.

Effectiveness means ensuring there was proper governance in terms of defining clear sustainable water policy goals and targets at all levels of government, said Amarjit, who is a member of the International Water Association (IWA).

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

“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 stakeholders were included.

“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.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister III Datuk Shahelmey Yahya said acts of sabotage and water thefts are the key reasons for the prevailing water supply problem in Sepanggar, one of the worst-hit areas in Sabah.

He said efforts by the Sabah Water Department to supply treated water have frequently been undermined by constant illegal tapping of its main transmission line by illegal squatters in that area.

“Besides that, we also suspect some acts of sabotage after we recently discovered some of our valves had been tampered with,” he told reporters on Friday.

Asked to elaborate on who was sabotaging the water supply system, he said: “We are investigating this matter, no ordinary people can simply tamper with the valve.”

Sabah Umno election director Jeffery Nor Mohamed urged Shahelmey to explain the core problems behind the water issue.

“The reasons put forward regarding the water issue at Universiti Malaysia Sabah are completely unreasonable.

“We are well aware that the Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) had approved an allocation of RM3mil on May 31 to address the water problem,” he said.

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