No choice: A villager bathing in a drain at Ulu Semera. Dozens, if not hundreds of villagers, along Jalan Samarahan-Sadong Jaya have been without consistent water supply since the middle of the Ramadan month. - ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE / The Star
KUCHING: For over two weeks now, dozens, if not hundreds, of villagers living along Jalan Samarahan-Sadong Jaya have been hit hard by the dry weather.
Villages like Kampung Semera, about 100km from here, are totally dry. 1Malaysia water tanks, which are meant for harvesting rainwater, were only delivered about 10 days ago.
“It has not rained at all so the tanks are empty. Why didn’t they deliver the tanks to us earlier? Didn’t the authorities see water level drop at the reservoirs? Why didn’t they start the rationing kampung by kampung earlier?” asked Wan Alkap Tunku Esim, 67.
At Alkap’s house, the water taps have delivered nothing but air since middle of the Ramadan month.
He said drinking water was collected daily from the forest that surrounds the village. Inconsistent water supply has been a problem since the late 1980s.
“Every non-monsoon season, it’s like this. We are quite used to it but that doesn’t mean we are happy,” the farmer told The Star at his modest home, where neighbours had gathered to talk about the situation.
He told The Star a laundry list of other complaints but got most upset about the lack of water. “A water truck did come by a few days ago delivering fresh supply but the water was mostly delivered to villagers nearer the main road and not to others. We were supposed to share but... So then we said, ‘Deliver the water to the suraus in the area’, and they said OK. But first they have to install tanks at the surau.”
Health hazard: Julaihi holding up a bottle of water taken from the drain where he has been bathing twice a day for about two weeks.
Fellow villager Julaihi Sulong, a fisherman, has been bathing in a drain twice a day for two weeks. “Everyone has been bathing in the drain,” he said, adding his water supply was collected from the drain as well.
The nearest drain with enough water in it is about 3km away at Ulu Semera near a oil palm estate. The drains around Kampung Semera were dry. Villagers also say water from Kampung Semera also tended to be too salty to be drunk.
It was 11.40am yesterday when Julaihi was showing The Star the drain he bathed in the morning. He was agitated and appeared emotional. “During the dry season, it’s tough on me to earn a living. When there is no rain, the water level along the river is low. There aren’t a lot of fish to catch,” Julaihi said.
Murky: Alkap holding up a cup of water taken from his water tank.
“I’ve been coming to Ulu Semera to bath twice every day for over two weeks.
“Yesterday was my family’s laundry day. My wife and I rode our motorcycle to a relative’s house at Asajaya, where there is water. We washed our clothes there. It’s far and we can’t go to other people’s house to bath everyday,” he added.
Julaihi said he often wondered why transportation in rural parts of Samarahan had improved so much over the years but not water supply. “If they can build roads and bridges, why can’t they build more dams for water supply?” he asked.
In the 10 minutes that Julaihi spoke to The Star at Ulu Semera, three other families came and bathed. There was a young couple on a motorcycle, and two other couples, each with a child, who came together in a white Proton Saga. It was clear the latter couples were not living in poverty, but where they lived, there was no water supply.
“I feel itchy all over my body since bathing here,” said Marzuki Kamrii, 27, who is a farmer, holding onto his daughter with one hand and pushing away floating debris, including palm branches, with his other hand. Later, Marzuki helped his wife up the slope, as the other couple kept an eye over the children.
“I’m worried about what’s in the water. This is agriculture land where chemicals are used.”