Published on: Wednesday, August 06, 2014
"Neither did it help the tourism industry especially after the recent kidnapping incidents.
These water villages have been perceived as a home for illegal immigrants from the outside world.
"We simply cannot claim ourselves as a developed country or a high- income nation, if by year 2020, our people are still living in water villages with poor sanitation and without proper sewage treatment system.
"Not only should we remove these polluted water villages, we should also look into the possibility to turn water villages into an eco friendly tourist destination," said Ong in a statement here Tuesday.
For instance, he said Pulau Gaya which is a stone's throw away from the city centre has the potential to become a world class tourist spot if private sectors are given opportunity to develop in the Island hotel, eco-friendly resorts, family-friendly recreation centre among others.
Towards this end, he called on the government to resettle the people living in water villages to avoid further predicament contributing to the social, economic, and environmental landscape in the State.
"Water villages are seen as unsafe as these villages have become nests for illegal activities such as smuggling of goods or arms, a den for robbers and a hideout haven for thieves or drug addicts.
"According to the police, such activities are not unusual and there have been arrests made in these villages.
"If this issue is not dealt with appropriately now, it will become a more sophisticated social problem and even more costly to handle in the future," he said.
Ong said pollution and hygiene was another concern for villagers.
"Water villages are mostly built without proper sewage treatment system, human waste goes direct into the sea water and sanitation is poor. Humans excrete approximately 250 gramme of solid waste per capita per day."
He said that water villages with thousands of people living in the community would have produced tons of human waste in just a couple of days hence will be a threat to the eco environment.
Apart from that, he said the villagers were also exposed to infectious diseases especially children playing in the seawater and unaware of the risk.
"Another awful concern is marine litter in water villages. It consists of, to a very great extent, plastics and metal and glass which have a devastating effect on marine life.
"Reefs being destroyed and sea animals are endangered. It is an eyesore and it destroys the beauty of the sea and the coastal zone," he said.
According to Ong, fire was always a concern for water villages and lives were put at risk especially for young children, elderly and the handicapped.
"Houses are normally built from combustible materials and close to one another.
Once there is a fire, it is likely that dozens of houses will be burnt down.
"Hundreds of people become homeless with possible casualties.
Fire and life safety should be everyone's concern. We should all strive to provide the community a fire-safe environment to live in," he said.
"We understand that people who have resided in water villages for their entire lives may find it difficult to adapt to a new environment due to resettlement.
"However, sacrifice from the adults will not only assure them of a more conducive environment to live in but also provide better future and opportunity for their young generations.
"How can we dream of a better standard of living for ourselves yet think it is all right for others to remain backward? With the assistance of the government, I believe resettlement will not have a huge impact on the livelihood of water villagers," he said.
Meanwhile, Ong was hopeful that the report and recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants in Sabah that had been submitted to the King and the Prime Minister recently would be made known to public in the near future.
"By understanding the root cause of the illegal immigrant issue in the Sabah, the right remedy will be deployed by the government to eradicate the problem of illegal immigrants in the State once and for all," he said.