Water pollution makes it worse
Published on: Friday, March 18, 2016
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Kota Kinabalu: Water supply to many parts of the city may be affected soon – not because of the current drought due to El Nino but contamination of a river in Penampang which has been forcing the Water Department to shut down one of the two water treatment plants there intermittently since January, this year.To the thousands of residents in the city, Lok Kawi, Penampang, Tanjung Aru, Kepayan and more, it would depend on how long the Babagon Dam is able to sustain the ongoing drought as the alternative supply is being sourced from there.

According to the Water Department, the Penampang District Office was alerted last month about increasing ammonia content in Sungai Baku or Kibabaig River, one of the tributaries connecting to the Moyog. Although samples had been taken by the Chemistry Department, no reports have been forthcoming by it over the issue.

The department was left with no choice but to shut down or reduce production at the Kasigui Treatment Plant due to the contamination and keeping production demand by sourcing water from the Babagon Dam, instead.

Kibabaig River, which stretches along Jalan Minintod, flows directly to the plant.

"Expect some areas to go without water, or some places with not enough water pressure in the near future," said Corporate Dynamics General Manager Doreen Benjamin, Thursday.

"The Kibabaig River is heavily polluted and we can't allow the water to be treated [at Kasigui Treatment Plant] and release it to the Moyog River as it will further pollute the main river," she said.

The Kasigui Treatment Plant currently processes up to 55 mega litres of water per day, and combined with the Moyog Treatment Plant, a total of 220 mega litres per day would be treated.

The Moyog Treatment Plant only treats water from the Moyog River and is linked directly with Babagon Dam.

But fears are growing over whether the contamination will slip into local pipelines, causing illnesses like cholera.

Water Department Deputy Director Teo Chee Kong has so far confirmed the high level of ammonia in the Kibabaig River, but said more data is required on the risks.

"The river discharges upstream of the Kasigui intake and after mixing with the Moyog River the concentration is still over 2 miligram.

"The Health Ministry requirement is 1.5 miligram, while the Kasigui Treatment Plant is designed to treat less than 0.5 miligram to ensure the safety of the water.

"Manganese is also on the increasing trend and also requires special treatment at the same time," said Teo, revealing most of the ammonia originated from human faeces.

The Health Department, when contacted, did not comment. However, the Environmental Department told Daily Express, nothing serious had been found in the river to date. It did not state when was the last time it had studied samples or the frequency.

The Water Department confirmed that the Kibabaig River contamination had happened since 2005, no thanks to waste discharged directly to the river by residents near the area.

Meanwhile, 194 villages in 16 districts statewide are faced with clean water supply disruption, no thanks to the El Nino phenomenon.

This was disclosed during a State Disaster Committee meeting chaired Tan Sri Sukarti Wakiman, who is State Secretary.

Sukarti said the El Nino phenomenon has also resulted in several fires involving premises, forests, bushes and damage to crops.

He said information gathered from the State Fire and Rescue Department also reported four cases of fire in settlements involving three districts and a total of 1,164 cases of open burning involving 21 districts.

Sukarti called on the District Disaster Management Committees concerned to take proactive steps in channelling clean water supply to the affected villages.

He also called for cooperation and support from every Municipal Council President and District Management Committee Chairmen to utilise existing assets and logistics to address the drought season and to monitor residents in their respective areas to prevent open burning.

Residents staying in villages where the houses are built close to each other are also advised to be alert at all times to prevent fire.

Farmers are also reminded against using open burning methods as means of farm and plantation clearing, the same advice went to the public who are reminded not to throw cigarette butts into open areas.

He said State and Federal agencies have continued to work together in channelling the latest information on the situation apart from conducting periodic surveillance to address the issue.

"Everyone has to work together to ensure the El Nino phenomenon does not worsen because fire not only causes damage to premises and properties, but could also affect the air quality which could cause haze and subsequently affect people's health," he said.

He urged those with problems or faced with incidents related to the drought to contact the Disaster Management Committee or the Disaster Management Committee Secretariat namely the Civil Defence Department in their respective districts for immediate action.

In KUDAT, Minister of Special Tasks Datuk Teo Chee Kang assured that the water supply was sufficient to cope with the drought there.

Teo, who is also Tanjong Kapor Assemblyman, said the water level at Milau Dam was sufficient to provide supply to users in Kudat and Matunggong even if there was no rainfall in the next 10 months due to El Nino.

He said that when inspecting Milau Dam where he was briefed on the current water level here.

Teo said the onslaught of the El Nino has given rise to bush fires while well water, rivers and streams were drying up.

"The villagers are worried about the shortage of water supply.

"The Barisan Nasional (BN) Government is also concerned about the impact of El Nino on the livelihood of Kudat residents."

Teo said the normal water level at Milau Dam stood at 34 metres, but has now dropped to 31.5 metres or 60 per cent since the onset of drought.

Nonetheless, Teo urged waters users to conserve water resources and avoid wastage.

Teo added that the Natural Disaster Committee of Kudat has been instructed to monitor the water supply in the district closely.

"The committee will deliver free water supply to the residents immediately when there is a shortage of water supply," he said.

Also present were Kudat District Officer Sapdin Ibrahim, political secretary to the minister Peter Chong Su Leong and Tanjong Kapor community development leader (PPM) Datuk Peter Chin.


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