Folk in Ulu Baram running out of drinking water

More than 1,000 interior folk living in settlements along the Sungai Tinjar and its tributaries in Ulu Baram in the remote pockets of northern Sarawak have run out of drinking water.

It has not rained since May and the rivers and surface-wells are drying up.

These native folk, especially from longhouses and riverine villages in Sungai Pekin Tinjar, are appealing for help from the authorities.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) office in Marudi town, located 200kms inland from here, has received information from Sungai Pekin folks that the people have no more water for drinking and cooking.

SAM field officer for Sarawak, Jok Jau Evong, told The Star Monday that Sungai Tinjar, which is the main source of river-water for the settlements in Sungai Pekin Tinjar and other neighbouring areas, is drying up at an alarming rate.

The river tributaries there are so low and the water has become very murky. The remaining river-water is too muddy for drinking and cooking.

They can still be used to wash clothes, but they are not suitable for human consumption. These folk have run out of rain water as it has not rained for weeks.

The surface wells that they used to store rain-water have also dried up. Now, the rivers, which are the only other alternative source of water, have become too low and thus too dirty for consumption.

The only hope is for the authorities to send in fresh-water using tankers from Long Lama. However, these tankers will have to use the timber roads as the rivers in Ulu Tinjar are too low for river-barges to navigate, he said when interviewed.

Long Lama is about 100kms from Sungai Pekin.

However, Long Lama is also facing severe drought and there may not be enough water to be sent to the interior, a Long Lama resident told The Star.

Jok, when asked if it was possible for the folks living along Sungai Tinjar and its tributaries to dig wells to get water from underground water wells, said: If these folk have the machinery, they can dig wells, but they do not have such equipment. They are poor people who depend on the rain and rivers for water.

In a related development, water is also drying up on Labuan Island.

Minister of Energy, Green Technology and water, Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui, said he had heard news about this development in Labuan.

We are monitoring the situation very closely. If the water reserve in Labuan drops any further, we may have to send water from Sabah using barges, he said.

Labuan Island is about 100kms off the shore of Sabah.