Friday November 13, 2009
Urban folk have to pay more for uninterrupted supply
By STEPHEN THEN
MIRI: Urban folk in Sarawak have to be prepared to pay more to ensure uninterrupted supply of treated water.
Sarawak Public Utilities Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said RM85mil had been spent so far this year to upgrade water supply facilities for northern Sarawak, a region that is half the size of the state.
Another RM37mil will be allocated next year for similar purposes in Miri City alone.
Awang Tengah, who is also State Second Minister for Planning and Resources Management, said that due to the heavy investments to ensure uninterrupted supply of treated water, urban folk must be prepared to pay more.
He said the state government might have to hike the water tariffs soon.
However, he said no final decision had been made by the state Cabinet as to when the hike would be implemented or how much increase from the current rate.
Northern Sarawak Water Supply Board (NSWSB) chief executive officer Wong Tiong Kai said the water charges had not been revised since 1992.
In fact, we are subsidising RM4.35 for every household every month in supplying them with treated water. For every cubic metre of water we transport to the household, we subsidise 76sen.
The charges we impose on consumers is only 48sen per unit. This had not changed for over a decade even though the cost of replacing underground pipes, treatment plant equipment and chemicals for treating raw water had shot up several times every year, he said.
Awang Tengah said the large investments were necessary because water was one of the most important basic amenities that must be in place for socio-economic development to take place.
Due to the increase in population in urban areas as a result of migration of rural folks and the setting up of more industries and commercial centres, the state must ensure that basic facilities such as water supply are constantly upgraded to meet increasing demand.
That is why we have invested RM85mil this year to extend water supply to more areas in northern Sarawak and upgrade existing pipes and treatment plants.
Next year, RM37mil will be invested in further upgrading the Lambir Treatment Plant that supplies water to Miri City.
The upgrade will enable another 80 million litres of raw water to be treated daily at the plant to ensure there will be enough to meet the needs of the industrial, commercial and housing estates here, he said at the NSWSB annual dinner here.
Wong said NSWSB covered the northern region that stretched from Bintulu Division to Miri and Limbang Division near the state border with Sabah. He said maintaining current facilities and setting up new treatment plants in areas with booming population required huge investments.
Northern Sarawak has a population of some 700,000 people, with 300,000 of them living in Miri City.
Wong added that the board had managed to reduce non-revenue water (water wasted due to leakage and theft) from 26.7% last year to 23.1% this year, and would continue to further cut the wastage.