The Auditor-General’s Report (LKAN) 2/2024 has brought to light significant delays in twelve critical water projects across rural Sarawak, collectively valued at RM888.32 million. These projects, aimed at improving water supply infrastructure in remote areas such as Sri Aman, Sibu, Mukah, Bintulu, Limbang, Sarikei, and Miri, have suffered delays ranging from five to seven years. As a result, 9,608 households have been deprived of access to clean treated water.

Initially approved between 2016 and 2018 by the federal Rural and Regional Development Ministry, the projects encompassed six reticulation system upgrades, five new water treatment plants, and one water treatment plant upgrade.

According to the report, reasons for the delays varied, including prolonged consultant appointments, delays in design approvals, local protests, changes in government procurement policies, alterations in project scopes, contractor performance issues, and disruptions caused by Covid-19 lockdowns. Concerns have been raised about the utilization of funds amidst the challenges posed by the pandemic.

The Auditor-General's assessment indicated a completion rate of only 51.9% for the total 35 water supply projects scheduled for Sarawak during the specified period, highlighting the inadequate progress.

In June 2024, Sibu faced three water supply interruptions due to low tide conditions in the Rejang River and bursts in water pipes. The Sibu Water Board, criticized for reactive reporting rather than proactive problem-solving, received scrutiny from locals who suggested relocating water intake points further upstream in the Rejang River to mitigate these issues. There have been calls from the community and local representatives (YBs) to prioritize infrastructure upgrades, including the replacement of aging water pipes prone to leaks and bursts, to ensure reliable water supply for present and future development.

The situation underscores the immediate need for effective management and proactive measures to address the challenges facing Sibu and other affected areas in Sarawak, ensuring consistent access to clean water for all residents.

Source: The Borneo Post