Getting water to UMS should be a priority, says deputy minister

KOTA KINABALU: Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and those in charge of solving the water supply issue at its campus must have a sense of urgency and prioritise the matter, says Datuk Mustapha Sakmud.

The Deputy Higher Education Minister said with this issue having caught national attention, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim instructed all parties involved to treat it as a high-priority case.

He also said it was clear that there has been no misappropriation of funds so far from a briefing provided by the university on the progress of the tube well study and water source search.

“The usage of the budget is in accordance with the financial procedures that have been set,” Mustapha told reporters after a briefing at the campus here yesterday.

He said the RM3mil allocated by Anwar last year will be used to construct six tube wells to source underground water, and the additional RM2mil announced by the Higher Education Minister on Jan 8 was for piping works.

He said for now, four water source sites have been identified and a search is on for two more.

He added that the management of water from the tube wells is under UMS but water sourced from outside to the university is under the Sabah Water Department.

“The Water Department is unable to cater to the water supply demands in this area, not only for UMS, so UMS had to take its own initiative to find alternative water sources,” he said.

Mustapha said some five million litres of water per day (MLD) were needed by UMS, and the tube wells, when completed, are expected to supply around 1.5MLD to 2MLD to the campus.

“This is still not enough and therefore we hope the state Water Department and the state government will find a solution soon,” he said.

He also said there were several factors contributing to the water shortage at UMS, including the delay in the Telibong II water treatment plant, the Pan Borneo Highway project construction, squatters, water theft and others.

For the squatters, Mustapha, who is also Sepanggar MP said efforts were being drawn to relocate them but at the moment, water tanks were being provided for them.

“This is to prevent water theft and to also make sure that these people, and their children, have water to use,” he said.

He said city hall records found that some 70% of squatters are Malaysians, while the rest were undocumented or illegal immigrants.