Water council to propose several ways to safeguard water sources to Sabah government

KOTA KINABALU: The current dry spell has motivated Sabah into finding ways to safeguard its water sources in the state including gazetting water catchment areas and possibly building coastal reservoirs.

Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan noted the state needed to protect its water sources to ensure, firstly, that it had sufficient water supply and subsequently to face potentially worse hot seasons in future.

He said the present weather has seen the water levels in many Sabah rivers drop drastically, some to almost 50% compared to normal levels, while two treatment plants had been shut down due to their water reservoirs drying up.

“This (water shortage) is not due to water management but because of climate change as well as the hot and dry weather,” said Kitingan after chairing the Water Resources Council meeting here on Friday (March 22).

From the meeting, he said, they would propose to the state government, among others, for the gazetting of water catchment areas or reservoirs as protected or conservation areas.

The proposal, he added, was to gazette such areas in the districts of Penampang, Sandakan, Papar, Tawau, Kudat, Semporna, Tuaran and Tambunan.

“This is to protect these areas so they cannot be disturbed by anyone, even if these are state lands and they sit outside forest reserves or national parks,” he said.

Kitingan, who was also state Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Industries Minister, said some water catchments would have farms and titled lands around them and so would be gazetted as conservation areas.

“This is for the long term, we must take care of our water sources. Otherwise, the water department will have nothing to manage,” he said.

Another suggestion, he said, was to build coastal reservoirs to collect excess water from high rainfall, adding this supply could be handy, especially in times of drought.

“We also discussed ways to find water sources such as through tube wells and also mulling water transfers which is transferring water from areas abundant with the supply to places with none.

“What’s important is that we give the people an understanding that we must look after our environment and surroundings including our rivers.

“We are also thinking that each village must have a committee on the protection and conservation of their water sources,” said Kitingan.