Rumah Gerik Ak Tom, Betong; Sarawak.
On the 24th of October 2013, Impian Sarawak team visited a long house located not far away from Betong town named Rumah Gerik Ak Tom. It's one of the Iban long houses located in Trusan,Betong and is sandwiched between two Malay villages.We decided to visit this place after we were informed by the locals that this particular long house has been neglected and deprived from water supply for over 50 odd years. Ironically, the distance between the main pipe and village is only about 290 meters away, whilst both neighboring villages receive clean water supply.
Tanks and water filtration system were given, however no signs of water pipe connection. They are currently relying on rain water and the nearby pond for water source. During dry season where there water supply is scarce, they have no choice but to resort to purchasing mineral water from the town with their barely sufficient income.
30 minutes car ride later, we pulled over at the entrance into the long house located at the side of the mainroad, and we spotted this unconnected, untouched and almost- blending- into- the- bushes main pipe near the entrance.
We realised that the long house is built on a swamp area and we were told that the entire area will be flooded during high tide, and water level can be as high as the plank walkway. Crocodiles appearing during that time is almost a norm to the villagers nowadays!
As we set our feet inside the longhouse, we were greeted by a group of ladies. No men sighted, as they were all out working as labourers at Betong town. Earning meagre income and not able to plant their own food sources due to the swamp, this village struggles to make ends meet with the increasingly high living expenses.
Impian team and the local DAP contacts, Uncle Nicholas and Uncle Deson- listening to the ladies, trying to understand the current situation that they are facing.
Through the conversation with the ladies, all we could feel from them is the sense of hopelessness and and desperation. They have been given endless promises but always unmaterialised promises. According to them, pipes were allegedly being placed at the road entrance before election and somehow mysteriously missing after that.
Rain water being stored in buckets for cleaning purposes whilst those for cooking were stored in used bottles.
As we could not give any promises that we will be able to deliver the project, we left the long house with a heavy heart but with a mission- to try our best to help.
News of Impian Team visited the long house did spread sporadically around the area, and, lo and behold, 2 weeks later we received a call from Uncle Nicholas, our DAP local contact informing us that the JKR has decided to install the pipe connection for the villagers before Christmas! To make sure it is a FOR SURE deliverable project this time, we brought the Tuai Rumah (head of the long house) and few other villagers to pay JKR a visit.
We met up with the Assistant Division Engineer, a helpful gentleman who has verbally agreed to provide water connection to the folks of Rumah Gerik Ak Tom. The JKR department will also send a formal letter to the Tuai Rumah for the date confirmation.
Application for meters is being processed and application fees have been paid. 2 weeks after the application, JKR has indeed connected the water pipes into the long house. The villagers can now enjoy clean water supply for the first time in 50 years!
It was definitely worth the time and doing our very best to try help these forgotten communities. In the end, it's everyone's right to have access to water.