Project: 2.6 km GFW system in Kg Sait Muk Ayun, Kuching, Sarawak
Date: 28th Sept – 6th October 2013
Number of people benefited: 24 families
Number of volunteers: 23
When the basic necessity of water supply for city dwellers becomes a privileged commodity for villagers living in the interiors, something is seriously flawed about the system’s treatment towards these very people who are every bit rightful Malaysian citizens like the rest of us. These undignified lives are what rural folks have had to put up with for as long as they have been born into villages. Kg Sait-Muk Ayun, which is nestled in the Mambong constituency of suburban Kuching, used to be bereft of water supply like the countless number of villages dotting Sarawak, until now that is. Their story is one of courage and strength, borne out of oppression and pressure exerted by the state government upon the villagers.
After being deprived of water supply, their original native customary lands in the old Kg Tebia Sait were forcefully seized for the proposed construction of the controversial Bengoh Dam. Ironically, the very purpose of this dam was to cater to Kuching city’s demand for water while the very indigenous people who live surrounding the dam were ignored on this basic human right access.
Adamant not to be resigned to their fate - even if there was compensation package offered for the dam’s impoundment - some 65 Bidayuh families resolved to relocate upwards to higher grounds of their ancestral lands, outside the dam’s perimeter, all to start anew with homes they build, and which allows them to continue their farming traditions of ploughing and cultivating freely within their own boundaries.
Because of their supposed ‘resistance and defiance towards the government’, the villagers were thus left high and dry and to fend for their own. If their obstinacy became a sore point with the government for not providing them water, how does it make sense that they were also forced to survive without piped water supply for use in their original homes in the first place? All they could count on was just rainwater for their daily needs.
To correct this unjustness, Impian Sarawak came in with the planned initiative of a gravity-fed water system for the village. Backed by a strong force of 26 volunteers and over 150 villagers, the team hiked the jungle that took about one-and-half hours in order to reach the Kg Sait-Muk Ayun village from the nearest accessible main road.
The narrow terrain and physically-demanding hike took the team past two hanging bamboo bridges that are suspended between 30m and 40m from ground level, and nearly 100m in length. They were certainly not for the faint-hearted, and can be stomach-churning for those with a phobia for heights. Yet this was the only way that the villagers could traverse, at a time when the road has still not been built by Impian. (The write-up on this road project is featured under our Access – Road chapter).
For nine days, the team slogged to realise the water project, before being joined by several elected representatives from DAP, including Petaling Jaya Utara Member of Parliament YB Tony Pua, Damansara Utama state assemblywoman YB Yeo Bee Yin, and DAP Socialist Youth executive committee member Dyana Sofya.
Sofya has since penned down her thoughts of the project in Bahasa Malaysia in Impian Malaysia’s blogsite, now translated as such:
“The construction cost of this system, I was told, hovered between RM15,000 and RM20,000. I began asking myself, why is it that the state government cannot even provide a simply facility as this for the people at such a low cost? Water is a basic human need, yet the villagers here had only rain water and nothing else.
“When we arrived, a group of villagers were already awaiting our arrival at what appeared to be a small plot of land clearing. It turned out to be a helipad of sorts, which shocked me! I realised then the government officials will only make visits here on a helicopter, and not have to use the scary bamboo bridges or the slippery and hilly jungle pathway. What do they know about the hardships that people here go through?
“We were later brought to the water source far up in the hills, at a gradient of 70 degrees steep. I’m really impressed by how the Impian Sarawak volunteers were able to cope in this challenging and trying site, working with village-style engineering mechanics without the modern machinery and equipment. These volunteers were mostly young, able-bodied people from various backgrounds and are non-partisan, with the single determination of wanting to contribute a little something in helping their fellow needy Malaysians, notwithstanding race or religion. Thank you Impian Sarawak for helping and giving hope to the villagers here,” wrote Sofya.