Stop the attacks: Liwan 

KUCHING: Stop attacking Jabatan Bekalan Air Luar Bandar (JBALB), said Water Supply Assistant Minister Datuk Liwan Lagang.

Urging the public to support the three-year-old department, formerly known as JKR Water Supply Authorities, and give it time to shape up, he added, “JBALB is a very young department and has lot of challenges ahead. But it is shaping up nicely despite facing continuous criticisms from the public.”

Liwan was speaking to reporters after officiating at the workshop on digital transformation of water utilities in Sarawak at a leading hotel here yesterday.

He pointed out that most of the water woes news carried by the media were sentionalised while some were untrue.

“I have been to three places, which according to the media, were without water for two weeks.

“But when we zoomed on the source, the water problem only affected one or two houses in the kampung. But the media played it up by assuming that the whole village was without water,” said Liwan.

Liwan placing his palm on a projector to mark the opening of the workshop on digital transformation of water utilities in Sarawak. On his right is JBALB director Ir Chang Kuet Shian. Looking on is the executive director of Malaysian Water Academy Dr Hapidah Mohamed (2nd right), Director of Niras Denmark Omar Christian Thomsen (right) and managing director of Ocned Water Technology Sdn Bhd Dennis Tan (left).

The minister claimed many water problem issues in Sungai Asap had been played up.

“It was only a one-hour interruption but in the paper, they said two or three hours and even a week. I know this very well because I am from there.

“The issues were played up just for someone’s political mileage,” added Liwan.

He advised the public to tell JBALB what exactly their problems were so that they could be addressed fast.

He said the public should appreciate the commitment shown by JBALB workers who worked around the clock.

The assistant minister added that despite its young age, JBALB had a lot of achievements. It was currently implementing the first phase of its community project which involved the laying of pipelines.

All its 87 water treatment projects including the laying of pipelines were being tendered and open tenders had been called.

“We are very fortunate that the state government is giving a substantial amount of fund for the implementation of our water supply projects in the rural areas.

“The substantial amount of RM2.8 billion for the first phase given through JBALB is challenging for us in terms of efficient delivery,” said Liwan.

He pointed out that the workshop was timely following the proposed setting of the JBALB’s Command Centre System.

Earlier in his speech, the assistant minister said Sarawak’s water sector could no longer sustain itself in isolation from the technological shifts happening in other infrastructure industries and at the customer level.

He said many municipal utilities were seeking to achieve cost efficiencies and improve operational efficiencies.

Utilities, he added, were becoming more customer-centric and digitalisation of the water services was in progress.

He said a broader trend of digitalisation was changing the fundamental relationship between a utility and its customer, morphing an isolated supplier into a connected service provider and the Malaysian Water Association was trying to facilitate the changes.