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High Sabah cancer rate linked to water?
Published on: Sunday, November 05, 2017

By Joshua Y C Kong
DR RAFIG Idrus of UMS wrote about Budget 2018 that “Stable supply of water and electricity are also crucial in attracting foreign direct investment into Sabah”.

We know that quality and regular supply of water is so important in society.

Sabah Water Department Director Datuk Wilis Ansoi said work on a project to upgrade the Telibong Water Treatment Plant to ensure clean and treated water for residents, especially in Telipok, under Phase 2 and involving over RM400 million is expected to begin next year.

Ansoi said this when met at the opening of a Sabah’s Planning Conference themed “Public Participation Towards Liveable Cities in Sabah” in conjunction with World Town Planning Day 2017 last Tuesday.

It is, indeed, good that something is done in improving water quality and supplies generally and regionally after decades of questioned treated water supplies.

Just ponder, what can be the adverse impact of poor quality tap water health-wise, especially with the report of excessive victims of of cancers in Sabah. Is not water a root cause of cancers? For how long can our bodies be sustained if our quality of tap water is “poisonous” for impurities, chemicals, unclean storage tanks and poor delivery pipeline?

State Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Jainab Ahmad said in recent media report, Sabah Women and Children’s Hospital Director (Dr Tan Bee Hwai) was quoted as saying that about 8,000 from 3.5 million people in Sabah are receiving treatment for various types of cancer.

She said the figure is three times higher than western countries where there is one in every 10,000 people.

She noted that many of the critical breast cancer patients, aged between 40 and 60, were diagnosed late.

It is evident in many ways that treated water lack the quality for decades to contribute to our health generally and specifically for special needs. Would the health ministry states its stand on this aspect?

About the supply of electricity, we still experience too much SAIDI factor or power cuts despite promise of reliability to be improved.

This letter is particular on treated water as the authorities concerned must review its effort to make KK liveable with really clean water for consumers.

I wrote a book titled “Water” in 2005 where I identified some of the issues and challenges.

I think all consumers are concerned about the treated water especially when the tap water is brownish or reddish at times for whatever reason. The brownish item could be the soil the pipeline pass by especially after a broken one was repaired. What about the chemicals and processes that treated water go through from the river source to our homes? We also know that in our homes and all premises, there are the direct and indirect taps.

Both taps can be in question as far as health/quality is concerned. I will now draw some analysis on this.

Little is known how the water department conducts its business daily to keep the consumers healthy and avert health crisis.

A large part of KK had a maintenance water cut from 7am to 10pm on 31 October, 2017.

We do not know what was done really to improve the treated water supply to consumers in this instance and similar operations before. Do we really get better quality supply of treated water as the water that came trickled in was brownish? How come as this was not broken pipe repaired earlier? Where would such brownish treated water come from if it was maintenance operation?

The issue here is that such brownish water with questioned quality and with sediment settled in the little storage tanks at premises would be consumed by many when there are regular water cuts.

An experience for myself and my wife after lunch at the regular food outlet for some years is that stomach problems resulted for the first time during that day on 31 October, 2017. So it is the quality of water in the storage water tank. I am glad to be alive to share this for the betterment of health in the context of treated water.

For a much wider picture of how good is our treated water, we really need to assess all the processes of the treated water to reach all consumers including all the storage tanks such as the regionally mega ones and the small ones in all premises. Are the mega treated water storage tanks cleaned at all? We know all the small ones in all premises are never cleaned at all even after 50 years. So the consumers could be consuming “poisons” at the periods of major water cuts when the direct taps run dry.

I also don’t understand why there are so many treated water cuts regularly for maintenance?

It is incredible that consumers have to go through such stressful periods regularly.

I am forced to share this scenario in London for about a decade in the 1970s. You all know London derives its raw water from the filthy River Thames and yet never a day I was there did i receive brownish treated water from the tap. Also there was never any treated water cuts. How did they manage that?

That was more than 40 years ago. Sabah since 1963 has seen worsening treated water supply in 2017.

Yet so much money like many billions of Ringgit especially in recent decades had been “wasted” as per recent statement by the MACC in its campaign against corruption in the water authority. My book in 2005 does show some of the major capital expenditure incurred for the water infrastructure.

It is, indeed, of paramount importance without any further delay to provide clean tap water and consumers own filters are irrelevant in this context to resolve only a small part of the issue as own filters have a different perspective.

How does the water authority justify its claim that it would provide clean treated water when it does not?

I would strongly suggest that we have in place a Treated Water Watchdog to ensure the standard of the water we consume is assured without any excuse.

Joshua Y C Kong

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