KOTA KINABALU: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun has proposed that a detailed study on the groundwater potential be carried out in Ranau and Kota Belud areas as groundwater could provide water security, especially in times of crisis.
Masidi said Sabah was among the most seismically active states in Malaysia due to its close proximity to the Ring of Fire.
“On June 5 last year, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 on the Richter scale struck Ranau where 18 climbers of five different nationalities died. The tremors caused massive rock falls in the catchment areas. Debris from the rock falls polluted the surface water resources and damaged the intake points of the water supplies causing water supply disruption in Ranau and Kota Belud districts,” he recalled.
Although the surface water was affected by the debris pollution, Masidi said the quantity and quality of groundwater remained unaffected.
“Considering that, may I suggest that a detailed study on the groundwater potential be carried out in the affected Ranau and Kota Belud areas? In my opinion, groundwater, if developed successfully, would provide water security in such areas especially in times of crisis,” Masidi stated in his speech, which was delivered by his permanent secretary, Datu Rosmadi Datu Sulai, at the opening of Institute Geology of Malaysia (IGM) Groundwater Seminar 2016 themed ‘Mainstreaming Groundwater Into Public Water Supply System’ held here yesterday and attended by more than 100 participants.
On another note, he said the Minerals and Geoscience Department Malaysia (JMG), the main and leading government department undertaking groundwater exploration and development in the country, had drilled 33 exploration wells in 2015 alone, of which 30 production wells and nine monitoring wells have been successfully developed.
“JMG has so far constructed more than 200 tube wells in Sabah, mainly in rural or isolated villages, as well as schools in Pantai Barat Selatan (southwestern coast), Pantai Barat Utara (northeastern coast) and Pedalaman (interior) areas.
“I hope the JMG will continue to intensify its effort to exploit groundwater to control peat land fires and supply as an alternative water resource for the populace in areas of water stress, especially during droughts,” Masidi said.
He said groundwater, the largest source of usable freshwater, was resilient to droughts because it reacted very slowly to the changes of hot and wet season and therefore was able to provide a continuous water supply.
Masidi said data released by UNESCO and research by water experts stated that more than 95 per cent of readily available freshwater was on the ground. In developed countries, groundwater resources have been extensively used and have contributed to socio-economic development.
“The groundwater acceptance by the public and policy maker is obviously on the rise in our country. Groundwater that used to be resorted to in times of water crisis is now more and more being sought out for agricultural, industrial and domestic usages.”
Besides that, he said more public funding is seen allocated in recent years into studying and developing groundwater.
“It is hoped that groundwater resources can play a significant role in the mainstream water supply, thereby creating more job opportunities for groundwater players and industries to grow and contribute to the development of our nation. It is our responsibility to ensure good studies and practices are conducted to ensure sustainable groundwater supply for the mainstream water supply, Masidi said.
That said, Masidi pointed out that there were still big gaps in our understanding of groundwater in Malaysia that needed to be addressed for better water management in the country, such as the amount of groundwater reserves, the extent the resource could be utilized without damaging the environment, the current usage of groundwater, and the extent of groundwater being polluted through farming activities, landfills and other industrial activities.
He stressed that the knowledge and understanding of groundwater resources was important to increase the utilization of this resources.
“Appropriate monitoring, early warning systems, water conservation and proper protection of each water source or recharge area becomes pertinent,” he noted.
He said the JMG, National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia (NAHRIM), IGM and other related agencies in the country were not alone in this challenge.
“Through Federal government funding of most of the water resources studies in the country, the Sabah government will play an important role in supporting JMG in developing groundwater resources in the State in order to provide clean water for the populace in areas of water stress and also to control peat fires, which commonly occur during seasonal dry spells.
“Our approach to groundwater cannot be addressed in isolation, but require a concerted effort approach in which both Federal and State governments, government agencies, institutions of higher learning, private sector and civil society will need to work together.”
Also present were JMG director-general cum IGM president Mior Sallehhuddin bin Mior Jadid, NAHRIM director-general Ir Dr. Azuhan bin Mohamed, Board of Geologists chairman Dato’ Yunus Abdul Razak and organizing chairman Dr Saim Suratman.