KOTA KINABALU: The Minerals and Geoscience Department Malaysia (JMG) will build around 200 wells to extract groundwater in water stress areas nationwide under the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP).
Its director-general, Mior Sallehhuddin bin Mior Jadid, said the department had built 343 wells between the 5MP and the 10MP, and had benefited more than 390,000 people.
“We will help to build wells for areas in Sabah, Sarawak and West Malaysia which do not receive clean water supply from pipes as well as in isolated and interior areas,” he said.
In addition, Mior said JMG would also study the volume of groundwater reserves in the country under the 11MP at five major river basins, namely, Pahang River, Muda River, Selangor River, Kadamaian-Tempasuk River and Baram River.
“We are proposing to conduct studies on groundwater reserves at 33 river basins in the 12MP and this will incur a huge cost,” he disclosed.
He said groundwater reserves study on a single river basin could cost up to RM7 million, which meant that the study at the 33 river basins would amount to more than RM230 million.
JMG was allocated RM68 million under the 11MP, of which RM41 million will be used in developing wells to harvest groundwater in water stress areas and RM27 million for studies of groundwater reserves in the aforementioned five river basins.
Mior said this in a press conference after the opening ceremony of the Institute Geology of Malaysia (IGM) Groundwater Seminar 2016, themed ‘Mainstreaming Groundwater Into Public Water Supply System’, which was officiated by the permanent secretary to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datu Rosmadi Datu Sulai, representing his minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun.
Mior said groundwater development in Sabah began in the 1960s in Sandakan. He added that Sime Darby and JMG have also extracted groundwater during the water crisis in Labuan three years ago.
“There are a few rural places in Sabah in which groundwater extraction needed to be developed on a small scale, while several river basins also have the potential to be developed systematically,” he said when asked about the potential of groundwater extraction development in the State.
Earlier in his keynote address, Mior said groundwater was an alternative source to reduce dependency on surface water as the source of water supply. He said groundwater was resilient to droughts, less exposed to pollution and possessed high mineral content.
Compared to construction of water dams, which are usually built on thousands of hectares of land, Mior said groundwater extraction only required a small area and was less damaging to the environment.
He said many major cities in Europe have long used groundwater as the mainstream public water supply.
“Amsterdam, Hamburg, Munich, Copenhagen and Paris use between 40 to 100 per cent of groundwater, while Malaysia uses less than three per cent of groundwater for its water supply,”he pointed out.
As a way forward, Mior said there was a need to utilize surface water and groundwater conjunctively to increase the capacity of water supply nationwide.
Meanwhile, Rosmadi said the seminar, which was held for the first time in Sabah, sought to address water shortage and the options which could be taken to overcome water crisis in the future.
He also thanked the Federal Government for developing wells in Sabah to extract groundwater for water stress areas.