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We refer to the letter published in the Opinion Page of Borneo Bulletin, Wednesday 3rd May 2000 entitled "Don't Destroy Our River".

With regard to the observation of the writer - 'Crying River', regarding the decline in water quality conditions in the vicinity of Kampung Ayer we wish to share our own comment on the issue and explain the measures that the Government has taken in addressing the situation.

Based on observations, results of studies and ongoing monitoring activities the following have been identified as the main sources of pollution entering Sungai Brunei:

  • effluent and sludge from sewage treatment works within the catchment
  • sullage waste and direct disposal of sewage from Kampung Ayer
  • run-off from Bandar Seri Begawan central area
  • point and non-point pollutant loads from various sub-catchment uses, including agricultural, residential and industrial uses
  • solid waste directly discharged by settlement along the river.

To address the issue, the following are among the initiatives that have been undertaken by the Government:

Upgrading and installation of sewerage systems.

Direct discharge of sewage and sullage water from Kampung Ayer, discharges along Sungai Kedayan and Sungai Kianggeh and sewage effluent discharges within the catchment have contributed to the general decline of Sungai Brunei's water quality.

In the effort to reduce organic loading to Sungai Brunei, the Government since the sixties had began implementation of central sewerage systems to cater for the urban population. Bandar Seri Begawan sewerage catchment area is at present served by the Pintu Malim Sewage Treatment Works. Apart from the construction of new treatment works in other areas, upgrading and extension of the existing facilities for better quality effluents are also undertaken.

For example, a number of sewerage projects were approved for implementation in the Sixth National Development Plan with a total allocation of $83.3 million. Among the sewerage projects completed in the Sixth Plan were the Sewage Treatment Plant in Gadong and extension of sewerage services in Bandar Seri Begawan and Gadong. Both are within the Sungai Brunei Catchment. In the Seventh National Development Plan, $94.6 million has been allocated for sewerage projects in various areas in the country including the Gadong reticulation systems. To cater further population growth and urban development the installation, upgrading and extension of sewerage services will continue to be implemented in succeeding development plans.

In un-sewered areas, all buildings are required to be served with either septic tanks or in-situ package sewage treatment plants operated and maintained by the respective owners. In practising development control, all public and private buildings are required to have government approved sewerage facilities. Here, we wish to remind residents to have their septic tanks serviced and desludged on a regular basis in order for the tanks to perform well. This should be done at least once in every two years.

In the Kampung Ayer case, sewage treatment and disposal has been incorporated for the newly built Kampung Ayer Settlement projects. Vacuum sewerage system with secondary sewage treatment plants has been introduced since 1994. Three villages namely Kampung Bolkiah 'A', Kampung Bolkiah 'B' and Kampung Sungai Bunga are served with this type of sewerage system. However, these are all new settlements where the infrastructure requirements for these facilities were incorporated in the planning and design stage of the development. The older settlements, which presently houses a larger proportion of Kampung Ayer residents, do not have this facility due to technical inhibitions. Nonetheless, the Government's programme for resettlement of some Kampung Ayer's residents to land is also one of the means to lessen pollution load arising from a larger population base.

Solid waste collection system

The most striking visible pollution that can be seen in Kampung Ayer is that of solid waste. These mainly comprise of discarded household goods that range from furniture, freezers, television sets, washing machines to kitchen waste, cans, bottles and plastic bags.

For settlements on land there are several options available for solid waste disposal. There is the house to house waste collection service that a household can subscribe to; another is to utilise the roadside communal bins or take their waste directly to a designated dumpsite.

For residents in Kampung Bolkiah 'A', Kampung Bolkiah 'B', Kampung Sungai Bunga, Kampung Saba Tengah, Kampung Saba Ujong and Kampung Burong Pinggai - house to house waste collection service and clearing of floating rubbish is currently available. As for the residents who are not covered by the house to house waste collection service they have the option to dispose their waste by using facilities on land. However, in an effort to extend waste collection service coverage in Kampung Ayer a scheme to make communal bins for waste disposal available in all Kampung is presently being considered. A consultation process with Kampung Ayer residents will be initiated prior to its implementation.

Public support in utilising the available facilities and services provided, as oppose to the convenience of throwing rubbish in to the river, is necessary in order to achieve the desired result. At the same time, the adequacy of the facilities and services provided are also regularly being reviewed for improvements.

Education and awareness

To foster greater public participation in taking action towards achieving a cleaner Brunei - various activities such as ads in newspapers, television and radio as well as campaigns to foster awareness and teach people not to litter have continuously been implemented. In schools children are also taught about cleanliness and taught not to litter or throw rubbish into the rivers.

Specifically, to address the Kampung Ayer waste issue "Clean Up Kampung Ayer Information Pack" were produced and distributed to all schools in 1995. The information pack (both Malay and English) were intended for use by teachers to educate students on the implications of improper disposal of waste and the do's and don'ts with regard to waste disposal.

Recently, a campaign on reduction of waste plastic was also launched. The purpose of which is to educate the public on the dangers relating to improper disposal of plastic products with the assistance of department stores. The participating department stores have also made pledges to reduce use of plastic bags by 20% this year and promote the use of safer alternatives. This hopefully will have some bearing to the problems found in our rivers where the bulk of the floating rubbish is made up of plastic bags.

Despite the many completed and ongoing efforts, the water quality within the vicinity of Kampung Ayer still has its problems. In realisation of this, renewed actions are being considered especially to address the problems associated with solid waste disposal in Kampung Ayer.

For the issue of waste disposal in general - the Government are also exploring ways and means on how some of the costs of providing the facilities and services could be transferred or shared with the generators of the wastes namely - households, businesses and industry. The 'polluter pays principle' promotes environmental accountability and is the most common policy adopted by Governments world wide in environmental management. Also, to prevent conditions from deteriorating further precautionary measures are also being explored. This among others include promotion of the use of new and better performing technology as well as to strengthen regulatory and enforcement measures relating to effluent discharges and waste disposal.

With this clarification we hope that 'Crying River' and others who share similar concern on the plight of Sungai Brunei are able to better appreciate the issue as well as be aware of the efforts the Government has taken in addressing an ever growing environmental challenge brought about by population growth, urbanisation, industrialisation and other economic activities. Apart from the Government, the community too have to take action, take on responsibility and show willingness to adapt to changes for the purpose of safeguarding our environment.

Environment Unit
Ministry of Development