Labuan residents suffer as taps run dry


Is this a sign of things to come as our planet contends with water shortages aggravated by competing demand from the public and demand from industry (to cater to ever-increasing production of consumer goods, which in turn requires more raw materials)?

Why haven’t we heard more about the Labuan water shortages? Some 80,000 Labuan residents, including 4,000 students, have been faced with a serious water shortage since July.

Bernama reports that demand for water in Labuan is about 56 million litres a day but supply (from the mainland) is only at 42 million litres, a shortfall of 25 per cent. But 10 million litres (about a quarter) of the water supply is consumed by Petronas’ mega methanol plant (photo here).

And the people suffer.

In February 2008, The Star reported:

Petroliam Nasional Bhd’s subsidiary, Petronas Methanol (Labuan) Sdn Bhd had commissioned its mega methanol plant in Labuan with the firing up of the package boiler, the biggest in Asia. Petronas said Friday the commissioning would enable the plant’s eventual commercial production scheduled for September this year (2008).

The boiler, with a 260-tonne/hour capacity, was delivered to Labuan by MISC Bhd in June last year and installed by local contractors. The boiler is supported by high quality feed water produced by a reverse osmosis system, while electrical power is supplied from a 14MW gas turbine generator.

In a media release for the financial year ended 31 March 2009, Petronas reported that production of commercial methanol at the mega methanol plant began in January 2009.  The plant has a total capacity of 1.7 million tonnes a year and it has raised Petronas’ capacity from 2,000 tonnes per day to 7,000 tonnes per day.

The larger dilemma is, what are our priorities? To produce methanol, which is often used in making other chemicals, or to conserve water and ensure adequate water supply for the population?

This report from Bernama:

The water woes are also giving a lot of stress to some 4,000 students at two institutions of higher learning here — Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and Matriculation College — as water supply to their hostels have slowed to a trickle.

They now rely on tankers from the Water Department for additional supplies, just like the rest of the islanders here.

“Not even a drop of water to drink from the pipe, what more to bathe?,” asked a UMS student from Sarawak’s interior, who wished to be known as Abdul Wahid.

“I never thought I would face this kind of problem when I enrolled into UMS early this year. I want to look fresh each time my class starts. Unfortunately, there is no water to bathe, wash my face or even brush my teeth (in my hostel),” he said.

He added: “Labuan is not an isolated place as compared to my area in Sarawak. I am not living in the interior here. Whoever gets up early will have a chance to bathe (before the water runs out). The worst part is that the toilets stink because there is no water to flush.”

A staff at the Student Affairs Unit of Matriculation College said there were 2,348 students studying at the college. The majority come from Sarawak and Sabah, with a small number from Peninsular Malaysia.

“Many parents of the students have been calling us, following the water problem in our college but there is nothing much we can do. It is beyond our control. This is an unexpected problem, we have never had this problem before,” she said.

Some lecturers had even asked for transfers, citing the water dilemma as their reason for leaving and students had also told the college that they too want to quit.

UMS Senior Assistant Registrar of Students Affairs Zamri Haji Mohd Tuah said there were some 1,900 students currently staying in the UMS hostel.

“What we are worried about now is that the lack of water supply could lead to other diseases. The Health Department is now monitoring the situation, day and night,” he said.

How bad is the situation there? If you are a Labuan resident or student or have visited the island recently, share your experience with us in the comments below. And water or methanol?

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23 Feb 2010 11.29am

Anil, referring to your question to Salleh.

That Petronas facility also suffer. My friends working there are complaining about the water shortage because they can only run 1 out of 2 plants in considering the needs of the people.

They are losing hundreds of millions since they stopped operations in July or something. Hundreds of millions that will come into our coffers as the rakyat.

23 Feb 2010 11.25am

I am a Labuan resident. This water shortage issue has been there ages already. The people here are used to it. However, to just blame Petronas on this issue would be lopsided, especially if (a big if) one has not visited Labuan and not know what is happening in East Malaysia. Refer: Refer para 3. Article dated in 2006. Obviously the govt HAD plans to develop Labuan. If I remember correctly, that new petronas plant not even built and govt are talking of resolving the water issue (remember, its a promise made 4 years ago!). I dont think Petronas… Read more »

16 Sep 2009 10.57am

No that’s not what i meant Anil. Of course its not allright for ordinary people to suffer. and I think I allude to that as much when I said in my earlier posting ie ” promises to deliver the water supply are broken and now the people of labuan suffer”.

16 Sep 2009 9.32am

“Agreed with LBJ. This has nothing to do with metanol. For an investment to take place in Labuan certain infrastructure has to be in place and certain promises were surely made to that effect, to deliver on the requirements needed by investors. But as LBJ said incompetence caused supply not delivered on time or the infrastructure not completed on time in order to deliver the required water supply. I don’t know for sure but hopefully somebody can shed more light on this. The crux of the matter is this; the plant wouldn’t be there if promises on the supply of… Read more »

14 Sep 2009 11.37pm

this problem occur since last el nino..when is that? Oh no, around 10 years ago…or eleven…

Since then, nothing has been done or less had been done to fix labuan low water pressure problem.

I hope everything will get better soon..

14 Sep 2009 7.03pm

Labuan was Mahathir’s hair brained idea. The problems have not stopped since. From the death of a GM of (a) Bank who did not get medical treatment in time to Labuan being the cowboy town during the 90s to this non sense.

I have been and worked in Labuan and all said is a nice place. But its just incompetence and also having idiots as leaders in E.Malaysia that is compounding the problem.

When will our brothers learn that Barisan is bankrupt of ideas and only enriching themselves.

Concerned parent
Concerned parent
14 Sep 2009 2.35pm

My son is a second year student in UMS Labuan. According to the university authority, the water issue will be resolved in November. Everyday, he need to get up early to store water for washing. So sad that this thing happened in the “International Campus” of a local university. Again bad planning, it should have a big water reservoir in the building plan campus. Again poor planning and selfish Petronas.

14 Sep 2009 1.36pm

Maybe there is no money to build additional capacity for water. Maybe some politician(s) swiped the money.
This is not unfamiliar in Malaysia.

14 Sep 2009 11.15am

My nephew joined UMS-KAL (Kampus Antarabangsa Labuan) in Jun 2009. He is struggling to cope with the water shortage. He has not used the toilets in his hostel/”House” (each house has 3 rooms with 5 students). Everyday he has to walk for 15 minutes to have a bath. The University has provided water tanks in the yards, and on their part they are trying their best. Very often the students bath in the open next to the water tanks. Sounds familar? (complaints about foreign workers bathing in the open in housing estates). The painful thing here is that Petronas has… Read more »

14 Sep 2009 8.56am

Water pressure in Labuan has always been bad. If the campus hostel did not install a larger water storage tank and a good water pump, getting water for bath will be difficult; on the first come first get basis. It bad during Fridays and Saturdays, when guests from neighboring countries and states pop into town for some duty free holidays and partying. Most Labuan folks have gotten used to the situation. Not fair to put the blame it on Petronas Methanol facility. Without Petronas and other off-shore supply activities, Labuan will be another ghost town. There must always be a… Read more »

14 Sep 2009 8.21am

Labuan folks asked for it. Continue to vote for BN

johanssm@Khun Pana
johanssm@Khun Pana
14 Sep 2009 2.13am

Very simple.
It is all about proper planning .

13 Sep 2009 10.24pm

Just back from Labuan 2 weeks ago. Got water in the hotel I stay (I think it is from the reservoir tank on the roof). Else where, it is bad during peak hours. Water or methanol? Well, can’t live without water u know.

13 Sep 2009 10.06pm

I have a friend who is studying there and I find this to be a most appallling situation. To be forced to study without water, a basic neccessity is simply agonising. Is it really important for Petronas to deprive the people of Labuan 10 million litres of water when there isn’t enough water in the first place. Frankly I’m not suprised that this situation has not been highlighted earlier. But it must be resolved ASAP. Water is the source of life, not methanol!

13 Sep 2009 8.14pm

This has nothing to do with Methanol and people. This has to do with somebody not doing the job. Labuan has no water supply of its own. It is piped in from the mainland. Sufficient supply of water is essentially matching demand and supply. It is a job of forecasting demand and putting in sufficient capacity of supply.

To me, the underlying problem is incompetence.

13 Sep 2009 8.01pm

There are many heritage sites and natural places that we the rakayat demand and the gomen must spend million of ringgit to protect or to perseve them. Never mind that there is no drinking water. we can always think water that looks like teh tarik as they are 1malaysia drink.

Wong Ka Wai
13 Sep 2009 6.49pm

Lagi satu project BN yang susahkan rakyat. Itu sebab saya pernah kata, jika semua blogger lapor berita benar, PR akan menang PRU.

Saya sokong bekalan air dan bantah methanol.