BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Acts of vandalism and theft are costing the government upwards of $500,000 to address, the minister of Development disclosed on Monday.

Speaking on the seventh day of the Legislative Council meeting, YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Suhaimi Hj Gafar said that the ministry receives, on average, 900 reports of burst pipes per month.

While some of the issues were related to natural disasters and ageing water pipes, acts of theft and vandalism also contributed to water woes.

“Theft and vandalism cases are increasing, which is particularly worrying because it not only causes constant water disruption but it also costs the government [money] to repair damages.”

Among the items frequently stolen include wiring, electrical cables, water pumps and damaged fences.

“According to the Department of Water Services, 250 fire hydrants have been vandalised recently, which is worrying as it is estimated to cost $500,000 [to replace].”

YB Dato Hj Suhaimi urged the public to work with the ministry to eradicate theft and acts of vandalism.

For the 2019/2020 fiscal year, some $26 million out of the ministry’s proposed $218 million budget will be allocated for water supply infrastructure management and maintenance.

Additionally, $19.8 million will be allocated to projects under the 11th National Development Plan.

To ensure a sustainable water supply, several strategies have been developed to guarantee continuous water supply for domestic use, and to sustain industrial and economic growth.

A new water treatment plant at Baukit Barun will be built to meet the water requirements of both Brunei-Muara and Tutong districts, said the minister, which is expected to produce 120 million litres of water per day.

He added that the Agis Agis water treatment plant in Belait will also be upgraded to meet growing water demand, doubling its capacity to 70 million litres of water a day. The upgrade will cost an estimated $30 million, which will be allocated under the National Development Plan.

The minister urged the public to be more prudent in water consumption, saying Brunei had the highest water consumption in ASEAN, averaging 380 litres per person per day.

Several initiatives will be implemented to reduce water usage, such as the introduction of prepaid water meters.

“This system will be introduced this year in stages,” said YB Dato Hj Suhaimi, adding that changes to the water tariff will be implemented at a suitable time.

“The new rates will not cause any difficulties to the users, particularly residents with low income,” he added.

This article was amended on March 19, 2019 at 10.37pm to reflect a correction to the first and sixth paragraphs. The figure stated should have been $500,000 and not $500 million. The error is regretted.