BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Development has identified climate change and an ageing water treatment plant as the main causes of poor water quality in recent times.

In his budget readout at the Legislative Council on Tuesday, Development Minister YB Dato Hj Suhaimi Hj Gafar said the quality of raw water from the Tutong river has been inconsistent over the past few years and at times produced “somewhat black” water.

Due to climate change, prolonged rainfall has further caused surface runoff where excess rainwater carries pollutants such as dirt to rivers.

The raw water with excess organic matter meant that several filtration tanks were clogged and had to be flushed repeatedly, the minister said.

The flushing of the water filtration system resulted in lower water output, affecting residents in Kg Lumapas, Lambak Kanan and Kg Subok.

He added that the frequent water disruptions were “regrettable”, but the ministry is working to address the issues.

While remedial works and upgrades have been made, YB Dato Hj Suhaimi said the same issues persist.

“It has led us to conclude that the [Bukit Barun water treatment] plant that is now well over 30 years old is no longer able to effectively filter raw water and needs to be upgraded,” said the minister.

Minister of Development YB Dato Hj Suhaimi during the Legislative Council proceedings on March 1, 2022. Photo: Information Department

He said the ministry is expediting upgrading works on the Bukit Barun water treatment plant in view of increased water disruptions.

“The upgraded plant has been designed in a way that it would have the capacity to treat murky water due to high organic substances from Tutong river,” said the minister.

Some $92 million has been allocated for upgrading works of the water treatment plant, which is expected to be completed in 2025.

The ministry is now carrying out medium term plans by repairing Levels 4 and 5 of the Bukit Barun Water Treatment Plant.

“Once Phase 1 works are completed, it can increase our current water output by 15 per cent depending on the quality of raw water.

“The second phase is still in its implementation phase and is expected to be completed by the end of this year, whereby it should show an increase in quantity and quality of water,” added the minister.

MoD expected to get 50% budget increase

The development ministry has proposed a budget of $334.8 million for the 2022/23 fiscal year, a 50 percent rise from the previous year.

Development projects will make up 35 percent ($111.7 million) of MoD’s total budget, while $107.2 million (32%) has been set aside for recurring expenses.

A total of $115.9 million will be spent on staff salaries.

YB Dato Hj Suhaimi said the proposed budget will further improve public housing, water security, disaster and flood mitigation and support strategies under the Brunei Darussalam climate change policy.

He added that the ministry is looking into opening up government-owned land for mixed-use development.

According to the minister, $38.8 million has been allocated for various housing projects including the Kg Lugu National Housing Scheme, which is expected to see the completion of 1,000 terrace houses by 2023.

Meanwhile, the construction of 750 houses under the Kg Tanah Jambu National Housing Plan project is expected to start by the middle of this year.

Some 245 units of the 300 H40 apartments in Lambak Kanan have also been occupied.

YB Dato Hj Suhaimi said his ministry is currently preparing a framework to boost local business development and produce a sustainable construction industry.

The Authority of Building Control and Construction Industry (ABCi) is drafting the Construction Industry Framework 2022-2035, which will introduce a number of measures for companies looking to become developers amid the COVID-19 outbreak, such as registration assessment screenings.

“This is to ensure that construction works can still be carried out as usual in a safe environment by following the standard operating procedures,” said the minister.