In February this year, roughly 3 months ago, my office cleared up all 99 septic manholes in the Desaria flats. The IWK contractors were very kind and did most of the work pro bono so the whole exercise cost my office a nominal RM2,000. Without the generous contractor, we would have to pay some RM10,000.
About 2 weeks ago, a group of volunteers joined my team and did a gotong-royong. About 9 residents came to help us, the remaining 2,000 residents just stayed away. Winning community support is difficult and slow going. It seems that in urban areas of extreme poverty that have endured a decade of crime and degradation, we cannot just expect them to overnight embrace us. My team will just need to persevere and find better solutions.
Next month, my office will start to fix up all 12 staircases in 6 blocks. JUBM, Malaysia’s premier quantity surveyor is volunteering its free time to conduct the open tender exercise on our behalf. This project is only possible with an RM50k CSR contribution from a plc, the other RM50k will come from my limited budget.
Just now, I got a call from a Desaria resident saying that all 6 blocks have clogged septic pipes and that the human waste is backing up into several houses. In other words, all the work we did in February only bought us 3 months of clean sanitation and functioning toilets. Since I am in Parliament tomorrow, my office manager Tim will be visiting Desaria to document the problems. We will do a headcount of a number of clogged pipes and get an estimate on the costs to clear the same. The causes of the clog up are the flushing down of rubbish and big items such as diapers.
Understandably some of my team members are disappointed by the attitudes of the residents. It is true that some of the residents are uneducated and possibly ungrateful, therefore the easy thing to do is to just walk away. Why help them if they do not deserve further help? But we can’t just walk away. That is not an option. There are children growing up in Desaria. They are blameless and they deserve a chance at a better life. We walk away now and we doom the majority of them to a life of low-paying jobs and worse, a criminal career.
There must be a better way. If we can’t educate them not to throw rubbish down the toilet, perhaps the solution is to replace the old pipes with bigger 4-inch pipes? Anyone reading this who is a building contractor or engineer and wishes to help us find a more permanent solution pls contact my office via email at email@example.com.