Engineers Without Borders – Malaysia

Engineers Without Borders Malaysia

Engineering a Sustainable Future
Who Are We?

Engineers Without Borders Malaysia (EWBM)

We are a non-profit organisation that aims to harness the expertise of students, educators, academics and professionals in Malaysia for engineering projects that benefit local, underprivileged communities with an emphasis on environmental sustainability and community empowerment.

We are affiliated with Engineers Without Borders – International, a globally recognised international federation of national Engineers Without Borders/Ingenieurs Sans Frontier (EWB-ISF) Members Associations.

Sponsors & Collaborators

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EWBM Water4Power Project

Location

Kg Sapit, Sarawak

Community

Remote Bidayuh community

Sponsors

The Issue / Concern

Located within Borneo’s interior, next to the rolling mountains that marked the borders of Indonesia, Kg Sapit is a Bidayuh village with 59 households. They are reliant on diesel generators to provide them with the necessary electricity for the night. They utilize electricity for children to do schoolwork, refrigeration for food stuff, and to recharge their handheld devices. With their meager income, purchase of diesel was putting a strain on their savings. Any plans they had for village development was temporarily placed on hold. There was a man raised from the village who met us in the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur who requested our assistance. Meeting with him, there were no doubts in our heads, we were in for an adventure. 

What We Did

Indigenous people are often one of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in our increasingly globalised world. Electricity supply is considered a basic amenity to most of us in towns and less remote villages, but this is absent in significant proportion in Borneo’s vast interior. The cost of diesel is considered very expensive for the very low-income community at approximately RM 5 per 1.5L. From our first recce trip to investigate other possible sources of renewable energy, we have concluded that the installation of a micro hydro generator will most definitely lighten the burden of this very low-income community consisting of mostly older age groups.

From our recce, we also noticed there were no health support or clinics in the village. The nearest government health centre with visiting medical doctors was located some distance away from the village. The reported common ailments are common cough, cold, diarrhoea and skin diseases. A planned medical checkup and health screening was launched during one of our project’s expeditions. With healthcare, we collaborated with the Rural Expeditions Aiding Community Health (REACH) organization.

On the last phase of the project, we had visited Sekolah Kebangsaan Kambug, which was within walking distance from Kg Sapit. This school has around 6 to 8 teachers with basic boarding facility and gravity feed water supply. As the school rarely ever receives visitors, we decided to jump in to engage in fun activities and game. Our volunteers provided classes on basic hygiene and first-aid for the children. Laughter and sheer debauchery were welcomed relief for the tired volunteers who had climbed the slippery slopes of the Sapit hills every single day. Their warm spirits turned to fire as Time froze a story for their memories. To the volunteers, the expedition in the deep interior of Borneo will forever be etched in their hearts. That’s what adventure does we believe, it helps us move forward.

With Kg Sapit being one of our adopted villagers, we will drum up the next stages of community development. The next challenge we need to tackle would be waste management and agriculture system improvements.

In Search Of Higher Power

Location

Kuching, Sarawak

Community

Kampung Nyegol-Rejoi

Sponsors

The Issue / Concern

Kampung Nyegol-Rejoi is a 40-household, 120-inhabitant village south of Kuching on the banks of the Bengoh Dam. Pastor Simo is its spiritual and administrative leader. When the Bengoh Dam project was proposed, the villagers were amenable to the idea because it would transform the arduous 6-hour trek to the road into a 20-minute boat ride, even though this meant their original homes would be flooded. However, when the government also proposed gazetting the area as a national park site, which would prohibit any kind of farming or taking from the land, they fought for their land rights and won. The current site of the village is thus on higher ground, but still on their ancestral land.

Given the village’s remote location on the far side of the dam, it is not connected to the main electricity grid. As such, they rely on a previously-installed 3kW-rated micro-hydro system, which is insufficient. In addition, a guest house was recently set up as part of an eco-tourism enterprise designed to supplement the villagers’ income. There are also plans to construct a church. This puts great strain on the energy resources of the village. As it is, the villagers have to turn off all appliances when the guest house is in use in order to ensure that their guests experience no power disruptions.

Given these circumstances, we have, in consultation with the village, decided to address this issue by increasing their micro-hydro capacity to two 5kW systems and supplementing it with solar power. One 5kW system will replace the current 3kW system, which is old and operating at only about a 700W capacity; the other will be installed at a second water source. The villagers are more comfortable with micro-hydro systems because they have used these before with success. However, during the drought, the water sources would too produce sufficient electricity. As such, we have convinced them to give solar power a chance, even though their previous experiences with it were suboptimal.

Goals and Objectives

  1. Bring an affordable, continuous, sustainable and renewable power supply to Kampung Nyegol and the other villages around Bengoh Dam by installing micro-hydro generators and a solar PV system.
  2. Supply sufficient power such that the villagers and their guests need not compromise or disrupt each other’s activities.
  3. Encourage the development and deployment of sustainable technologies, whilst at the same time broadening EWB-M’s project portfolio in this regard.
  4. Enable EWB-M members to be of service to, engage with and gain exposure to remote communities in need like Kampung Nyegol and the villages around Bengoh Dam.
  5. Put self-sustaining systems in place for the villages around Bengoh Dam to be able to lead a comfortable life without compromising their traditions and values.

EWBM Water2Flush Project

Location

Kg Chang, Bidor, Perak

Community

Semai community

Sponsors

The Issue / Concern

In Kg Chang, there was a local kindergarten that requires new bathroom amenities. They had previously built a few but had already been filled up with waste. The location of the old bathrooms are located far away from the kindergarten. There will be no cover for the kids to the rain and hot weather every time they needed to go to the toilet. After getting a call from Kiwanis, we decided to visit and attempt to help. Besides, it was probably nice to visit the rural areas of Perak.

What We Did

The solution is pretty straightforward in this case as they urgently require new bathroom amenities. Once on site, we determined that the best location would be next to the kindergarten itself. The village head agreed to the position and we began working on structural design and the bill of materials. We had sourced a local contractor that could provide site expertise and to source locally made materials for its construction. Upon negotiating and balancing our budgets with the cost of construction, the contractor immediately set to work in building the bathrooms as designed. Believing in spurring the local economy, we had the contractor to source local villagers as manpower to work. Additional aesthetic designs for the walls was added by the villagers themselves and they made it into their own personal project. The project was completed with a sense of ownership by the villagers.

 

At the end of the project, we walked among the halls of the simple kindergarten. Cement was the main ingredient, and this was reflected on the walls and on the floor. The place became personal to the Semai people of Kg Chang because of the skittish drawings of their children that hung on the walls. There was a poster that showed the names of various Orang Asal communities that exists in Malaysia. “To remember their roots” said the village leader. They tried their best to pass on whatever they know to their kids, but the onslaught of modernity cast a lingering shadow over their traditions. Their ancient burial site hidden somewhere in the dense jungles of the Peninsular, remains preserved. When we have the time, probably on the next project, the villagers tempted us by saying they will bring us there when we returned. 

With the success of this project, we aim to adopt it as one of the villagers for our community development initiatives, we are drafting up plans for a probable biomass solution for their wastes.