Long Itam, Sarawak
Remote Penan community
Having no access to running water due to being relocated from their nearest river source, members of the community are required to retrieve buckets of water roughly 3km away from their village.
Upon various discussions with the local leaders and setting up site parameters, we have come to an understanding that the villagers were adamant that any proposed solution must not involve the use of pumps. However, the village was located on relatively lower ground as compared to the location of their village. From this understanding, we recommended the use of a Gravity Feed Water System. Working together with lecturers and students from the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, engineering design was accomplished, and funds were acquired. The construction team was dispatched to the village and work began with the watchful eyes of experienced lecturers. And to cater to the demands of unpredictable relocation, the gravity feed water system was designed to be detachable and able to be transported elsewhere. The pharmacy team on the other hand, had managed to complete their healthcare programme with the villagers.
Kg Sapit, Sarawak
Remote Bidayuh community
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.
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.
One Utama Shopping Mall
Outreach to Institute of Engineers Malaysia, Young Engineers Section
The Engineering Week organized by IEM (Institute of Engineers Malaysia) is meant to be an integral part of a corporate social responsibility initiative and to act as a medium to interact, engage and network with other organizations in the community. The Young Engineers Section invited us to help out organizing and hosting a few games for their primary school participants. The games are catered to inspire these young individuals to consider engineering as a career choice.
This particular project was a fun and carefree one actually. We organized a game of building the tallest spaghetti stick tower and a few fun questionnaires for the young primary students. They came up with a few genuinely creative ideas when constructing the towers. We even took part! And guess who won? Yes, we did, we had the tallest tower. In your face kids! Haha… *cough*… no worries, we did not shamelessly take the prize. We demonstrated how and why they could built higher with a few simple tricks. Reluctantly, the next best team took back the prize.
We were pretty good hosts though. Funny.
Perhentian Island, Terengganu.
Kelantanese Malay (Project did not launch)
On this famous tropical island paradise of Malaysia, there exists a fisherman’s village on the east coast of Pulau Kecil. Approximately 2000 people living in it, the village contains basic infrastructure and utilities. Due to a rise in tourism, island sewage was slowly turning into a major problem to the environment. Sewage canals are filled with sediments that cause certain areas to be clogged up. Ecoteer requested our assistance with maintenance and repair work of these water catchments.
We first conducted a recce visit to assess the situation on site. The situation was indeed clogged up, however, the situation does not require any intensive technical expertise. The community has all basic needs and are not living in a dire situation. In regards to clogged drainage, huge manpower for physical labour was required. We proposed to the Ecoteer team to convince the village leader for a ‘Gotong-royong’ session. However, the village leader was reluctant to assist and mentioned that the government was about to build a new modern sewage plant soon, and he does not see the need to mobilize the entire village for it. Without his permission for a project in the island, we did not proceed but to follow up with the Ecoteer team on developments of the village.
Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus
Outreach to Young Malaysian Engineers
The Malaysian Student’s Technology Conference (MSTC), organised under Malaysian Students Society of Manchester (MSSM) and in partnership with TalentCorp Malaysia, is an annual event connecting the brightest students and graduates with leading executives, academics and entrepreneurs from the technology field. As the largest event of its kind, the Conference provides an unmatched opportunity to discuss current developments in the technology industry with a line-up of accomplished speakers and a chance to network with future co-workers and employers. The event covers a breadth of recent topics and features panel discussions, keynote addresses, workshops and networking opportunities. This event is ideal for undergraduates and postgraduates from a wide range of disciplines and universities interested in pursuing a career in the technology field. With our experience in challenges faced in rural areas, we were invited for a session to discuss about it. Besides that, we were also invited to participate in a panel session about ‘Women Empowerment in Science & Engineering’.
We prepared a simple presentation that highlights the different challenges we faced in rural villagers and interacted with the students who had participated. Questions about the livelihood of the villagers and how dams were built in a tropical environment were answered. Lively and interactive, we hoped we had managed to inspire a few to join us in our future endeavours. On the next day, together with Dr Mahaletchumy Arujanan (Editor in Chief of the Petri Dish and one of the world’s most influential people in Biotechnology) we discussed about Women Empowerment in Science & Technology.
Kg Chang, Bidor, Perak
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.
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.
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.
Kg Binjai, Pahang.
Jakun (Project did not launch)
With a population of 30 families, approximating to at least 200 people, Kg Binjai is a village containing 3 separate hamlets. These hamlets relate to their own pathways, accessible by foot or motorbike. Each hamlet contains their own water source which EPIC has noted to be contaminated and unsafe for consumption. Requesting our help, they asked if we could assist in building a water filtration system for the villagers.
On our first recce trip, it was determined that the villagers do not have formal ownership of their lands. The village is located at the fringes of the Bukit Ibam Forest Reserve, but it is unknown whether the area is part of their customary lands or to surrounding plantations, loggers, government etc. This has created a quagmire of different political issues. We have considered a few options such as rainwater harvesting, but according to villagers’ rain occurs infrequently unless it was the monsoon season. Besides that, considerations must emphasize on preventing the development of aedes larvae. At all hamlets, unused water tanks are located near their houses. Previous, NGO’s had come before to install a water pump, but due to the climate and no maintenance, the pump ceased to work after a few months. Due to limited understanding and experience to provide the right water filtration system, we could only provide consultation and advice on the next step. One of the most important factors to understand would be the level of contamination in the water sources available. Besides microorganism to worry, we need to ensure that there are no chemical contamination from the surrounding oil palm and logging activities.
Individuals with physical disabilities
PKOCM (Persatuan Kebajikan Orang Cacat Manjung) is a centre dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people with physical disabilities, including children. They practice an open-door policy where services are free of charge for anyone with disability regardless of age, race, religion, gender or culture. To expand upon their physiotherapy programme, PKOCM was looking to build a hydrotherapy pool on their facility.
Upon getting in touch with PKOCM, we wasted no time in starting to organize for this project. We were placed to manage the project and to obtain funds for it. With help from Bechtel Engineering, we have the professional manpower to design and build this unique system.
Based on fundraising activities launched in Nottingham University, we immediately passed on the funds for Bechtel to begin work. During construction, they had to remove the old playground equipment at the proposed site to PKOCM’s backyard. Once completed, they immediately begin efforts to start constructing foundations for the pool. Materials and equipment are sourced locally from hardware shops. Upon completion, the hydrotherapy pool was commissioned. With follow ups, a pump system was introduced to efficiently provide circulation capabilities. Besides that, a heater was installed to give the pool a warm temperature, so that users will not catch any sudden chill.
By maintaining contact with the committee, we ensure the hydrotherapy pool is still working and hopefully to work together again for anymore improvement projects in the future.
Celcom Axiata Infinity Centre (CAIC)
Outreach to Young Malaysian Engineers
The Young Malaysian Engineers is a global network of Malaysian STEM students working to promote and encourage the interactions between young Malaysian talents. To fulfil that creed, YEM organized the Sustainable Development Goals Challenge. It’s aim is to get Malaysian youths to be more actively involved in environment and social problem solving in STEM. YEM invited us to be one of the judges and to provide a case study from our experience in clean energy. Participants are needed to solve the problem posed by case study. During the idea discussion phase, participants are given the opportunity to participate in a focus group of their specific case study.
With our experience in clean energy, providing micro-hydro solutions to villagers in Sarawak, we provided a case study based on our Water4Power project. Our problem statement is indicated below:
“The villagers of Kg Sapit, Sarawak rely on diesel generators for electricity during the night. They save up the income they have to buy a constant supply of diesel for just 2 hours of light every night. With the increase in diesel prices, the villagers are undoubtedly facing problems in rationing diesel to provide light for their children to study at night.”
Participants are expected to act as a non-profit NGO to provide a simple, sustainable solution to solve the villagers electrical power needs. Goals to achieve includes:
We were allowed to interact with participants in regards to giving advice etc. During the judging session, we gave the most points to the best team able to provide better insight and understanding to the case study.
Kg Padang, Muadzam Shah, Pahang
Located within the thick, dense oil palm plantation, Kg Padang is a 24-family big Jakun tribe whose basic income comes from working the oil palm fields. Our partners, Global Peace Foundation had previously visited the village as part of their Communities Unite for Pure Water initiative. They discovered their water source was located far away from the village and depended on walking back and forth with buckets to retrieve water. With this in mind, they had requested our help to install a solution.
Simplicity being the key, our solution was to build a water pump network to allow water from a well to be delivered to the village, located half a kilometer away (15 minute walk). We had initially came up with various designs to achieve our objective. After much consideration and failures, we ended up with a design that had a pump system to reach a desired high flow rate. The flow rate was calculated with the 3 key factors stipulated below:
We created a bill of material compromising of the HDPE pipe & all the necessary valves, washers, strainers etc. to go along with it. During the installation phase, our vehicle got stuck in soft mud and we tried to use the 4-wheel function but failed! It was the villagers who brought us out from the mud. So much for being well educated engineers, haha.
Global Peace had beforehand collected samples for tests and had found their water source to be severely contaminated. With a good pump system to transport water to their village, Global Peace introduced the LifeStraw water filters that could help with contamination. It is their believe in providing clean water to uplift the welfare of communities that brought us together.