PETALING JAYA - Cases of water shortage among the orang asli are isolated, said the Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa).
Its director-general Datuk Mohd Sani Mistam said almost all orang asli villages had implemented the Water Supply and Environment Safety programme under the Health Ministry.
"Nevertheless, the department is still monitoring the water shortage crisis by communicating closely with orang asli village chiefs as well as Village Security and Development Committees," he said in an e-mail to The Star.
He was responding to the crisis affecting orang asli communities in Tanjong Keruing in Pekan, Pahang, and Kampung Keliat in the Lojing district of Kelantan.
Mohd Sani said Jakoa was also getting the Pahang Water Supply Department to help the communities in Tanjung Keruing.
It had also informed the Rural and Regional Development Ministry of the status in Kampung Keliat as the matter was under the ministry's purview, he added.
"If the water shortage crisis prolongs, Jakoa will request for help from the states to provide water supply trucks to the communities," he said.
Centre for Orang Asli Concerns coordinator Dr Colin Nicholas said the cases of orang asli suffering from drought might be isolated.
However he added that they were likely to affect around 100 villages - between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of orang asli in Peninsular Malaysia.
An estimated 25,000 to 30,000 orang asli live in low-lying areas and they rely on water from swamps and wells, he said.
Dr Nicholas said the orang asli had been suffering from water access problems for many years.
This happened when their sources of water were polluted by mining and logging and the use of pesticides and fertilisers in plantations.
"The water sources in Kampung Keliat in Kelantan, for instance, were polluted by iron-ore mining.
"The drought has made it worse," he said.