Malaysian states, federal govt ‘must work together to resolve water supply issues’

Today Online 22 Apr 16;

KUALA LUMPUR — All state governments in Malaysia need to work closely with the federal government to resolve problems with water supply in the coming weeks, said the Malaysian Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry yesterday, as a looming water crisis due to the ongoing drought threaten its northern states.

The ministry said in a statement yesterday that all state governments must put in place measures to ensure water catchment areas are protected from uncontrolled development activities that could threaten raw water supply, and this include any agricultural-related activities.

“The federal government, on the other hand, will explore alternative water sources, intensify water conservation campaigns and introduce a water tariff structure based on the ‘user pays principle’ in order to encourage prudent use of water,” the ministry said.

Malaysia, especially its northern states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Perak, has been enveloped in a sweltering heatwave — affecting up to four million people — resulting in the temporary closure of schools, as well as slowing vegetable production, leading to price hikes.

Paddy fields, durian and rubber plantations have also been affected by the severe temperatures, and water levels at dams and water treatment plants have been decreasing.

Cloud seeding was conducted on Tuesday at targeted dam areas in the four states, with limited success.

“The cloud seeding operations in the four states only had limited success as it only rained heavily at the Bukit Merah dam in Perak, while other areas remained dry,” said Malaysian Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Wilfred Madius Tangau.

The drought has forced some states, such as Perlis and Johor, to impose water rationing, but Penang has yet to do so, even though the CEO of the Penang Water Supply Corporation, Jaseni Maidinsa, said on Monday that the Malaysian government needs to come up with an action plan in the next 30 days to deal with the current drought.

The drought has also caused Penang to temporarily suspended all irrigation activities, forcing paddy farmers to defer their planting for at least a month, said its Chief Minister Penang Lim Guan Eng yesterday.

He said priority should be on the needs of domestic users, noting that water shortages mean that the paddy saplings may not survive.

“We had no choice. Water supply for consumers comes first, but even if we let them plant now, there will not be enough water to sustain the paddy and it will die,” he said.

He advised farmers to save their seeds for another time until the situation improves.

“They can still wait until May but this dry weather is expected to last till June,” he added.

In Selangor, State Executive Councillor Elizabeth Wong assured yesterday that the state is well-prepared to handle the prolonged dry spell, after Democratic Action Party Member of Parliament (MP) Charles Santiago warned on Wednesday that the Klang Valley — which includes Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, the country’s administrative capital of Putrajaya and much of Selangor — can face a water crisis in about six weeks as the water reserves in the Sungai Selangor and Sungai Semenyih dams are dropping.

“Today, the Klang MP made all kinds of wild allegations, inaccurate calculations and the news has now gone viral,” she wrote in a message sighted by Malay Mail Online in referring to Mr Santiago.

“Suddenly, the Selangor state government was being badly attacked, even though focus should be given to the states that are really facing huge problems, like Perlis, Penang and Johor,” she said, adding that she had informed several quarters, including Japanese investment consultants, that Selangor is ready to ride out the dry spell.

Despite Ms Lee’s assurances, business owners in the Klang Valley are still worried. Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Foundry and Engineering Industries Association president Fan See Hai said those in the industry would be severely hit as the foundry and engineering industry requires thousands of gallons of water for daily production.

“If, say, there is no water, or if the government decides to implement the ‘two days on and two days off’ water rationing exercise, we will be in trouble,” he told Malay Mail Online.

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