Malaysia: Johor calls for coordinated set of laws to govern all water supply-related agencies to address river pollution

Ahmad Fairuz Othman New Straits Times 2 Oct 17;

JOHOR BARU: The Johor government will propose to the federal government to put in place a coordinated set of laws that can be enforced by all water supply-related agencies to address the problem of pollution at rivers.

Johor Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said this needed to be done following cases of pollution at raw water resources such as rivers, which in turn had affected operations of water treatment plants and caused water supply disruptions.

Hasni said there were conflicting laws among the state water utility company SAJ Ranhill Sdn Bhd, Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj), Department of Environment (DoE), Forestry Department and other agencies when it came to nabbing river polluters.

"There is a need to coordinate the laws. In Johor, the laws do not reflect how important it is to monitor the threats towards our water resources.

"We can see the differences in laws as with the Forestry (Department) that handles encroachment matters, Bakaj which monitors water intake points and whether anyone is diverting the water resources away from the water supply chain, and Department of Environment (DoE) which handles river polluters," said Hasni after the opening ceremony of the Water Leaders Forum organised by the Johor government at Mutiara Hotel here today.

Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin launched the forum. Also present was Singapore Environment and Natural Resources Minister, Masagos Zulkifli Masagos Mohamad.

Citing an example of conflicting laws in matters of water pollution, Hasni said that Bakaj and DoE had different measurement criteria to define a polluted body of water.

"For example, the DoE defines polluted discharges as a pollutant that is contained in 10 parts per million (ppm) of water.

"However, Bakaj's enactment says that pollutants found in 1.5 parts per million (ppm) of water is considered to be polluted discharge.

"If a factory is found to have 8 ppm of pollutants in its discharge, the DoE cannnot take action, but it will leave Bakaj to be in a bind.

"These laws have some weaknesses and they need to be improved. The state government will bring up the matter with the federal government," said Hasni.

He said that federal level agencies such as the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) needs to review the effectiveness of enforcement under the country's water industry policies.

"That's why the organiser of today's Forum invited SPAN's former chief executive officer Datuk Teo Yen Hua to speak on the topic 'A decade of Water Industry Reform- Time to Reflect'.

"We need to look into whether the country has met the objectives of SPAN and other goals in the restructuring of the water industry," he said.

Hasni said that Malaysia and Johor could benefit from taking a leaf out of the water industry in Singapore, which comes under a sole authority, Public Utilities Board, and has better coordination of laws all along the chain of water supply.

Recent cases of water supply disruptions in the past three months in Johor were traced to ammonia pollution in rivers.

On July 1, water supply to 6,000 account holders in Simpang Renggam was disrupted due to ammonia pollution in Sungai Benut. The ammonia contamination was traced to a damaged leachate tank near one of its tributaries that runs along the Southern Waste Management's CEP1 landfill.

On July 23, ammonia pollution in Sungai Skudai caused a disruption in the regular water supply in eight areas in Johor Baru when production at the Sultan Ismail water treatment plant dropped to 50 per cent.

On a related issue, Hasni said the state government was spending RM500 million this year for water supply projects in Johor, including the Penyaluran Air Mentah Iskandar Malaysia (PAMIM) project, water treatment plant in Kluang and temporary raw water transfer project from Sungai Lenggor to Congok dam in Mersing.

Streamline water pollution laws, Govt urged
The Star 3 Oct 17;

JOHOR BARU: The Government should streamline water pollution laws to help resolve the problem, said an exco member.

Johor Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Moham-mad said the often conflicting laws and regulations made it easy for wrongdoers to get away with pollution or water diversion activities.

He said that plugging the loopholes could help resolve the pollution issues plaguing water resources.

He said the suggestion came in the wake of incidents involving Johor rivers – there were water disruptions when two treatment plants had to cease operations due to high ammonia levels.

“I believe the people are already fed up of hearing about the recurring ammonia pollution and we need to do something to stop it once and for all,” he said, adding that the state had spent about RM500mil to improve water reserves.

Citing Singapore as an example, Hasni said the island republic has one authority to manage its water, which is the Public Utility Board, unlike in Malaysia.

He said the laws enforced at the different agencies meant that agencies such as the Johor Water Regulatory Body, Department of Environment, as well as the Drainage and Irrigation Depart-ment, often had conflicting roles and regulations.

“The laws should be streamlined because existing regulations do not reflect our efforts to monitor and control such threats to our water resources.

“The laws stipulate differ terms for each department. For example, one agency defines pollution differently and has a pollutant index that varies from that of another,” he told a press conference yesterday after the launch of the two-day Johor Water Leaders Forum.

Earlier, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, who launched the forum, said water usage in Johor was expected to increase by 80% in the next 11 years and that comprehensive steps must be taken to ensure that there was enough water for the people.

National Water Resources Bill tabled soon to enable standardised management system nationwide
Halim Said New Straits Times 3 Oct 17;

JOHOR BARU: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry will be tabling the final draft of the National Water Resources Bill during the next Parliamentary sitting at the end of the month.

Deputy minister Datuk Dr Hamim Samuri said the tabling of the bill was important as it would ensure that a standardised water resources management system will be applied by all states.

“The bill will enable the state governments to apply a standardised water management system, which will be consistent with the federal-level policies on maintaining and safeguarding essential water resources,” he said at the closing ceremony of the two-day Water Leaders Forum 2017 organised by the Johor government.

Currently, said Hamim, the water resources management guidelines and some of its policies differed from state to state.

“The National Water Resources Bill will be able to coordinate the management of water resources across all agencies involved in every state,” he said.

He said, among other things, the bill was expected to contain aspects on coastal area management, underground water, flood mitigation and a contingency plan during droughts.

“There will also be sections on regulations to monitor the raw water resources such as rivers and tributaries,” he said.