KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will soon table a bill in Parliament to better safeguard the rights of consumers and protect them from potential health hazards.
The Safe Drinking Water Bill which spells out the roles of water concessionaires in supplying quality drinking water to millions of consumers nationwide – is to give the authorities more bite to act against irresponsible water operators and distributors.
Sources said the penalty proposed for those who cause a water source or drinking water system to be contaminated should be a fine of up to RM500,000 and a jail term not exceeding five years.
The ministry’s monitoring role only went as far as “reminding water concessionaires” to toe the line, said an official involved in the industry for years.
“There is no real bite in existing laws. Under this Bill, consumers are assured of good quality drinking water as it clearly spells out the duties of the concessionaires,” he told The Star.
Under the proposed legislation, any party who fails to meet the prescribed standards for drinking water quality can be fined up to RM300,000 or imprisoned not exceeding three years or both.
Another industry observer said the Bill would complement provisions under the Water Services Industry Act 2006.
“The new Bill will plug whatever loopholes in the existing laws on treated water. It will also cover the entire process of treating and distribution,” he said, adding that existing laws did not cover consumers in Sabah and Sarawak.
The ministry said the introduction of the Bill was in line with the World Health Organisation’s call that the supervision and control of drinking water quality is carried out by a third party.
“In developed nations, the quality of drinking water is monitored by a competent and neutral government agency such as the Drinking Water Inspectorate in Britain and the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States,” it said in the preamble of the Bill.
The operators will also be required to register with the ministry.