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Friday, 28 February 2014

The water crisis isn't over yet

The signing of an agreement between the Federal and Selangor Governments is a good sign, but much more needs to be done.

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

— Winston Churchill

CHURCHILL’S famous words were in relation to a string of defeats which Britain had suffered in World War II.

They appeared to have finally turned the corner in November 1942 in the Battle of Egypt, but the great man knew there was a long road ahead before final victory could be achieved.

I was reminded about this quote when I read the report of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal and Selangor Governments over the takeover of the water assets in the state as well as the implementation of the Langat 2 water treatment plant project. I believe the majority of Klang Valley residents will heave a sigh of relief now that this long drawn-out saga appears to have come to an end.

But unfortunately, this isn’t the end.

Consumers in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur who expect a quick fix to the water crisis that has dominated media space over the last one week will be sorely disappointed. There will be no quick fix.

As reported, the four water concessionaires in the state have to agree to the mammoth RM9.65bil offer. The concessionaires have two weeks until March 10 to accept the offer, but it should be noted the very same offer was rejected some months ago.

For all our sakes, we hope this impasse can be resolved as soon as possible because the blame game has gone into overdrive. It started with Syabas (the state’s water distributor) blaming the state government for being alarmist and announcing water rationing while the Selangor Mentri Besar pointed the finger at Syabas for being ineffective. Both parties have also blamed (in no particular order) the lack of rainfall, excessive ammonia content in the Langat catchment area, unscheduled loss of water, burst pipes etc.

Sigh. This constant blame game is like a broken record. If you live in Cheras or Balakong and have been without regular water supply for two weeks, would you accept these excuses?

Try explaining cloud seeding to the numerous businesses that have been affected by irregular water supply in Hulu Langat.

The state takeover of water assets and the implementation of Langat 2 are long-term solutions to the water crisis. But what can we do now?

The Klang Valley and many parts of the country are currently waging a war against dengue and the aedes mosquitoes.

The Health Ministry and local councils have embarked on a massive educational drive to warn people about the dengue menace.

I believe that the authorities should do something similar with the water situation. Let’s battle against wastage of our most precious resource because for too long we have taken our water supply for granted.

Just two weeks ago, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim announced that he would extend free water supply to residents of Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur, similar to what Selangorians currently enjoy.

I find it absolutely ridiculous that the chief executive of the state can make this kind of statement knowing that many people in his state do not have water.

Promises about free water supply aside, let’s educate the people about water wastage. If you wash your car once a week, consider doing it every fortnight. If you take a shower twice a day, consider taking a bath once a day.

The current dry spell and drought may actually compel the authorities into introducing legislation to restrict water usage, similar to certain states in Australia and California in the United States.

Just like the Klang Valley, California is facing a prolonged drought and a similar water crisis like us. What have they done?

Consumers have been told to stop watering lawns with sprinklers overnight, sweep rather than wash driveways, take shorter showers and flush toilets less frequently.

This is expected to cut water use by up to 50%. A few cities have already imposed mandatory restrictions: for example, Santa Cruz forbids residents from watering lawns and gardens between 10am and 5pm and bars restaurants from serving water unless asked.

Australia, the earth’s driest inhabited continent, has been imposing water restrictions in various states for many years.

Depending upon the location, these can include restrictions on watering lawns, using sprinkler systems, washing vehicles, hosing pavements, refilling swimming pools etc.

Do we have the political will to impose similar restrictions? Will Selangor citizens accept reduced water usage? These questions need to be answered with increasing urgency, because we are running out of time.

> Executive Editor Brian Martin is praying that the scheduled cloud seeding next week will bring the much-needed rains to our water catchment areas.

Tags / Keywords: Opinion , brian martin , water shortage

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