GEORGE TOWN: Now that “everyone’s on the same side”, Kedah, Penang and Perak are set to make waves on water security in the northern region.
To start with, Penang will resume talks to buy a billion litres of raw water a day from Perak.
At the prevailing rate of 3 sen per 1,000 litres, state Utilities Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said it will see Perak collecting close to RM11mil a year from Penang until 2040 without lifting a finger.
“The proposal involves building a 14.8km tunnel from Sungai Perak to Sungai Ijok, which then feeds into Sungai Kerian where we can draw from,” he said.
Sungai Kerian is where the borders of the three states meet.
Zairil said in an interview yesterday that inter-state raw water sales are the norm in Malaysia, with Johor dealing with Malacca and Selangor getting from Pahang.
“But because of politics, Perak and Penang could never meet eye-to-eye previously. All that is history now and it is time for us in the northern region to show what we can do for the rakyat,” he said, adding the project, called Sungai Perak Raw Water Scheme (SPRWS) was conceived and approved when the Perak government was held by the short-lived Pakatan Rakyat coalition in 2013.
In 2015, the previous Perak government, which was taken over by Barisan Nasional, threw a monkey wrench into the deal by offering instead to sell treated water to Penang at rates that were higher than Penang’s domestic water tariff.
Zairil said SPRWS meant sustainable cash income for Perak and water security for Penang and he would start communicating with the Perak government soon.
He said in the Master Plan Study for Potable Water in Penang until 2050, Sungai Muda in the north between Kedah and Penang would be able to meet Penang’s water needs until 2020 and SPRWS was marked as a solution for the future.
As for Kedah, Zairil said he would meet with the state leaders soon to discuss approaching the Federal Government on the honorarium to be paid to the state in exchange for protecting the Greater Ulu Muda Forest Reserve.
“Ulu Muda is the main water catchment area that serves us all including Perlis and northern Perak.
“Logging concessions there have to stop but at the same time, we realise that timber is a natural resource for Kedah.
“So to protect Ulu Muda while making sure Kedah’s interests are taken care of, we have been proposing that the Federal Government compensate Kedah for preserving the forest,” he said.
On World Water Day this Saturday, Penang Water Supply Corporation is launching a “Save Ulu Muda” campaign to lobby for the conservation of the 163,103ha of rainforests in northern Kedah.