PETALING JAYA: It is bad enough when households and businesses have to suffer dry spells from time to time, but what is worse is that more often than not, interruptions in the water supply happen with little or no warning.
According to statistics from the National Water Services Commission (SPAN), unplanned water cuts in Peninsular Malaysia last year far outnumbered scheduled water cuts.Several states reported thousands of cases of unplanned water cuts.
SPAN said such disruptions are caused by pollution of water sources, lack of water due to dry weather, and burst or leaking pipes. This has prompted calls for more to be done to protect our water sources and manage our water supply.
The commission said large-scale water cuts usually affect densely populated areas the most.
Consumers and businessmen in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Perak and Penang can readily attest to that.
In 2018, Selangor went though 767 scheduled water cuts. However, the number of unplanned disruptions in the water supply was more than 15 times higher – 11, 781 cases.
This is an issue fresh in the minds of the people in Selangor because last month, four water treatment plants in the state had to be closed due to diesel pollution in Sungai Selangor.
Other states with alarmingly high numbers of unscheduled water cuts last year were Negri Sembilan and Perak.
Negri Sembilan had only 18 scheduled water cuts but the unscheduled cuts totalled 4, 701.
Perak experienced 26, 289 unscheduled water cuts compared with 149 planned ones.
There is some comfort in the fact that SPAN’s data for 2013 to 2018 shows shrinking numbers of unscheduled water cuts in some states.
Cases of unplanned water cuts in Selangor decreased dramatically by about 86% from 85, 481 in 2013 to 11, 781 in 2018.
A similar trend can be seen in Pahang, where the number of unplanned water cuts went from 8, 379 in 2013 to 2, 311 last year. Kedah’s number of unscheduled water cuts last year was half of the 2013 figure.
Perak’s unplanned water cuts had decreased steadily between 2013 and 2017, but last year, the number of such incidences spiked to 26, 289.
Johor recorded an increase from 4, 889 unplanned water cuts in 2013 to 5, 271 in 2018.
SPAN will have a seminar on Aug 14 to address the issue of polluted water sources.
Malaysian Water Forum president Saral James urged Malaysians to be vigilant in protecting their water supply and water catchment areas.
“Malaysia seriously needs to look into our water supply chain and how to protect water catchment areas, ” she said.
“It is a responsibility shared by government, industry, businesses, communities and individuals.”
Buffer zones, she added, need to be in place to prevent illegal dumping of hazardous waste in contamination-prone water supply areas.
“Certain commercial products such as cleaning fluids, paints or pesticides discarded by commercial establishments or individuals can be defined as hazardous waste similar to the Sungai Kim Kim and Sungai Rui incidents, ” she said.
Failure to protect water supply, she added, will be costly to Malaysians.
“It is a hazard to human health, and it is a serious injury to the Malaysian economy, ” she said.
Water and Energy Consumer Association of Malaysia president Saravanan Thambirajah agreed that more should be done to protect Malaysia’s water supply.
“People are dumping all kinds of chemicals and wastes into the rivers. The problem has been there for 20 to 30 years without any proper solution, ” he said.
He also said the government must take a stand on gazetting water catchment areas that are prone to pollution.
“One year, the government may say it will gazette the area; the following year, it may want to develop the area.
“The inconsistencies show that protecting these areas is not a priority, ” he said.
Saravanan, however, also said the bigger issue that leads to inconsistent water supply is climate change, which has led to drier weather and less rainfall.
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