Experts call for law to be tabled soon


Making it safer: The law will further fortify protection against health hazards due to unsafe drinking water. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

PETALING JAYA: It’s high time that the proposed Drinking Water Quality Act, which will further protect against health hazards stemming from unsafe drinking water, be put in place, say experts.

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (Awer) president S. Piarapakaran said there have been delays in the tabling of the Bill.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had in April said the ministry was planning to introduce the Drinking Water Quality Act (DWQA) in the near future, adding that it would further fortify protection against health hazards due to unsafe drinking water.

Piarapakaran said the plan to introduce the law is not new.

“Before 2010, there was already consultation process done to make the final version of it. Unfortunately, the tabling of the Bill has been delayed.

“I fully support Khairy’s attempt to table it in Parliament as soon as possible.”

He added that at the moment, the National Drinking Water Quality Standard is being used as a reference to determine drinking water quality and raw water used for water treatment process.

Piarapakaran noted that the testing the ministry could carry out will be an important step towards ensuring that drinking water is safe.

“The ministry will carry out periodic testing for raw water and drinking water at predetermined sampling locations. The results of the testing will be submitted to the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) for further action.

“For example, under the current surveillance programme, the testing frequency of some chemicals is once in six months.

“Under current circumstances, this frequency is deemed not sufficient to determine the level of such chemicals is safe as dry and rainy seasons give difference impact. We need the surveillance to resemble risk elimination more,” he explained.

He added that chemicals emanating from fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides also pollute groundwater – also a source of water in many rural areas.

He said with the introduction of the Act, more chemicals can be included in the surveillance list.

Apart from that, he also hopes that frequent monitoring of water quality is carried out, especially during high-risk circumstances such as the dry season.

Former SPAN chairman Charles Santiago said access to clean drinking water is still a challenge.

Commenting on the proposed Act, Charles said while it is a good idea, there are issues that have to be addressed and monitoring and maintaining water quality cuts across several agencies and ministries such as the Environment and Water Ministry.

One of the major problems, he said, is aged treatment plants which have not been upgraded for years.

“While water quality is usually tested before it leaves treatment plants, the issue lies with the pipes which connect homes to the plants.

“The pipes are sometimes corroded and have not been replaced in years.

“The bigger issue is that we have to upgrade treatment plants as these are needed to treat toxic water that is coming from polluted rivers,” says Santiago, who is also Klang MP.

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