Panic-buying up north as taps run dry

Precious resource: People queueing up to buy bottles of drinking water at a shop in Teluk Kumbar, George Town, during the water disruption. — Bernama

GEORGE TOWN: As if scarce rain and drying dams were not enough, an overnight system fault along Sungai Muda sent a million Penangites and Kedahans scrambling for water after taps ran dry.

The populace “raided” supermarkets and cleared shelves out of drinking water bottles.

On social media, shouting matches between competing shoppers were recorded.

Even though the water supply was restored in less than 24 hours, many food sellers interviewed said they decided not to open yesterday as they could not prepare the food ingredients without water the day before.

Without water from Sungai Muda, Penang’s dam levels took a beating and as of yesterday, Ayer Itam Dam was at 39.8% full, Teluk Bahang Dam at 46.2% and even the larger Mengkuang Dam, which is usually over 90% full, fell to 88.2%.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow appealed to Penangites on Sunday to conserve water and pointed out that in the case of the Ayer Itam Dam, there was only enough water for the local population to last another 120 days.

Penang Water Watch president Dr Chan Ngai Weng said this was a “wake-up call” for Penangites.

“Penang’s per capita daily water usage shot up to above 300 litres last year, the highest in the country. Tariffs must be increased to control water wastage,” he said.

On the faulty sensor that led to the barrage gate at Sungai Muda being opened, Chan said there should have been an automatic alert when the barrage gate opened by itself on account of a faulty sensor.

“Computers do not make mistakes. The authorities must check if the alert was turned off or if the wrong commands were punched in or if there was a virus in the programme.

“There also should have been a general red alert sent to every level of the authorities in both Penang and Kedah once Sungai Muda’s water level dropped below a certain level,” he said.

Chan said a lot of people were pointing fingers at the Penang government and the Penang Water Supply Corporation.

“It is not true that Penang has no future plans for water security. There are many plans in place and the Penang authorities have been talking with their Kedah counterparts amicably,” he said.

For the Sungai Perak Raw Water Transfer Scheme, he urged the Federal Government to assist in finding a middle path for Perak and Penang.

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heatwave , haze , water crisis , dam


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