Water disruption is not a laughing matter

Not a joke: Residents of Taman Seri Gombak collecting water from Syabas’ static water tank due to the recent disruptions.

Access to our water resources should be tightly controlled to prevent any sabotage. 

THIS joke has been making its rounds on social media:

Air Panas in Negri Sembilan

Air Keroh in Melaka

Air Hitam in Johor

Air Tak Ada (no water) in SelangorThe people who are caught in this situation are not laughing though. In fact, they don’t find the frequent water supply disruption in the Klang Valley the slightest bit funny.

The seven million plus consumers who call Malaysia’s industrial and commercial heartland home are sick and tired of the same old excuses that are being trotted out – (in no particular order) the lack of rainfall, excessive ammonia content in the Langat catchment area, unscheduled loss of water, burst pipes, diesel pollution and the latest, sabotage.

Sigh. This constant blame game is like a broken record. We’ve heard it all before.

If you live in Petaling Jaya or Klang and have been without regular water supply, intermittently for eight days, would you accept these excuses?

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

A colleague, who has a family of six, told me about the hardship he faced.

The family could not cook and because of that he spent more than RM100 a day buying them meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

He also had to buy paper plates and cups as well as bottled water.

The stores in Kelana Jaya ran out of mineral water very quickly and he had to travel to Taman Tun Dr Ismail, about 10km away, to do his laundry for the family.

“My son’s school appealed to parents to bring 10 litres of water each to help clean the school’s toilets,” he added.

Our authorities, and Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) in particular, should stop shifting the blame and accept responsibility for this ridiculous state of affairs.

Syabas says the latest water disruption, resulting in the closure of all four water treatment plants and affecting about 1.2 million con­sumers, was due to diesel pollution in Sungai Selangor and the source of this pollutant was traced to sandmining activities at the riverbed.

Ironically, this sandmining in Sungai Selangor is a legal operation sanctioned by the Selangor state government and undertaken by a subsidiary of the state.

But Kumpulan Semesta Sdn Bhd’s contractor, Two-B Machineries Sdn Bhd, lodged a police report on their encounter with anglers who were fishing near a pontoon in the river just before the pollution occurred.

The police are now investigating the possibility that these anglers released diesel into the river as an act of sabotage.

The case is being investigated under Section 430 of the Penal Code for mischief by injury to works of irrigation or by wrongfully diverting water, which carries a jail term of between five and 30 years, a fine or both.

But, the National Water Services Commis­sion (SPAN) has also voiced concerns over the presence of the sand contractors along Sungai Selangor.

In fact, it’s not only the sandmining activity that should be of concern to us, it is also the operations of numerous backyard industries along our water source.

These illegal businesses have been operating with impunity for years, and the authorities have yet to completely shut them down.

In other countries the water source is highly protected but in Malaysia, we seem to have a lackadaisical attitude towards this precious commodity.

Syabas should restrict access and make security a priority not only at the water treatment plants, but also at major water sources.

Any form of activity, be it leisure or commercial, along Sungai Selangor, should be strictly controlled.

Moving forward, there appears to be some good news on the horizon though.

The long-awaited Langat 2 Water Treatment Plant and Distribution System (LRAL2) will begin supplying 325 million litres of treated water to residents in the Klang Valley in August.

The volume will account for 25% of treated water from the first phase of the project and will benefit about 325,000 user accounts.

The first phase of the LRAL2, which is expected to be completed by 2022, will supply 1,130 million litres of water a day and increase the water supply reserves in Selangor.

And this will eventually benefit more than one million consumers.

Globally, 663 million people live without easy access to clean water, a sharp contrast to Malaysia, with its abundant water supply. But it is sad that many of us take our precious resource for granted.

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