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River management key to clean water supply

  • How are we going to provide a quality living environment for the people in this "developed state" if even the most fundamental water needs are not met? Photo courtesy: Bernama

Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily

The Semenyih River Water Treatment Plant has been shut down five times since September this year due to river pollution. As a consequence, water rationing has been carried out in four districts in Selangor, affecting some 350,000 households. To add to the woes of affected residents, the water rationing measures have not been carried out efficiently, resulting in loss of business for many.

Although water cuts due to river pollution are not a novelty here in Malaysia, the Semenyih case, which sees frequent water contamination and increasingly expanded areas affected by water shortage and the extended period of water cut, has been rather rare.

Selangor menteri besar Azmin Ali has pointed his finger at Umno for causing the water pollution in a bid to smash the winning chances of the state government in the coming general elections.

While Azmin might have his reasons for saying so, squarely politicizing the water supply issue is not going to help the state government solve the problem faced by the people.

Natural resources and environment minister Wan Junaidi and senior ministry officials met MB Azmin Ali on the river pollution issue and both sides agreed to brush aside their differences to arrive at an accord. An investigation team that includes relevant environment departments of federal and state governments as well as the local authorities, Syabas, LUAS, etc. will be set up. It is hoped that this will help bring to light the real culprits behind the river contamination.

From federal, state to local governments, every agency has its own jurisdictions and obligations. However, due to the highly decentralized nature of water management and lack of coordination among the departments, we see that federal and state agencies have been telling very different stories over the preservation of rivers and water sources. The establishment of a joint investigation team is one step in the right direction to solve the problem.

Rivers are very important sources of our water supply. Some 97% of household and industrial water supply in this country has derived from the rivers, with the remaining 3% from subterranean water. As such, the public will suffer if our rivers are contaminated.

That said, the river pollution problem remains largely unsolved today. Businesses and agricultural operators continue to dump their wastes into the rivers. As if that is not enough, some illicit factories even allow heavy metals and hazardous chemicals to flow directly into the rivers. The environment department and state government must closely monitor industrial operators near to the rivers and makes sure they conform to the rules and regulations in relation to the disposal of industrial effluents.

Water is a vital resource for human living. We need water in our day-to-day life while the manufacturing and agricultural sectors require water to sustain their productions. In view of this, it is essential that the various agencies involved have in place a comprehensive set of crisis management measures in order to continue to supply water to the public in the most efficient manner in the event of water supply disruption.

Klang Valley is the administrative hub and the most densely populated area of the entire nation. Even though Selangor has as early as 11 years ago declared itself a developed state, it is still perennially plagued by water supply problem to this day.

How are we going to provide a quality living environment for the people in this "developed state" if even the most fundamental water needs are not met? The most urgent task for the federal and state governments now is to step up river management and stop further contamination of our rivers.


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