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Malaysia: Selangor State Faces Water Shortage

A Malaysian state could be facing a water shortage soon. Selangor, the richest state in Malaysia, made national headlines when Syabas, the water concessionaire announced that it wants to begin water rationing, citing that water reserves are below the safe mark. A huge disagreement followed between Syabas and the Selangor state government, with the government stepping in, crying foul as it found that most dams are actually full, while Syabas maintained that the problem is a lack of treated water.

Tony Pua, a politician from the ruling coalition in Selangor, believes that this issue is a national security issue. He also believes that Syabas is taking this action in order to gain approval for the building of another water treatment plant which would be highly profitable for the company:

The entire “water-rationing” threat is a ruse to frighten the people of Selangor into forcing the approval of the Langat 2 project which has nothing to do at all with the alleged low levels of treated water.

It is a fear-mongering tactic used by SYABAS which is 70% owned by Puncak Niaga, firstly to help Barisan Nasional win Selangor in the next general election in order to perpetuate their control over water rights in the state.

Will there be water rationing soon in Malaysia's richest state?

B.Joe took a more cautious approach:

At end of the day, SYABAS may have a strong case and valid concerns and the Selangor State Government may be trying to hide these real concerns in light of the up-coming general elections. We do hear them in the news but we want to see stronger facts and figures from SYABAS before we can agree with them. Selangor State Government’s contention that the claims are not realistic makes sense too – if it is that easy to resolve the so-called water crisis by building a new water treatment plant, then why the strong resistance from the State Government from day 1?

All we ask is for both parties to come to their senses and do things right – we are all ok for rations if situation is indeed critical but have we come to that stage? We may be undergoing some dry spell once in a while in a year but we do live in a country blessed with a good bound of rain. If we have enough raw water, what need to be worked on is on how efficient we can process that raw water to clean fresh water. The fact that almost every household have some kind of water filters in their house speaks a lot of the quality of water we getting these days (just imagine if the filter in my house turns brown on the same day).

Charles Santiago, from the Coalition Against Water Privatisation and a Member of Parliament, wrote in his blog:

The Coalition Against Water Privatisation has secured the services of water professionals and academics to verify the claims made by Syabas. But they cannot rely on dubious data obtained through Syabas to make an informed decision as to whether the water crisis is real and water rationing necessary.

The Selangor government’s proposal to the Federal Government to take over the operations of Syabas was handed over to a special cabinet committee set up just for this issue. However many citizens are doubtful if this committee would be able to remain independent as it was made up of politicians of the Barisan Nasional coalition that does not rule Selangor.

B.Joe is one of the sceptics:

The Selangor State Government had formally submitted their proposal to take over the operations of SYABAS to the Federal Government and it seems that the Federal Government had formed a committee of some kind to response to the proposal. But I don’t think the proposal (or any proposals for that matter) from the State Government on taking over SYABAS will ever succeed at the Federal level (this is not the first time the State Government have to deal with the Federal Government on the same issue – read “Federal Govt Sabotages Selangor“). And why should they?

Just look at the list of politicians heading the committee and you may question their impartiality on the requests (one is actively involved in the Take Back Selangor mission by citing the water issue as well). After all, the more trouble that the State Government is having, the more BN politicians will be able to paint the State Government as more inefficient, self-centred and corrupt.

This sentiment was shared by JI Pat on Twitter:

Asking politician like Noh Omar to the #SYABAS cabinet committee is akin to the appointment of Hanif to head the “independent” panel.

On July 23 2012, the committee on the issue announced that it has tentatively rejected the Selangor government’s proposal, but would not make a final decision until after the attorney-general has done so.

This issue is not a new one-  The possibility of a water shortage happening in Selangor had been raised before, as can be seen in this video where Minister for Energy, Green Technology and Water Peter Chin was interviewed on the issue. However this was only slated to happen in 2014.

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