PETALING JAYA: A centralised water management system, under the purview of the federal government, will go a long way towards alleviating the water supply problems in several parts of the country.
Experts and stakeholders said the move would ensure more resources, which would result in more efficient water supply system.
“States do not have the kind of financial resources nor the clout to enforce the law that the federal government has to stamp out pollution of water sources,” Klang MP Charles Santiago told theSun.
He was commenting on a report that Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Air Selangor) and Universiti Malaya are collaborating on water resources research.
Despite high annual rainfall and numerous rivers, people in several states continue to experience water supply disruptions.
Apart from higher-than-average consumption, poor management has often been cited as the reason for high frequency of taps running dry.
The average Malaysian consumer uses 219 litres of water a day, compared with only 140 litres by a Singapore consumer.
This high consumption, coupled with a rising population, has put more pressure on the country’s water resources.
In 1981, the country produced 2,126 MLD (million litres per day) of treated water. By 2017, it had risen eight-fold to 16,884 MLD.
In that same period, the population had barely doubled.
The Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (Awer) also noted that several factors must be addressed to ensure a continuous supply that is safe for consumption.
Awer president S. Piarapakaran said low reserve margin, uncontrolled land use and pollution were the issues that need to be addressed to ensure adequate and undisrupted supply.
Piarapakaran said there was an effort in 2008 to restructure the national water supply industry, which would entail an amendment to both state and federal laws. This will give the federal government executive power on water treatment and supply.
“However, this plan has been delayed,” he pointed out.
“States are reluctant to let go as water resources are also linked to logging, which is controlled by them,” he said.
This can be resolved by holding a referendum on the proposal to have the federal government take over control of the water management system, he added.
Kuala Langat MP Datuk Dr Xavier Jayakumar agreed that the federal government should be the single authority to regulate and control the use of water resources.
“I do not think the states should have autonomy,” he said.
Xavier, who was water, land and natural resources minister in the Pakatan Harapan administration, said Parliament could pass a legislation to hand power over water management to the federal government.
He said the supply of water should also be a public-private partnership and a cap be placed on the profit the private entity is allowed to make.
“This is the case in Denmark where almost half the drinking water is supplied by about 2,000 consumer-owned firms,” he said.
Environment interest group EcoKnights vice-president Amlir Ayat said more effective steps should be taken to ensure that business activities that have a high potential to pollute rivers are curbed.