Election Time Water Spates

UPDATE 2: Now it looks like the Federal Government using the same issue to bait for more votes. Najib said that Selangor’s water crisis can be solved but only when the people choose a government that can solve the water and trash problems. He went on to say that “it cannot be that the federal government cannot solve the problems. We can do it”. So, what’s stopping them from granting the necessary approval to the Selangor State Government to resolve the issue? Another case of you help me, I help you? I just hope the voters are not stupid as they wants us to be.

UPDATE 1: I-told-you-so. From Malaysiakini – The federal government has made an initial decision not to allow the Selangor government to take over the operations of state water concessionaire Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas). The special cabinet committee on the Selangor water issue agreed at its meeting that there are “substantial and procedural” matters that have not been met to allow Selangor to takeover Syabas. However, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the final decision would be made after the attorney-general deliberates on the matter. Seriously, one should not wait for the AG’s decision as well, the outcome seems to be rather obvious.

Back to the original post

(If you ask me personally, it seems to be another political power play by the BN Government in trying to wrestle back the State of Selangor – they have been at it since they lost it in the last general elections. So is this latest case of water crisis in the state another trick in place to create more trouble in the state and for the Pakatan Rakyat’s leadership? You tell me. Image source: Zunar / Malaysiakini)

Read this first:-

Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (SYABAS) has become a threat to our national security by threatening 7 million consumers in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya with water rationing where there is no shortage of water.

When SYABAS insisted on low water levels, visits by the Selangor State Executive Committee members Ronnie Liu and Xavier Jeyakumar to the various damns across the state yesterday proved that the dams are full and there is no shortage of raw water. Now SYABAS has officially admitted yesterday that there is no shortage of raw water, but instead shifted the goal post to claim that there is now shortage of treated water.

This is essentially an admission that the SYABAS treatment plants are either operating inefficiently or there are not enough treatment plant capacity at existing water reservoirs.

(Source)

And this:-

A cabinet committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has been set up to help resolve the Selangor water crisis.

It will look into the ‘serious’ conflict between the federal government, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (SYABAS) and the Selangor state government, said Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin today. The two contentious issues are water rationing proposal by SYABAS, and Mentri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s announcement that the state will take over SYABAS’ management – claiming that the latter had failed to discharge its duties in line with the concession agreement.

“The committee will look into issues such as water supply in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya,” Chin said no representative from the state government was invited to sit in the committee agreed upon during Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.

(Source)

If you have been reading the newspapers, internet and the blogs (from both sides of the divide) for the past few months, there seems to be some kind of a “guerilla warfare” against the 2 main opposition ran states of Penang and Selangor (the states of Kedah and Kelantan has a bit harder to touch). It is not a big surprise though – it has been so since BN lost big time in 2008.

In Penang for example, there seems to a major hoo-haa on the hillside development (previously it was on the issue of Malay traders and low cost housing) and in Selangor, it is on the State Government’s so-called botched Talam debt rescue plan of which both DAP’s Tony Pua and MCA’s Chua Tee are having a go at each other (interestingly there is only silence from the so-called crusaders of public funds on the millions to be spent on 2 fucking pandas!) and the claims of shortage of water in the Klang Valley blamed on the State Government not approving the new Langat 2 treatment plant (previously it was on the sand mining, garbage collection and PTPTN fiasco).

Out the many attacks on the PR’s led State Government, the on-going spate on the water issue is more critical and is more relevant to us all. After all, life is going to be very tough if you don’t have enough water for your daily needs – especially for those with small children and elderly relatives. Just imagine having a zero drop of water in your taps but on the outside it is raining cats and dogs. Just imagine having overflowing water at the dams but not enough water flowing out from the water treatment plants.

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. More so with the general elections coming up in the next months, you can expect more dirty politics to be lined up at both ends and I don’t think I am alone on this line of thought.

From Malaysiakini:-

Ferdtan: Like the passage “my cup runneth over”, we have more than enough for our needs. Why did water concessionaire Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (SYABAS) cause panic among Selangorians by suggesting that the water levels at the dams are low and they may resort to water rationing? The fear is further heightened by the coming Ramadan whereby difficulties would be suffered by the Muslims preparing food and cakes for themselves, and for sale during the festive season. Now it has been pointed out to be a blatant lie. The dams are full. Can a police report be made against SYABAS for spreading unfounded rumours causing panic among the people? This is an act of political sabotage. They must be censured and when Pakatan Rakyat takes over Putrajaya, SYABAS will be remembered.

Chipmunk: The mastermind behind this propaganda is none other than Umno. As usual, they instill fear into the rakyat and try to sabotage Selangor after having lost the state. Remember that Prime Minister Najib Razak said “Defend Putrajaya at all costs”, and this is one of their ways. The Selangor government should sue the pants off SYABAS for taking the rakyat for a ride. This is very unethical of SYABAS. But then again, Umno never had ‘ethics’ to begin with. Let’s see what the next act of sabotage Umno will come up with?

Kazakh: SYABAS is an Umno crony company, we all know that. They are now all out to destabilise the Pakatan state government by any means and we know the mainstream media papers are only reporting one side of the story. But we are not stupid, we support the state government’s move to take over the water management with immediate effect.

Mohan Gandhi: It is clear SYABAS is working with Umno-BN to manufacture a water shortage. With all dams at maximum capacity, why can’t SYABAS treat the water progressively over time? The main issue is the siphoning of the inflated project cost from the proposed Langat 2 treatment plant. All that is needed is better planning from the existing water treatment plants. You mean after all these years, Rozali cannot figure that out.

Odin: Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Peter Chin Kah Fui, I don’t have Einstein’s brains, but I don’t even have to think to tell that some of you in the BN stand to make a few hundred million each in easy money from the Langat project. The Selangor state government won’t play ball, and so you are making things difficult. The actual victims of your vengefulness will be the ordinary people – people who have to spend hours daily on the road to and from their workplaces, who have to struggle to cope with the ever-increasing cost of living. But to you all, they are nothing more than collateral damage. ‘People first, performance now’ did you all say? Rubbish! It’s ‘Me first, money now’.

(Source)

Interesting comments no doubt but let try to leave the dirty politics from the current water spate between SYABAS and the State Government for a second and let’s ask some pertinent but obvious questions – we may just have a real crisis at hand and we should not be missing the forest for the trees.

  • Do we really have a problem of the water supply not being enough to meet the demands of the day?
  • If the current supply is not enough to cover the current demand, do we have enough raw water to start with?
  • If we have enough raw water to start with, then do we have enough treated water to be distributed? And if no, what we are doing to ensure we have enough raw water for the treatment plants?
  • If we have enough treated water to be distributed, why raise the water issue then? If no, are the current water treatment plants being managed and running efficiently?
  • If current water treatment plants being managed and running efficiently, then there is a strong reason for us to relook into expanding the number of water treatment plants that we have by opting for the new Langat 2 water treatment plant. If no, then what are the shortcomings and what can be done to ensure that the current water treatment plants are managed and running efficiently?

MTUC and Coalition Against Water Privatisation posed similar questions to SYABAS:-

  • Outflow of raw water from dams and pumping stations into treatment plants from January 1, 2012-July 15, 2012;
  • Meter readings of the outflow of treated water into respective treatment plants for the same period;
  • Meter reading of the outflow of treated water to consumers distribution system (via Syabas)
  • Certified log books & calibrated meters
  • Electricity bills from January 1, 2012- July 15, 2012
  • Chemical usage for the same period
  • PuncakNiaga payment bills to Syabas for water sold for the same period.

Also read here and here for interesting comments on BN politicians’ response on the water crisis

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?

The state government, through the Selangor Water Management Authority (LUAS), controls the state’s seven dams, and water levels were between 92% and 100% as of July 2. “We only control the raw water in the state and there is more than enough, which means Syabas should be answering why it does not have enough treatment plants to provide clean water to the people, and why there is talk of water rationing today,” he said.

Jayakumar further claimed it was irresponsible of Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin and Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Noh Omar to suggest that the state allow Langat 2 to be built first and discuss water tariff hikes later. “Why waste RM8.65 billion of public funds, and allow a potential water tariff hike of up to 70% when the seven dams in Selangor are full and overflowing,” he said, calling on Syabas to inform the state of the actual situation on the ground.

(Source)

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).

SYABAS claims that the demand for treated water exceeds the current supply. If so, we should also relook into how best we can manage the utilisation of water and seek for alternatives – if there is wastage of water, we need to enforce the measures against such wastages. And can the authorities enforce and subsidizes eco-friendly rainwater harvesting system (which can minimise the usage on treated water for non-essential usages like water for the toilets and gardens) for all homes in the State? Are the current entities dealing with water treatment & supply ready to do this? If it is not, they need to be prepared to be taken over by someone else who can provide better and more efficient service and cleaner water. Right to clean water is a basic thing when it comes to the rights of every citizen in this country.

The last we need is for someone to politicize it at the expense of this right and any real water crisis clouded by dirty politics, greed and perhaps mismanagement of resources.

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