Water rationing in Selangor: Authorities should stop playing stupid!

Dr Jacob George

Cindi Loo, The Ant Daily

Civil society has been sparring over what is meant to be a “lesson” behind the water rationing exercise in Selangor. Some say it is a reminder to educate consumers not to waste water while others feel that consumers are victims of a political ping-pong game and inefficient management of water.

On one hand, consumers affected by the ongoing Selangor water rationing exercise since early March have been told by experts to monitor their water usage so as not to waste water.

Water and Energy Consumer Association of Malaysia secretary-general Foon Weng Lian reportedly said the exercise will change the attitude of consumers who had taken the resource for granted and use them excessively.

However, another consumer association had lambasted critics for making consumers the scapegoat when water resources in Selangor have been badly managed for decades.

“It is always convenient for those responsible and had mismanaged the water resources to blame consumers over so-called wastages of water in order to hide their incompetence,” said Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam chairman Datuk Dr Jacob George (pic).

Selangor had been on a water rationing exercise since early March in a bid to regulate water consumption among all households in the state following a long dry spell that caused the water levels in several dams to reach critical points.

The rationing exercise would allow all areas in Selangor to enjoy some amount of water instead of having selected areas suffer through long periods of dry taps.

George told theantdaily that the rationing exercise is conducted in futility as it is only a short-term solution to a long-term problem that is likely to go on for years.

“We went on the ground to conduct our research in Selangor and other neighbouring states and we found that their water supply had not been properly managed, with the exception of Johor.

“This is supposed to be the most developed state in the country but it does not translate to intelligent management of resources,” he said.

George added that the authorities should pay attention particularly to the operations of water concessionaires that took their time conducting repairs and maintenance, such as to reduce the outflow of non-revenue water.

“The loss of non-revenue water is now at 33% to 35%, but the CEOs’ salaries seemed to keep increasing when they did not do their jobs properly,” he said.

He also urged the federal government and the state government, which are run by Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat respectively, to establish a proper joint working relationship that does not give way to allowing politicians to score points with the public.

“The present situation is akin to telling each other ‘I told you so’, especially when it comes with the Langat 2 water treatment plant. They are playing hostile ping pong and having back and forth arguments,”

“What we need now is a proper solution that does not involve politicians using this water issue to take pot shots over their rivals, and have us return to normal life as soon as possible” he said.

George also said the mixed messages sent out by the authorities as to the status of the current water rationing exercise can be infuriating to consumers.

“One moment they said the water rationing might extend all the way to December, but the other moment they said they can relax the rationing due to better water levels,”

“It shows that the authorities do not have a proper action plan that should be carried out and are relying on any changes of the environment. It’s very worrying,” he said.

The contention surrounding the water usage and the rationing exercise have stirred conversations about the amount of water an ordinary user will use in a day while unwittingly wasting water.

Although the public have blame much of their agony on the mishandling of water resources by authorities, Klang MP Charles Santiago said Malaysians used far more water in their households than those recommended by the United Nations.

“Malaysians used 500 litres per day, compared with 155 litres in Singapore and 90 litres in Thailand. The UN’s recommendation is only about 200 litres per day,” he said in a statement.

This has prompted him to urge that water users to switch up their lifestyle and play their part by reducing water usage on non-critical activities like washing cars.

“For example, even if the cars being washed were to be halved to say half a million a week, the amount of water being used daily for that purpose would be 1.75 million litres per day,

“Stopping cars from being washed saves up to eight times more water compared to water rationing,” he said.

Santiago also urged that both governments make rain harvesting as a priority measure to combat water shortages as the country may face another round of drought between June and September.

“There is a lack of political will on the part of the federal and state governments to stop commercial development in water catchment areas. Catchment areas should be gazetted urgently,”

“Both governments cannot play stupid anymore. They must enact laws and regulation to support rain water harvesting as a matter of priority given that we might be facing another drought between June and September this year,” he added.