Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This is not the time to politicize water disruptions.

Media Statement by Yeo Bee Yin, State Assemblywoman of Damansara Utama on Tuesday 27 September 2016 in Petaling Jaya.

This is not the time to politicize water disruptions.

I was appalled watching video clips of Noh Omar’s press conference this evening about Selangor water disruptions. I have expected more substantial suggestions from a minister, but apparently he was more interested to score political point over Menteri Besar Azmin Ali.

First of all, I would like to remind Noh Omar that monitoring river quality is the responsibility of both Jabatan Alam Sekitar (JAS), which is a federal agency, and Lembaga Urus Air Selangor (LUAS), which is a state agency. Both the federal and state government should take collective responsiblities in controlling river pollution. In any case, the focus right now should be to work together to quickly identify the source of the pollution to ensure there is no reoccurence. After that, both governments need to ensure that the main culprit is charged at court and get the heaviest punishment possible as provided by the relevant laws. 

Secondly, I would like to inform Noh Omar that although Semenyih river pollution has led to the shut down of Semenyih water treatment plant (WTP), it was not the only factor for the prolong water disruptions. If Syabas water distribution network had sufficient water reserve, Semenyih WTP shutdown would not have disrupted the water supply. Nevertheless, our water reserve margin is at 1% only. The reason for this low reserve margin is many years of underinvestment in water infrastruture under the private consessionaires. Despite the federal government’s repeated bailouts of Syabas and Puncak Niaga to a total of RM3.6 billion in the form of grants and loans[i], the non-revenue water (NRW) of Syabas stayed as high as 33% instead of 20% according to the concessionaire agreement. At 33% of NRW, every 100 liter (L) of water produced at the WTP, only 67L reached the consumers while 33L is wasted through pipe leakages, thefts and unaccounted lost. If Syabas had reduced the NRW to 20% by replacing old pipes and upgrading infrastructure, our water reserve margin would have been more than 10%, which is sufficient for us to avoid this water disruption despite plant shutdown.

Thirdly, I would like to reassure Noh Omar that unlike the private concessionaires, whose main goal is to maximize profit leading to many years of underinvestment in water infrastructure, Selangor government has invested heavily in water infrastructure since taking over Syabas and Puncak Niaga in the end of 2015. Some of the main projects are as below: -
i.       Projek Mitagasi 2
a.     Total cost: RM 215 million
b.     Completed recently and increased Selangor water supply to Petaling district by 235 MLD.
ii.     Projek Mitigasi 3
a.     Total Cost: RM 43 million
b.     To upgrade Langat WTP to increase water supply to Hulu Langat district
c.      Project started and estimated completion in early 2017.
iii.    Construction of Semenyih 2 WTP
a.     Allocated Budget: RM 150 million
b.     Started construction and estimated completion in 2018.  
iv.    Construction of Labohan Dagang WTP
a.     Allocated Budget: RM 500 million
b.     Started construction and estimated completion in 2018.  
v.     Pipe replacement for 23 pipe burst hotspots 
a.     Allocated Budget: RM 133 million.
b.     In tendering process and estimated completion of all the 23 hotspots in 2018.

With the on-going projects listed above, Selangor will achieve a comfortable water supply position in 2018. Having said that, I believe there are many more initiatives Selangor government needs to embark on to ensure water security such as: -

i.                Invest in automated river quality monitoring and control system;
ii.              Run an effective water conservation program to manage demand;
iii.             Execute an aggressive action plan to reduce NRW;
iv.             Allocate more budget to replace pipes (more than 6,000 km old asbestos-cement pipes need to be replaced).

All in all, there are still so much that need to be done to ensure water security for the people of Selangor. If Noh Omar doesn’t have constructive suggestions, perhaps the best thing he can do is to let the Selangor state government does its works in peace.