The Star, 19 Mar 2014
WATER rationing was something that the Klang Valley experienced once upon a time in 1998. Back then, it was blamed on the phenomenon known as El Nino.
Today, Klang Valley residents are experiencing a water rationing exercise once more, but there is no freak global weather pattern to pin the blame on for the lack of rain.
Instead, there is evidence that uncontrolled development is perhaps part of the reason for the water shortage.
The Federal Government’s National Physical Plan for development in peninsular Malaysia, approved by the Cabinet in 2005, stated that Selangor would have sufficient water supply until the year 2050.
“The per capita water availability for peninsular Malaysia in 2050 is projected to decrease to approximately 3,000 cubic metres per year.
“It is projected that Negri Sembilan will face severe shortage by 2010; Penang and Malacca by the year 2020. Selangor and Perlis will be in the same category by 2050. The water-rich states are Perak, Johor, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.” (Source: National Physical Plan)
However, these projections were also based on the need to establish a growth limit for townships.
Each township has facilities that are sufficient to support a limited number of people, and this includes water supply for the population. The term for this limit is called “carrying capacity.”
Following the report, the Selangor government gazetted and published, in 2007, the Selangor State Structure Plan that showed townships such as Petaling Jaya having a carrying capacity of 250,000 people.
As of 2013, Petaling Jaya already reached a population of 600,000, more than double the carrying capacity.
On water supply, the Structure Plan stated: “All existing main raw water resources have been fully used. Measures need to be taken to identify new sources of raw water to ensure future supplies.”
On the same page, the report provides numerous proposals to be implemented, one of which reads as follows; “To execute raw water transfer project from Kelau Dam in Pahang to water treatment plant in Langat Dam (Phase 1) in Selangor before water shortage crisis occurs in Selangor.”
Instead of dealing with an issue that was predicted and known, the Selangor government allowed development projects to continue unabated without allowing the Langat 2 water treatment plant to be built. Instead, the building of Langat 2 was tied to the acquisition of the privatised water concessionaires.
The question then is why are approvals of development projects not similarly tied to the building of Langat 2?
By allowing the growth of townships to go beyond the projected limits, the Selangor government caused the demand to go beyond what was originally planned for.
At present, it appears that Langat 2 might not be happening despite the signed memorandum of understanding between Selangor and the federal government.
While our politicians attempt to sort out the issue, there are numerous upcoming development projects that will also tax the existing water supply system.
The government should be more prudent about preserving existing raw water resources.
For example, the Ampang Forest Reserve is in danger of being de-gazetted to build the Eastern Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE) while the entire Rubber Research Institute Malaysia (RRIM) spanning 665.6ha has also been earmarked for development.
Former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi understood the importance of protecting our environment and provided a number of specific development rules to protect the environment.
In a government circular dated Jan 3, 2006, Abdullah listed out four very specific instructions for all state governments and local councils to comply with.
·An Environment Impact Assessment Report (EIA) is required for any area larger than 20 ha to be developed, compared to the previous standard of 50 ha. An EIA report is also required if an area is broken up into smaller pieces in succession for development if the total area is 20ha;
·All land that is between 40 to 80ha that was cleared but not developed must be returned to the government. The government will pay the land owner the cost of the land and develop that land as a recreational park for nearby residents;
·All trees with a diameter of 0.8m or more cannot be felled. The Forestry Department and other related agencies will mark all trees that cannot be felled if an area is to be developed; and
·All laws and rules related to environmental protection must be enforced immediately. Enforcement must be tightened and the authorities must take action against those who violate those laws.
These rules were instructed under the Town and Country Planning Act, which the Selangor government has ratified for use in the state.
Perhaps the Selangor government would like to explain in detail how water supply to the state can be maintained during the dry seasons with some facts and figures, as what little information available to the public now does not paint a promising picture.