Terengganu to merge water and sewage treatment bills

by AFIQ AZIZ/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

TERENGGANU has agreed to consolidate its water and sewage treatment bills by early next year as both the state and federal administration aim for better efficiency in water-related utilities management.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar said for a start, some 20,661 customer accounts are expected to receive the joint billing from March 1, which will be managed by the state water operator Syarikat Air Terengganu Sdn Bhd (Satu).

“The integrated billing involves the combination of water and sewerage accounts in the state, which is about 7% of all the accounts in Terengganu,” he said at the exchange of agreement ceremony between Satu and Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd (IWK) in Kuala Lumpur last Friday.

The national sewerage operator was represented by CEO Narendran Maniam, while Satu CEO Atemin Sulong attended on behalf of Terengganu’s water supplier.

The agreement signing was also witnessed by Water, Land and Natural Resources (KATS) Minister Datuk Dr Xavier Jayakumar.

Dr Xavier said the move will enhance the management and efficiency of the water and sewerage industries, while supporting Putrajaya’s aspiration towards more integrated water and sewage services in the future.

“The joint billing is a convenience as customers can make payment through one bill and call the same customer service hotline for both water and sewerage.

“We hope that other states will emulate Terengganu, the first in Peninsular Malaysia to implement the joint-billing initiative,” he said, adding that it was first implemented in Labuan, Sabah, in 2016, which has successfully reached 91.6% of annual collection rate payable to IWK.

To enhance the sewage treatment system in Terengganu, Dr Xavier said it is already in the government’s master plan to build the first Terengganu centralised sewage treatment plant (CSTP) within the next five years — in line with the 12th Malaysia Plan.

“We are discussing to set up one big CSTP in Kuala Terengganu, which will cater the population and could accommodate the development up to 50 years,” he said, adding that KATS has also identified locations in Johor Baru and Kelantan for the development of such facility.

Narendran said IWK forecasts the Kuala Terengganu CSTP to cater about 200,000 population equivalent.

There are currently over 6,000 small treatment plants in the country, while only 300 CSTPs have been established.

He added that from a total of four million accounts registered with IWK, only 60% of them are connected to the public sewerage system.

On a related matter, Dr Xavier said the ministry is looking to amend related laws to enforce all developers to connect their projects to CSTP.

“Developers escaped the public sewage treatment system because of a loophole in the development plan that does not require projects of fewer than four hectares to be tied to a centralised sewage system,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the issue of IWK’s proposed tariff increase, Dr Xavier said the matter is still being discussed between the ministry and related stakeholders.

“At present, there will be no increase in tariff as far as this joint billing is concerned. However, pertaining to the concern of the tariff hike itself, we will address it later,” he said, noting that the IWK fee has not been reviewed for the last 25 years.

Last week, IWK appealed to the government to review the sewerage services tariff in the first quarter of next year, first by streamlining the tariff for all domestic service categories to RM8, while excluding the low-income (bottom 40%) group and those registered under e-Kasih. Meanwhile, the second option was a minimal RM2 increase for each category.

IWK said, currently, the operating cost is RM18 per household, but the sewerage operator only charges eight sen per cu m, stating that this is among the lowest in the world.