Centralised task force needed to tackle water woes

Unless there is proper management, the numbers of clean rivers will keep decreasing as industrial waste will always be there, says expert


A BLUEPRINT for a centralised task force that includes a realistic approach in managing the country’s river system should be formulated as part of a long-term solution to the ceaseless water supply interruptions which are caused by pollution.

Malaysian Water Association president Datuk Abdul Kadir Mohd Din said apart from finding an alternative source for water, the authorities should consider establishing a special task force comprising all agencies involved in water and river management that can oversee all related issues nationwide.

“I urge the government to set up a dedicated special task unit comprising representatives from all the different outfits who can look into the problem objectively and work on solutions to resolve the issue,” he said.

He cited the recent water disruptions that Selangor has to endure as an example and said the taskforce could also be in charge of all water-related issues in other states.

The recent water woes in Selangor came following the shutdown of four water treatment plants in Selangor yesterday after an odour was detected at the Selangor River, affecting five million people in seven areas in the state.

Water quality specialist Dr Zaki Zainudin said stern actions have to also complement the execution of the blueprint as there is a great discrepancy between the water management, particularly in Selangor, and the state of its river health.

Zaki added that one of the earliest matters that needs to be addressed through the blueprint is identifying the industries that should not be allowed to be located upstream or near water intakes to avoid pollution from the illegal industrial waste dumping.

“For Selangor, which has been the centre of industrial development in Malaysia, it is more difficult to ‘rezone’ the companies. However, it doesn’t mean that other states cannot benefit from the changes.

“Waste is essentially unavoidable in industrial production, so the only thing we can alter is by properly managing it,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Zaki added that the evaluation of the industries could derive from the list of businesses that are required to do the Environment Impact Assessment under the Department of Environment’s (DoE) jurisdiction.

Industries categorised under the DoE’s list of companies with the potential to leave traces of environmental impact are required to do the assessment which takes into account socio-economic and human health impacts.

“The reality is, more rivers that were slightly polluted are becoming more polluted as the numbers of clean rivers are decreasing.

“Unless there is proper management, the numbers of clean rivers will keep decreasing as industrial waste will always be there as long as the country is developing,” he said.

Abdul Kadir said the state government has to provide alternative water sources should the next disruption occur, as water disruption has unfortunately become a norm in Selangor.

He added that Selangor could also look into the utilisation of reserve water during emergency even if it would cost some investment in providing the infrastructure for the redirection of the waterway.

“(Water disruption) is happening too often and (Pengurusan) Air Selangor (Sdn Bhd) is running out of excuses. There is a need to commit to alternative sources of water to deal with frequent outage.

“Right now, they are relying solely on river water, but what they can do is to have alternative water sources that can be used as a backup when disruptions happen at the rivers,” he said.

Abdul Kadir added that in order to utilise the water reserve, its amount has to be increased as, at present, the level of water reserve in Selangor is limited.

“There is also the need to create direct channels that would link the water reserves to the treatment plants.

“Right now, water reserves are being released to the river to flush containments out. If there is a direct channel that can lead the water reserve to the treatment plant, then it can help limit the supply disruption that the public will have to go through.

“These water reserves can offer at least a day’s or two days’ worth of water supply, while work on the main water source gets done,” he told TMR.