How will the govt deal with the country’s water issues?


KUALA LUMPUR – The subject of water in Malaysia can spark heated debate especially because of the pollution problems in recent years.

Last year’s repeated water supply disruptions in Selangor and the Klang Valley due to pollution has people worried about what lies ahead.

There was also the 2019 chemical waste pollution in Sg Kim Kim, Pasir Gudang in Johor which caused people to fall ill from toxic fumes and led to the closure of schools.

The question then arises as to how long we will have a problem with water pollution.

Environment and Water Minister, Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, admitted that the water sector needs holistic development to ensure a better future for the people.

He said that aside from pollution, other issues facing the sector are water catchment areas in a critical condition, lack of connecting pipes between water treatment plants (LRA), dependence on just one source of water and the lack of a centralised industrial effluent discharge system.

“A study of the National Water Policy under the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) is being conducted, including on water resource development and the water distribution sector, integrated water resources management (IWRM) and water security.

“Climate change is already occurring which can cause many unexpected things to happen. So we need to have a plan. Based on the study, we’re deciding implementing till 2040,” he told Bernama.

Tuan Ibrahim said that among the steps being taken by the Ministry of Environment and Water (KASA) to deal with river pollution are developing the forested land close to the river into a recreational area to discourage littering.

The government is also planning to develop a centralised effluent discharge system so that if industrial pollutants enter the river it can be dealt with early so that it does not affect LRA operations.

“At the moment, industries have their own effluent discharge system, but if we have a centralised system, it will be easier and faster for us to detect pollution. KASA is holding a discussion with state governments and industries concerning this.”

Tuan Ibrahim added that the government is planning to create a network of pipes between the LRA which it believes will prevent water supply disruption to consumers if pollution occurs.

“Now, for instance, if LRA A is unable to supply water, LRA B isn’t able to help. So we want to create a connection of pipes so that if an LRA is out of action, other LRAs can intensify their operations and do their part (in producing treated water). Not a complete standstill.”

Malaysia has 499 LRA and 85 dams – 93 LRA and eight dams in Sarawak, 73 LRA and four dams in Sabah, 72 LRA and eight dams in Pahang, 46 LRA and 10 dams in Perak and 44 LRA and 14 dams in Johor.

Kedah has 38 LRA and six dams, Selangor 35 LRA and 10 dams, Kelantan has 35 LRA and two dams, Negeri Sembilan has 23 LRA and eight dams, Terengganu has 12 LRA and two dams, Penang and Melaka have nine LRA and four dams each, Labuan has six LRA and three dams, Perlis has four LRA and one dam, while Putrajaya has one dam.

When asked about Malaysia’s drought readiness if it happens, Tuan Ibrahim said several steps have and are being taken by the government to make sure enough water is stored if this situation arises.

He said that although the condition of water catchment areas is quite critical, he has discussed with the various Menteri Besar to gazette them and ban logging to ensure water resource sustainability.

At the same time, the government is increasing the number of off-river storage (TAPS) projects near the LRA to become a second or alternative source of water for consumers.

“During the monsoon season, we have a lot of water. This is the time to store it so we can benefit from it when there is a water shortage. This is the reason for TAPS.

“Say a river becomes polluted, TAPS can help. The initiative was started because of the risky dependence on just one source of water (the river).”

Besides this, there is a new initiative to have different types of national water sources such as reclaimed water for use by non-food industries in cooperation with Selangor, the first state to do so.

“It is hoped that it will reduce dependence on treated water in future. We will carry on (with this initiative) in other states that have an integrated wastewater treatment plant so that we can increase state water storage.”

Reclaimed water comes from a water reclamation facility (LRAP) that puts bio-effluent from an Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) sewage treatment plant through ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis.

The first LRAP started in Setia Alam, Selangor is able to produce up to 7.5 million litres of reclaimed water per day.