KASA focuses on integrated water resources management at state-level

This will address the numerous gaps between water security and water resource management with the states 

By HARIZAH KAMEL / TMR FILE PIX

THE Environment and Water Ministry (KASA) is focused on promoting integrated water resources management at the state level to enhance ties with the federal government in managing the country’s water resources. 

KASA’s Department of Irrigation and Drainage deputy DG (business sector) Datuk Mohd Azmi Ismail said the ministry is moving towards addressing the numerous gaps between water security and water resource management with the states. 

“Water resources like rivers are under state jurisdiction and we at the federal level will look into the policies for it. We have to find gaps and learn from experience to put some effort together,” he said during the “Water Resources Management: Redefining Sustainability” conference at the International Greentech and Eco Products Exhibition and Conference Malaysia 2021 virtual event yesterday. 

Albeit the jurisdictional boundary between the state and federal level, Mohd Azmi said the government is implementing the Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) as one of the approaches to overcome any water crisis. 

IRBM is the process of coordinating conservation, management and development of water, land and related resources across sectors within a given river basin, to maximise the economic and social benefits derived from water resources in an equitable manner while pre- serving, and where necessary, restoring freshwater ecosystems. 

With the number of IRBM plans produced all over Malaysia, he believes the country is close to achieving well-managed water resources. 

The IRBM plans have been introduced throughout the country for a few years now, of which, 26 plans have been completed and under the 12th Malaysian Plan, 25 more plans are in production. 

In April this year, the National Water Council sanctioned IRBM plans to be mandatory reference in land development planning at state and district levels. 

Mohd Azmi said the government has embarked into the policy of the National River Trails that hopes to ensure the participation of the corporate sector and the community. 

River Care Programme manager Dr Kalithasan Kailasam pressed for more awareness of the connectivity between people and rivers, as well as the difference between water availability and potable water. 

“Malaysia is blessed with plenty of rain, from 2,000ml to 5,000ml per annum, and water is always available leading people to not take this matter seriously or treat this as a national security. The water tariff in Malaysia is also one of the lowest in the world, therefore, people don’t really see the need to conserve and save water. 

“Lately, we can see agencies have moved towards that perspective and hopefully in the near future, everyone can understand that there’s no life without water, not only for drinking but also for the economic sectors and the gross domestic product,” he said. 

Heineken Malaysia Bhd corporate affairs and legal director Renuka Indrarajah advocates to create awareness among communities and businesses about the importance of taking care the water resources to ensure sustainability. 

She said people don’t realise the major source of drinking water comes from rivers (97%) and many treat rivers like dumpsters. 

She added that businesses must realise that water is not an infinite resource to address issues such as scarcity, wastage and pollution. 

“If we do not take steps now to make a real difference, there are going to be problems further down the line in terms of sustainability of our businesses, the smooth operations of businesses will be disrupted as there are water cuts and shortages,” she said at the webinar. 

Mohd Azmi concluded that the way forward to manage water resources in the country is by improving old laws and enactments to reflect current socio-economic conditions, advising tariff setting to reflect river basin socio-economic and regions situation and integrating water-related data from various departments and agencies.