YET another disruption of water supply is affecting some 3.5 million consumers in the Klang Valley over an extended six days leading to Christmas. First, Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s maintenance work is a regular triennial affair making it clearly predictable for Selangor water companies to accommodate within their timeline. Instead, the public is told that because of TNB’s maintenance work at the Bukit Badong substation, which supplies electricity to the water treatment plants, there will be supply disruption. Second, what is particularly irksome is the timing, which, according to TNB, was decided by the water authority and companies. Maintenance would have been undertaken in September, but for the request of the water companies for a delay, which has led to this unfortunate fait accompli — no water when school is out and the lead-up to Christmas.

As the tale unfolds, it started with a confusing scenario which may have been caused by inaccurate reporting or a case of pinning the blame on TNB, but it soon became clear that the companies paid to supply water to the people of Klang Valley have not been honest. Indeed, TNB is doing maintenance work that cannot be put off any longer. But, given that it is scheduled, one would have thought that the water companies’ contingency plans to ensure uninterrupted supply were in place. Reportedly, the reason is not so much TNB’s maintenance work, but that the water companies are not equipped to handle the situation; their electric generators (gensets) are not powerful enough to feed their treatment plants. As a consequence, the utility giant is now working with the water companies to correct the problem.

Still, another mystery remains unresolved: why did the water companies and the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) request TNB to delay its maintenance work? Relying on the collective decision made at a meeting on Oct 31, TNB presumed that the water authorities and suppliers would know their needs best. Knowing that December is logically a high demand month because of the school holidays and Christmas celebrations, requesting for the delay makes little sense. Necessarily, an extended period of supply disruption would bring on a public backlash. But, no feasible explanation for this has been forthcoming.

Selangor’s water woes have been persistent; the frequent water cuts have morphed into banal incompetence, which now implicates SPAN. The consumers’ concern is this, when will all this stop? When will life resume to the days when water shortage is due to prolonged droughts? If there are water cuts, they should be scheduled accordingly, with ample time for residents’ preparations, and certainly not during festive celebrations. Water is a vital resource, and Malaysia, in its move to become a developed nation, cannot afford to have water cuts that disrupt life and daily operations. This latest episode in a series of blunders reflect the state government’s short-sightedness and its inability to protect the wellbeing of the people.

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