KUALA LUMPUR: The lackadaisical attitude of government departments, agencies and officers towards protecting water resources needs to be addressed in tackling the spate of water disruptions.
Klang Valley residents are no strangers to water cuts, having experienced three episodes this year.
Following each episode, experts were quick to point out the lack of enforcement and need for stiffer punishment, yet their advice appears to fall on deaf ears as authorities fail to heed calls to put in place a comprehensive action plan to act against the perpetrators.
The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations, when contacted by the New Straits Times yesterday to comment on the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant pollution, said the problem was because “people are sleeping on the job”.
Its chief operating officer, Saravanan Thambirajah, who is Water and Energy Consumer Association of Malaysia president, said the issue could have been prevented if the areas concerned were under constant surveillance, especially during the rainy season.
It was high time for the government and relevant bodies to step up enforcement and monitoring of river banks and water catchment areas, he said.
“The problem is they are not doing that. If they are, I don’t think we will have this issue. They should be aware of hotspots where culprits dump chemicals or waste.
“During the rainy season, businesses will dump illegal waste into the river. If the authorities look into the statistics, it will show that this happens every year.
“That means somebody is sleeping on the job. If they really monitor, they can identify the affected areas, time frame of river pollution, type of chemical found and identify the culprits.
“The problem is the government does not have the willpower to go after these culprits.”
Saravanan said the government should have a strategy to tackle this problem, such as setting up a task force and a national council for water protection.
Among the parties concerned are Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry; Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry; Department of Environment; state governments; and, other local authorities.
“Consumer groups have been pressuring the relevant parties about this issue since the 1990s. They have been listening and talking, but I don’t see any move beyond that.
“For example, does the ministry or agencies have a 10-year plan to protect water catchment areas?”
He called on the government to make public the names of the perpetrators and companies that dump toxic waste into rivers and have their licences revoked.
“Stricter punishment and a higher penalty should be imposed.
“The law is supposed to protect consumers, but if there is no enforcement, how will people be protected? How will these rivers be protected?”
He said consumers affected by the water supply disruption should be given discounts.
“When we pay our water bills, we expect to see water when we turn on the taps. Now, if that cannot be delivered, of course, consumers have to be given discounts.
“It is a burden for consumers each time there are water cuts as they look for water sources, carry pails of water home and to high-rise buildings.
“Frequent water disruption is enough reason why the IWK sewage and water bill should not be merged.
“Fomca is against the idea of merging the bill, as at the end of the day, consumers will be the victims.”
He said the government had failed to live up to its promises.
Pakatan Harapan had, in its 14th General Election manifesto, pledged to resolve Selangor’s water issue within 100 days of coming into power.
“They promised that water services would be improved, but it has only gotten worse.
“Consumers are the ones who are suffering. People will celebrate Christmas in a day, and they are worried whether they are going to get water.”
He also said the water crisis should not be politicised and the ruling coalition and opposition should work together to resolve the issue.
“Should the government fail to act on this water disruption, it will be no surprise if we see a change in government in the next general election.
“Water is a fundamental need for consumers. This is going to have a huge effect on all.”
The Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant was forced to shut down completely yesterday due to odour pollution, caused by parties who disposed of illegal toxic waste with solvent odours into IWK sewage manholes in Bandar Bukit Mahkota.
Following the closure, 336,930 consumer accounts in Petaling, Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang have been affected.