NGOs agree that at the end of the day, the consumers would be the ones most affected by the 'water crisis' issue even as Syabas, the federal government and the Selangor state refuse to come to a solution
PETALING JAYA: Should residents in the Klang Valley start panicking and begin stocking up on water? Despite having differing views on the matter, NGOs seem to all agree that the current “tit-for-tat” between the Selangor government and Syabas (Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor) is just confusing the public.
Two consumer groups FMT spoke to blamed Syabas for “misleading” people and indulging in “fear mongering”. Another group accused both sides of “politicking”. However, another group reportedly blamed the Selangor government today instead.
In a Bernama report this afternoon, the Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) urged the Pakatan Rakyat state to “stop giving misleading press statements on the current water issue in the state as it was causing unnecessary panic among consumers”.
Its president, S Piarapakaran, said the recent statement by the state government that the dams in Selangor were full and thus did not justify the call for water rationing was very misleading.
Voicing an opposite stance, the Water and Energy Consumer Association of Malaysia (WECAM) told FMT that Syabas must be criticised for having “overstepped its authority” when it announced its plan to ration water within the Klang Valley on July 14.
WECAM secretary-general Foon Weng Lian said the National Water Services Commission (SPAN), not Syabas, must first agree that there is a crisis and then approve a water rationing exercise.
“By publishing such statements in the mainstream media, Syabas is suddenly behaving and playing as if they are like SPAN, the regulators of the water industry, which they are not. That’s unacceptable. That is somehow misleading us into thinking that they are more than just a water distributor,” said Foon.
Foon admitted that treated water is insufficient but raw water is adequate. He said that according to the figures quoted by Syabas, WECAM also agrees that a water problem is imminent by the end of the year.
“We are not trying to point fingers, but we all know who is the one who is responsible for treated water; it is Syabas, whereas the state only looks after raw water,” he said.
Foon pointed out other contradictory statements by Syabas.
‘A false statement’
“When they say a water crisis is looming, they suggested building the Langat water treatment plant. But that takes three years to finish. If the water crisis is around the corner, and it happens this year, how can the plant solve this? This is inconsistent,” he said.
He said Syabas is saying that all water treatment plants are at full capacity but the fact is that some are at overcapacity, while some are undercapacity.
“Syabas is claiming that all is working at full capacity. That is a false statement. With all the available water treatment plant combined, we can supply more than the demand, meaning there is a surplus,” he said.
Foon also said WECAM supported the Selangor government’s move to step in and invoke a clause under the concessionaire agreement as it is “within their rights”.
(Khalid had announced that the Selangor government will invoke Clause 32 of the agreement to step in and take over operations currently handled by Syabas, with consent from the federal government.)
“Hopefully by this move, it will solve the whole issue. Syabas’ statements show that they are incapable of carrying out their duties,but now, instead of pointing fingers, we need someone to solve this as soon as possible, and not prolong it.”
Meanwhile, Consumer Association of Subang and Shah Alam (CASSA) president Jacob George called for an immediate plan of action,including an open dialogue between all parties.
He claimed that the “water crisis” in Selangor was “artificially created” by Syabas for political agendas.
“This is a vulgar abuse of the word ‘crisis’. I believe it has been politically manipulated by Syabas. They are crying wolf. Was there a black hand manipulating the scene for a politcal agenda, to make people angry over the state government?”
“It is basically fear mongering… a political spin to create unrest and now they are receiving the backlash from an angry electorate.”
“Some 90% of the people we talked to think that this so-called crisis is created by the federal government and Syabas to turn the local electorate against the Pakatan government in the bid to regain Selangor in the next election.”
George said that what is important now is to “go forward” instead of making unjustifiable statements in the media.
He said that since last weekend, CASSA has received about 20 calls from people who are concerned as they are afraid of the 1998 Klang Valley water crisis being repeated.
George said that the fact that Ramadan was around the corner is also contributing to more people panicking and rushing to buy huge tumblers to stock water.
He reminded the federal government that the constitution states that all local resources comes under the state’s control.
“The federal government should respect that and work alongside the state government. It should now severely reprimand Syabas for their stupid statements not supported by data and facts,” he said.
Meanwhile, Klang Consumer Association president Devdass Anjan said that there has been “too much politicking” and called for an independent audit on Syabas.
“Water is a basic right of human beings. Today, I don’t know who is telling the truth. This is a big headache – state and federal giving different statements.”
He said that his association supported Selangor’s government takeover and hoped that things are cleared soon.
Devdass advised the public to just conserve water at the moment.
Recently, Federation of Consumer Associations Malaysia’s (Fomca) secretary-general Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah had also reportedly urged Syabas to put aside politics and reach a solution.
On Saturday, Syabas announced that it was planning to implement water rationing in the Klang Valley following the worsening water crisis.
In response, Menteri Besar Khalid had said the state government intended to take over the management of Syabas in two weeks.
He denied that the state was running short of water, saying that all seven dams in Selangor had overflowing water levels.
“What water crisis? We have rain in the state. Syabas is incompetent in converting raw water to treated water. This is not similar to the 1998 water crisis at all,” Khalid had reportedly said.