A state executive councillor suggests that the people be allowed to decide if the state government should take over Syabas.
PUTRAJAYA: The Selangor government may hold a referendum to allow the people to decide if they are in favour of the state goverment’s intention to take over water concessionaire Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas).
Selangor excutive councillor for health, plantation workers, poverty and compassionate government, Dr Xavier Jayakumar, said this during a site visit to the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant with the press today.
“We know we are in the right, and we are confident that the rakyat of Selangor have faith in the government they elected,” he said.
He reiterated the government’s stance that there was no water crisis in Selangor, but conceded that there may be issues by 2015.
He added that the state government was ready to take serious steps to ensure sufficient and affordable water supply for the people.
Earlier today the Special Cabinet Committee on Water, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, decided that there was no need to ration water supply to Selangor and the surrounding areas in the Federal Territories.
However, Muhyiddin said that the issue has come to a “critical level” as there are several areas in the Klang Valley where “water is not forthcoming”.
He said that while water reservoirs are filled to the brim, five raw water treatment plants are working at over-capacity and are at risk of a breakdown.
Muhyiddin also said that the committee had made an initial decision to disallow the Selangor government from taking over operations of Syabas.
Muhyiddin added the federal government will go ahead with building the Langat 2 water treatment plant without Selangor state’s approval.
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Charles Santiago, coordinator for the Coalition Against Water Privatisation, said Muhyiddin’s statements were at odds Syabas’ previous statement.
He said that the only way to resolve the stalemate would be for Syabas to accept an independent audit.
“Where the hell is the rationing now? What is going on? This proves that it was all a manufactured crisis and the federal government is supporting it,” said the Klang MP.
He said that Syabas’ refusal to cooperate has forced the Selangor government to take drastic measures.
He added that he would demand answers and figures from Syabas this week.
Also responding to Muhyiddin’s statement, Jayakumar said that the state has not been informed of these decisions.
“It’s is Pakatan’s view that Langat 2 would be a white elephant. The federal government is more interested in supporting a crony company and holding the people to ransom,” he said.
Asked if Selangor had the figures to guarantee that there would not be a water crisis in the near future, Jayakumar said that the numbers would be provided soon.
He said that Syabas has been uncooperative in providing these figures, but added that the state government figures show no indication of a water shortage – either raw or treated.
He said that as far as the state is concerned, Selangor’s seven dams are full.
State ready to spend money
In a related matter, Jayakumar said that Selangor is prepared to spend its own funds to ensure people have enough water if the federal government refuses a request for RM225 million to fulfil the state Mitigation Project 2.
“It is the duty and responsibility of the federal government and Syabas [Puncak Niaga] to maintain, upkeep and upgrade all these water assets, which are leased to them by the state… [but] Selangor is prepared to spend its own funds on these mitigation projects.”
The upgrades will include two water treatment plants (SSP1 and SSP3) which are under the control of the Selangor government.
These two plants, according to Jayakumar, are running below their maximum capacity output and require additional infrastructure to channel treated water out of those two plants.
He also said that the Selangor government was prepared to spend another additional RM200 million to RM300 million for a technology upgrade to supply treated water.
“This will be done without disruption to the present supply and we would be able to generate an extra 100million to 150 million litres daily.
“Currently, our consultants are looking at the costs of implementing membrane technology and we estimate that this can be done in a year,” he said.
Jayakumar said that the Selangor government was also mulling the possiblity of going to court if “pushed into a corner”.
No danger of breakdown
During the visit today, Jayakumar took members of the media around the treatment plant run by Konsortium ABASS Sdn Bhd (a subsidiary of Kumpulan Perangsang Selangor Bhd).
Operations general manager, Basar Ishak, said that the plant was getting 150 million gallons of raw water daily and is supplying 144 milliong gallons of treated water a day.
It is also running at over-capacity as it is designed for 120 million gallons a day.
Contradicting Muhyiddin, the plant’s assistant general manager of operations, Ahmad Rosli Mat Arham, said there is no danger of a breakdown as a plant is normally capable of producing 20% more than its designed capacity.
The water levels, at 111.03 (maximum dam level 111mm), is also “overflowing”. In the past year, there has been only one occasion when the treatment plant needed to release the water dam for a day due to insufficient raw water.
The plant makes up 12% of the total production of water demand, distributing to areas such as Puchong, Seri Kembangan, Putrajaya, Bangi, Dengkil, Sepang, KLIA.
Last week, Syabas sparked off a controversy when it announced that it was planning to implement water rationing in the Klang Valley following a shortfall of treated water.
It said that it would apply to SPAN (National Water Services Commission) to conduct immediate water rationing in Kuala Lumpur, Hulu Langat and Klang.
This prompted Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim to say that 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.
Subsequently, Khalid proposed the sacking of Syabas executive chairman Rozali Ismail and CEO Ruslan Hassan to the water concessionaire’s board as the duo failed to turn up at the state’s recently formed monitoring committee on the water situation.
Pakatan Rakyat leaders and several NGOs had accused Syabas of indulging in politics by “manufacturing” the crisis in order to hasten construction of the RM3.6 billion Langat 2 plant.
The federal government also responded by announcing the setting up of a cabinet committee, chaired by Muhyiddin, to handle the conflict between the Selangor government and Syabas.
Earlier today, about 200 people protested against Syabas’ water rationing plan outside Wisma Rozali, accusing Syabas of “political sabotage” ahead of the 13th general election.