If demand for water increases, it will trigger rationing in Selangor, according to a UTM professor.
SHAH ALAM: The construction of the Langat 2 water treatment plant is no longer an option but a much-needed solution to avert a water crisis in Selangor, said a Universiti Teknologi Mara professor, today.
Prof Suhaimi Abdul Talib, the university’s assistant vice-chancellor for development, facilities management and ICT, said the Langat 2 plant should be viewed from its location, as it would enable water supply to needy areas as well as relieve the existing treatment plants which are currently operating beyond their capacity.
“The plant at Langat can actually address that issue, so we need this treatment plant,” Suhaimi told Bernama in an interview here.
Suhaimi, an engineer by training, said the areas in Selangor which are facing water disruptions are the same areas where the treatment plants are running at full capacity with some as high as 120%.
“If the water demand in these areas increases, they will certainly be in for shortages and this will trigger rationing,” he said.
“From my observation, Selangor is already on the verge of a water crisis and this is all due to the rapid economic development in the state, which has outstripped the infrastructure available at the moment,” he added.
Citing the economic development of Selangor from the number of cars on the road as an analogy, he said had the Malaysian Highway Authority not been far-sighted in planning for the construction of traffic dispersal projects like the MRR1, MRR2 and MRR3, there would have been no space to accommodate all the vehicles.
“It’s the same with water when we have industries which are approved and new industrial areas being opened up. These industries need people and there is bound to be a population increase. An increase in population means more water supply is needed and this does not include the water needs of the industries per se. And it is this upsurge of people and industries that has brought Selangor closer and closer to a water crisis,” said Suhaimi.
Water reserves rapidly depleting
On the supply and demand side, he noted that two years ago, Selangor’s water reserves stood at 6.0% but had dropped to less than 3.0% this year, compared to the ideal reserves of 10%.
The Selangor government under the Pakatan Rakyat coalition has yet to approve the development order for the Langat 2 plant, but the federal government has announced that it is proceeding with the project, stating that tenders to bid for its construction would be called soon.
Suhaimi also warned that the state’s water reserves were depleting very fast and this year alone, demand had exceeded supply twice in May and June.
Saying that this was an early indication of rampant water shortages which could happen within six months, he added that this was an “indisputable fact”.
Asked as to the cause of the problem, he said that it all boiled down to planning.
“If the infrastructure planning is not in tandem with the pace of development, this will happen. If we had known that there would be new investments and new industrial areas being opened up, we certainly can anticipate whether there is sufficient water supply, electricity and telecommunications. So we need to make available these additional infrastructure, otherwise the existing ones just can’t cope,” he said.
As to allegations by the Selangor government that Syabas, the privatised water concessionaire, had been inefficient in reducing non-revenue water (NRW), Suhaimi said that on the contrary, Syabas had done very well on this front.
“The fact is, from my interactions with the various water industry players, I have come to the conclusion that before Syabas took over the distribution of water, NRW was actually very high at 40%. Syabas has carried out replacements of old pipes and NRW has been reduced to 30%,” he said.
But Suhaimi said the efficiency in managing NRW did not rest entirely with management as what was more important was capital injection, adding that without new capital, “no matter how good the management, your hands are tied”.
He said the management of NRW in Penang was better than in Selangor simply because its state water authority had received capital injection to upgrade this vital infrastructure, unlike in Selangor where according to Syabas, the state government had refused to approve its capital expenditure despite its provision under the concession agreement.
Asked on the mitigation projects implemented in Selangor to tackle the problems, he said such projects were at best only temporary measures while a long-term solution could only come with the Langat 2 plant which was designed to meet water demand up to 2020.
“It is inevitable that over the long term, we need additional treatment capacity. We have no issue with raw water, but the issue is treated water,” said Suhaimi.