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Johor’s water crisis needs urgent solutions

November 3, 2017

Writer says the federal and Johor governments should draft a timetable to restore the surrounding catchment areas and take action against unauthorised farming activities there.


Liew-Chin-Tong-air-masalah-johor-1By Liew Chin Tong

The government must provide solutions to Johor’s water supply crisis to ensure that the people have a sufficient supply of clean and safe water. I have raised this issue in Parliament multiple times and submitted two related questions on the issue during this Parliament session.

The Kahang dam, which is located in Kluang, began construction in May 2014 and was completed in May 2017. Yet, it is unusable because the Kahang water treatment plant has not yet been built.

The dam and water treatment plant should have been built simultaneously so that water can then be supplied to the people. Having a dam without a water treatment plant is as good as manufacturing cars without engines.

This demonstrates the Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s lackadaisical water resource planning. The people have already waited three years for the dam, but they now have to wait another few years for the water treatment plant to be completed.

Kahang water treatment plant must be completed urgently

This week, I asked Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Maximus Ongkili to tell Parliament when the Kahang water treatment plant could be completed and, in the meantime, what the water supply contingency plan is for the area.

The minister said the construction of the Kahang water treatment plant was originally carried out by Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad (PAAB), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the finance ministry. However, the Johor state government eventually decided to take over the project and PAAB ceased financing it.

In between handing over from the federal to state government, the project was stalled for a few months.

On Sept 8, the National Water Services Commission finally approved the Johor state government’s project and demanded that the Johor state government complete the project within 18 months.

At the same time, the plan to extract water from the Kahang dam to the Sembrong Timur water treatment plant was scrapped, to be replaced with the upgrading of the Sembrong Barat water treatment plant’s system.

Johor DAP will continue to monitor the Kahang water treatment plant project through our state assemblymen and pressure the Johor state government to complete the construction of the water treatment plant as scheduled.

Unauthorised farming activities affecting water supply

In my speech in the Special Chamber of Parliament on Nov 7, 2016, I pointed out that the main reason for the water crisis in Johor was that the forest’s water catchment area has been invaded by unauthorised farming activities. Apart from the shortage of raw water, the chemical pesticides used in these unauthorised farming activities have also led to water pollution.

S K Devamany, the acting deputy minister of energy, green technology and water, admitted at the time that the catchment area around the dam had been turned into plantations and agricultural land, and the volume of raw water from the Sembrong Kiri river had been affected by the surrounding crops.

In the same way, shortage of raw water in the Sungai Lebam dam and Congok dam is due to the surrounding large-scale papaya and oil palm plantations.

I propose that the government gazette the water catchment areas for protection. The federal government and the Johor state government should draft a timetable to restore the surrounding catchment areas and take action against unauthorised farming activities there.

Ammonia pollution contaminating water source

My second question raised in Parliament in this sitting was to follow up on the gazetting of water catchment areas. As of December 2016, the Johor state government had gazetted 85597.61 hectares of water catchment areas. In the same question, I asked the government how it dealt with the issue of ammonia contaminating the water source.

According to the written responses I received, the ministry stated that the causes of ammonia pollution included sewage inflows, cultivation and aquaculture activities, and that the federal and Johor state agencies would work together to oversee and deal with industries that cause the pollution.

Following our expose, the Johor state government ordered the closure of the related egg-handling and chicken manure processing factories.

Improving water supply and maintaining water resources is one of the prime agendas of Johor DAP. When Pakatan Harapan governs Malaysia and Johor, we will step up water resource management.

At this stage, we are actively monitoring the water supply policies of the federal and Johor state government to ensure that the basic needs of the people will be met.

Liew Chin Tong is Kluang MP and DAP central executive council member.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.


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