‘New water law will not take away rights of states’

Wan-Junaidi-Tuanku-JaafarPETALING JAYA: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is in the midst of drafting a new bill to standardise the management of water resources.

Expected to be tabled in Parliament in the middle of next year, the proposed legislation is needed as present laws on water resources only deal with water for consumption at home and for use in industries.

Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said other sectors, including agriculture and the environment, are not covered under present laws.

He said currently, there was no central management system to administer water resources nationwide.

“The present water policy is fragmented across the different states. Under this new proposal, there will be a central monitoring committee (to oversee the states).

“We are not taking away the rights of the states. We are just providing the rules, the framework and how to manage (the water resources),” he told reporters after attending the Sustainability Summit 2017, organised by The Economist, here today.

Currently, the water resources management guidelines and some of its policies differ from state to state.

Wan Junaidi said at present, engagement was still ongoing with different states, and without naming any state, he offered some advice to those who were stalling.

“This is for the common good of everyone, especially for states that do not have water resources, and those who have excess water resources,” he said.

Wan Junaidi said the new policy would enable the transfer of water from states with excess water resources to those with none.

“Matters relating to cost and payment can be decided among the states later. But we want to lay out the policy, laws and a system to transfer water,” he said.

The bill will enable state governments to apply a standardised water management system, which will be consistent with the federal-level policies on maintaining and safeguarding essential water resources.

The New Straits Times had previously reported that the bill was expected to contain aspects on coastal area management, underground water, flood mitigation and a contingency plan in case of drought.

The daily also reported that the bill would also contain sections on regulations to monitor the raw water resources such as rivers and tributaries.

Wan Junaidi said while the central government had powers which worked concurrently with those of the state governments, they had to engage with the states and other stakeholders due to politics.

“It takes a long time to introduce laws to streamline the management of the environment in Malaysia, as well as to streamline the usage and taking of other natural resources,” he added.