Penang’s largest dam still unusable due to defects

State executive councillor Zairil Khir Johari (left) says the defects will be fixed and testing of the dam will begin in September.

GEORGE TOWN: The Mengkuang Dam in Bukit Mertajam is still in a state of disuse due to defects, the state assembly heard today.

State executive councillor Zairil Khir Johari said a “draw-off tower”, or water pump drawing water from Sungai Kulim into the dam, was faulty.

This has made it impossible for the dam to be filled and tested for safety, he said.

However, the other water pump, which draws water from Sungai Muda, was functioning, he added.

Zairil said many of the slopes surrounding the dam were eroded and this also needed to be rectified.

“The defect liability period for the project is until November next year.

“The Penang government will insist that all these defects are fixed and handed over to us,” he said during his winding-up speech.

Zairil said the expansion work was undertaken by the federal government on Aug 1, 2011, and was supposed to be handed over to the state water authority, the Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBA), on July 31, 2016.

He said the project was only completed on April 10, 2017.

Zairil said the Penang government had refused to accept the defective dam and talks were held with the then energy, green technology and water ministry.

He said under the new federal government, the project now came under the water, land and natural resources ministry.

“Fortunately, a recent discussion with the ministry and PBA has been fruitful.

“They have agreed to fix the water pump in question and will conduct testing and hands-on training before the dam is handed over to the state government. We expect the testing to begin by September.”

Outside the chambers, Zairil said repairing the water pump at the Mak Sulong pumphouse would cost RM60 million.

The overall cost of the Mengkuang Dam expansion has been reported to be RM1.2 billion.

After expansion, the dam is expected to fill 73.5 million cubic metres of water, compared with 22 million cubic metres currently. The water will then be channelled to the Sungai Dua Water Treatment Plant in Butterworth.

When completed, the dam, which is the largest in the state, will boost Penang’s water supply by three times.

Currently, Penang’s water is the cheapest in Malaysia at 32 sen per 1,000 litres for the first 35,000 litres of water. The national average is 66 sen.

The state also recorded the highest volume of water used at 286 litres/capita/day (l/c/d) last year, compared with the national average of 209 l/c/d. The United Nations’ recommendation is only 148 l/c/d.