Get cracking on water transfer scheme: Xavier tells Penang, Perak

Perak wants to sell treated water from Sungai Perak to Penang and Selangor.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang and Perak have been told to sit down as neighbours to discuss a water transfer plan from the silver state so that Penang will have enough water until 2050.

Currently, Penang’s main source of water, Sungai Muda, on the mainland, will only be able to meet needs until 2025. Hence, the Penang government has started looking to Perak for a sustainable water supply in the long run.

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar said both states should meet to discuss a win-win solution on the matter soon.

“Perak has more than enough water, with a surplus more than enough for her people. By selling water, Perak would get extra revenue yearly.

“I think it is too premature for me to insist on either states, Penang or Perak, to do something. But I suggest that both states get back to the drawing table, work on a win-win situation for both states.

“We are not in different countries but in the same country, divided by a border,” he said when asked over the Perak government’s offer to Penang and Selangor to buy treated water from them.

In 2009, the Penang government had mooted a plan to extract raw water from Sungai Perak and pump it through a tunnel to the Sungai Ijok river. Both rivers are in Perak.

Sungai Ijok is a southern flowing tributary of Sungai Kerian, which is shared by Penang, Perak and Kedah.

After the tunnel is completed, the Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBA) will build a water treatment plant at the Penang side of Sungai Kerian.

The plan was approved by the federal authorities in 2012 but the federal government did not proceed with the plan.

The project, called the Sungai Perak Raw Water Transfer Scheme, will cater to the water demands of Penangites until 2050.

The construction of the 14.8km tunnel is expected to cost the federal government about RM2 billion. The cost of building a water treatment plant at Sungai Kerian will be borne by PBA.

The four-phase water transfer scheme was expected to gradually increase the water supply to Penang by 1,000 million litres per day (MLD).

In Penang, water demand has increased by 11% in the past 10 years, from an average of 744 MLD in 2008 to 826 MLD in 2017, according to PBA.

Presently, Penang draws 80% of its water from the Sungai Muda river, which Penang shares with Kedah.

With both states dependent on the river, the supply is expected to last Penang until 2020-2025, according to the state’s previous reports.

Recently, Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu said his government was looking to sell treated water to Penang and Selangor instead of raw water as earlier proposed. He said it would all depend on negotiations between Perak and the states.

This was the same stance taken by the previous Perak BN government, which had also offered to sell treated water instead of raw water to Penang. Former chief minister Lim Guan Eng had vehemently refused the offer.

Lim said it would be too expensive to take in treated water as Perak was charging at least 70 sen per 1,000 litres for domestic users and this would lead to Penang charging people more for water in the state.