15km Perak-Penang water supply project may be privately financed

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow (left) with Deputy Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji at the sidelines of the Water Security Conference in George Town today.

GEORGE TOWN: An interstate water transfer project between Perak and Penang once pegged at RM2 billion is likely to be privately financed, the Penang government says as the search continues for raw water sources other than Kedah.

Penang presently draws water from Sungai Muda, which it shares with Kedah. This is expected to meet demand until 2025.

Given the deadline, as well as the dip in water levels due to a prolonged dry spell, Penang has been looking to Perak for a long-term supply of raw water.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow today said that the water, land and natural resources ministry had received a private finance initiative (PFI) proposal for the project.

This was one of several proposals put forth so far, with no firm decision pending a discussion with the Perak government, he added.

He said negotiations had stalled as Perak wants to sell treated water to Penang, while Penang wants raw water from Sungai Perak.

“The ministry wants us to continue negotiating to find a middle ground. But there is no doubt that this project will be implemented.

“If Perak does not sell the water to us, the water will end up in the sea, anyway. We could put the excess water to good use,” he said after opening the Water Security Conference by the Asian Development Bank and Penang Institute here today.

In 2009, the Penang government mooted a plan to extract raw water from Sungai Perak which would be pumped through a tunnel to Sungai Ijok. Both rivers are in Perak. However, Sungai Ijok is a tributary of Sungai Kerian which is shared by Penang, Perak and Kedah.

According to the plan, the Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBA) would build a water treatment plant at the Penang side of Sungai Kerian once the tunnel is completed.

Federal authorities approved the plan in 2012 but the government did not implement it.

The project, called the Sungai Perak Raw Water Transfer Scheme, is expected to 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 the 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.

However, Perak was not keen on the project, with the previous Barisan Nasional administration offering to sell Penang treated water at 70 sen per 1,000 litres instead.