GEORGE TOWN: A top Penang state official today said the hard-sell stance taken by Perak in refusing to supply raw water to Penang was “complicating matters”.
It was also made worse by Putrajaya’s support for Perak’s refusal, Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy said.
Despite a national policy where a state can only transfer raw water to another state, the Perak government is pushing to sell treated water to Penang, Ramasamy said.
He said making it worse was the water, land, and natural resources ministry giving its full support to Perak to sell its treated water to Penang.
Ramasamy said the ministry, rather than adhering to a national decision that only raw water would be sold by states, appeared to favour a treated water option.
“The ministry’s lack of an independent stand on water transfer seems rather baffling. Why this is so is not clear.
“It is rather difficult for water-strapped states like Penang to clearly chart out water policy for the state without much help from the federal ministry.
“How can states that need water from their neighbours move ahead to ensure uninterrupted supply in the future, when policy measures are not heeded?” he asked in a statement.
Currently, Penang draws water from Sungai Muda, a river it shares with Kedah. Penang will be able to meet demands by extracting water from this river until 2025.
However, as this river is drying up, Penang has turned to its neighbour, Perak, for help, since it has water in abundance.
However, Perak turned down Penang’s plan to extract water from Sungai Perak but in turn offered to sell treated water at 70 sen per 1,000 litres, an offer which Penang flatly refused.
Ramasamy said the National Water Council, headed by the prime minister, had said in February that any water transfer between states must be in the form of raw water.
He gave the current examples of raw water transfer between Penang and Kedah, Johor and Melaka, and Johor and Singapore.
“However, Perak’s insistence on only supplying treated water is complicating matters for Penang, which is keen on stabilising water supply for the state in the next few decades.
“Despite a clear stated national policy of raw water for inter-state transfer, Perak’s obstinacy in only supplying treated water is making things difficult for Penang,” he said.
The idea to extract water from Perak began in 2009. The plan was to pump water out of Sungai Perak and channel it to Sungai Ijok, in north Perak.
Sungai Ijok, in turn, is a tributary of Sungai Kerian, which is shared by Penang, Perak and Kedah. Penang, through its Water Supply Corporation (PBA), was to build a water treatment plant at the Penang side of Sungai Kerian.
The plan was approved by the federal authorities in 2012 but never took off. Officially called the Sungai Perak Raw Water Transfer Scheme, the 14.8km water tunnel was expected to cost RM2 billion.
The cost of building a water treatment plant at Sungai Kerian was to 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 April this year, the Penang government had said the project may be funded via a private financing initiative.