New law coming to regulate dam safety, says minister

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar speaks at the conference in George Town today.

GEORGE TOWN: Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar says the government will begin drafting a law to safeguard the operation of water dams across the country, taking a leaf from other countries that have such legislation in place.

Speaking at the launch of the three-day International Conference on Dam Safety Management and Engineering here today, he said there are currently no laws or guidelines for dam safety or maintenance.

Likewise, there are no regulatory bodies tasked with checking on operations.

He said a centralised regulatory body will be set up next year once the law is enacted, adding however that this will only take place after the studies are concluded.

“Before 2018, the safety management practices of dam operators in the country were largely self-regulated,” he said.

This continues to be the practice at all 104 dams in the country, he added, with a ministerial “dam safety flying squad” inspecting facilities nationwide.

“This flying squad ensures that dams do not endanger lives and public property, and that catchment areas have not been trespassed and pollution surrounding the dams can be prevented.

“The squad conducts multi-ministerial, multi-agency audits on the dams together with experts from time to time,” he said.

Of the 104 dams in the country, 60% are for water supply purposes with a capacity of 2,500 million cubic metres, while the rest are for power generation, flood mitigation, farm irrigation and sedimentation control.

At a press conference later, Xavier said the Perak raw water supply to Penang issue would be resolved through further talks between state governments.

He said he would personally mediate the talks and ensure a win-win solution for both parties.

Perak, which has an abundance of water through Sungai Perak, has decided to sell treated water to Penang to meet its demands by 2050.

Penang, however, wants raw water from Sungai Perak via a water transfer through a tunnel to Sungai Kelian where it will be treated by the Penang Water Supply Corporation.