GEORGE TOWN: Penang’s water company has again rejected the environment minister’s call to tap into groundwater to meet the state’s future water needs, saying the danger of doing so was real.
Penang Water Supply Corp CEO Jaseni Maidinsa said not only would groundwater not be enough to last until 2050, it would also adversely impact the foundations of buildings due to a subsidence threat.
He said that besides land sinking, as detailed in a study where Kelantan was used as an example, water from the ground might be contaminated, which would put Penang’s high-density population at risk.
Jaseni said Penang’s population density was at 1,695 persons per sq km in 2020.
“Kelantan is one of the highest groundwater consumers, with New Zealand researchers finding that the northern part of the state has been sinking at a rate of 4.2mm a year,” he said.
“Penang wants to reduce its water risks, but we don’t want to incur higher risks with buildings collapsing.
“Furthermore, the environment ministry’s own study in 2021 shows that Penang and northern Perak did not have reliable and sufficient groundwater until 2050.”
No-go for Perak water scheme, says minister
Environment and water minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man told the Dewan Rakyat this week that Penang should tap into groundwater and start saving water as it was one of the highest water consumers in the country.
He was responding to chief minister Chow Kon Yeow (PH-Tanjong), who had asked about the Sungai Perak raw water transfer scheme – a water pipeline from Perak to a river that flows into Penang in Kerian.
In a written reply, Tuan Ibrahim said Perak had refused to send water to Penang as the water level at the Bukit Merah dam had dropped, affecting two water treatment plants and irrigation of 22,473ha of padi land.
In view of the shortage, he said, the dam was being enlarged and Sungai Perak’s waters were urgently needed to top up the enlarged dam in the future.
Penang has touted the Perak water transfer as the solution to the future needs of the northern region as Sungai Muda, one of the main water sources, was depleting and could only last until 2030.
More recently, it was filled with mud from the Baling floods, causing Penang to suffer from water supply interruptions.
The state government had urged Putrajaya to hasten the Perak water transfer, earlier estimated to cost at least RM2 billion.