CYBERJAYA: The identification of seven dams in Malaysia as high-risk underscores concerns on the safety and sustainability of water supply sources, says National Water Services Commission (SPAN) chairman Charles Santiago.
During a press conference, the former Klang MP highlighted a SPAN report identifying the Pedu, Muda, Durian Tunggal, Asahan, Mengkuang, Jus, and Linggui dams as high-risk due to their age, with 16 of Malaysia’s 55 water supply dams being over 50 years old.
“In the case of older dams, it’s important to distinguish between active storage and dead storage. If a dam has a total capacity of 20 million litres per day (MLD), it’s crucial not to assume that the entire 20 MLD is usable water.
“In reality, a portion – say one, two, or even five MLD – may contain sediment at the lower levels and is unsuitable for drinking or use,” he said.
Santiago also said that climate change is a pressing and substantial issue with a notable impact on Malaysian water security.
“On one day, there’s heavy rainfall, while there’s an absence of rain on another. This fluctuation is attributed to climate change.
“Our foremost concern is to guarantee a sufficient water supply for the people of Malaysia, which is why we must start exploring alternative approaches,” he added.
According to Santiago, one of the solutions SPAN recommended was off-river storage, an approach first implemented during the Rasau project in Selangor that saw existing ponds converted into water reservoirs.
“This method is the future of water management,” he said.
On Oct 2, the natural resources, environment, and climate change ministry reported that eight major dams had suffered damage requiring approximately RM136 million for repair and maintenance.
The inspections, conducted by a flying squad dedicated to dam safety, took place between 2021 and 2022.
The issues identified included significant sediment build-up in the reservoirs, damage to instruments and water control equipment, seepage, impairment of concrete structures’ integrity, soil erosion, and indications of potential collapse.