PETALING JAYA: The chairman of Malaysia’s regulatory body for water supply and sewerage services in the peninsula and Labuan has mooted societal audits as a way for the public to help ensure the supply of high quality water to homes and businesses across the country.
Responding to a question on FMT’s talk show, ‘ Stakeholders, with Shireen’, about how Malaysians could expect cleaner water, Charles Santiago of the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) said society could help expedite the process by becoming more “vigilant”.
He recalled the example of how an urban consumer, representing a group of individuals and businesses, had recently written to SPAN asking that the commission secure an explanation from Air Selangor about a certain issue affecting the supply of water in their area.
“I (wanted) to respond to that. So, we wrote to Air Selangor, and they explained it.
“I’m going to bring both of them together and sort it out. The whole point is not to find fault, but to solve the problem,” he told host Shireen Muhiudeen.
Santiago said the process would require operators to be transparent, while consumers and businesses must show understanding as repairs might take time.
He said apart from public facilities, all buildings, factories, business premises and households should also be audited.
He said this was necessary as there were instances where defects might occur in a privately owned unit.
In such circumstances, the responsibility for remedial action would lie with the owner, he added.
More stringent laws and enforcement
Santiago also called for more stringent laws against pollution, including higher fines for businesses and sanctions for those involved in their management.
Currently, Section 121 of the Water Services Act 2006 stipulates that the maximum penalties for water pollution are a fine of RM500,000, 10 years’ jail, and whipping.
Santiago said SPAN was seeking an increase in the maximum fine that can be imposed on polluters to RM15 million.
He proposed that provisions also be made for directors of such companies to be disqualified from the industry for a period of time.
“When they realise that their incomes are going to be hurt, their investments are going to be hurt, then they will take things seriously,” he said.
Water tariff hike?
On the possibility of Putrajaya increasing its water tariffs, Santiago, a former MP for Klang, said operators in a number of states were facing financial challenges as there had been no tariff hikes for several years, singling out Pahang, where tariffs have remained unchanged for 40 years.
He said many operators were struggling to cover their operational costs, including for the procurement of chemicals and pipes, payment of workers’ salaries, and staff capacity building.
“That is why the government has to pump money into their coffers to keep them afloat,” he added.
Last Wednesday, the natural resources, environment and climate change ministry said it would be submitting to the Cabinet a proposal to revise the existing water tariff mechanism.
Its minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said all state governments were in favour of raising the water tariffs.
Santiago, however, said SPAN had no role in the process.
In June last year, then prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government had decided to maintain water tariffs for residential premises in Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan due to the rising cost of living.