PETALING JAYA: The chairman of the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) has urged the government to ensure that a consistent supply of water is available nationwide to attract foreign investments and create jobs.
Speaking on FMT’s talk show, Stakeholders, with Shireen which premiered today, Charles Santiago said the lack of a stable water supply had hampered the efforts of foreign establishments seeking to set up operations in Malaysia.
Asked by host Shireen Muhiudeen if he was personally aware of such instances, Santiago said he recently met with a European corporation planning an investment worth RM7 billion in Malaysia “in the next couple of years”.
“They are ready to go,” he added.
However, having put up its building, the investor realised it could only work at 10% capacity due to an inadequate water supply, he said.
“So now, they’re stuck, and it’s not only them. There are also other companies that are planning to come, but are curious about whether we have sufficient water to support them,” said Santiago.
He said data centres in particular would need a constant supply of large amounts of water for cooling processes, and were unable to recycle water for this purpose.
He also spoke of other companies intending to set up operations in Johor, Cyberjaya and Kuala Langat.
“They want to know whether there is water or not,” he said.
‘Support for all’
Santiago said it was important to balance the needs of the people with those of businesses in terms of access to water.
“People come first,” he said, adding however that businesses should also be given priority as they are a source of jobs.
“So everybody needs to be supported.”
He said this was why the government and society should work together to ensure that all households and businesses have sufficient water for their respective needs.
“We need to think out of the box. We need to look at reclaimed water, rainwater harvesting. Businesses, too, must begin to invest in rainwater harvesting, which they are not (doing yet),” he said.
‘National security priority’
Santiago also said the country needs to prioritise water management.
“We need to frame the management of water, including access to drinking water, as a national security priority,” he said.
“You would never think Malaysia is a water-stressed country, but there are parts of Kedah which are water-stressed.
“The phenomenon can spread, and can move to other areas as a result of climate change,” he added.
“Water stress” is a condition in which the available water resources in a region are insufficient to meet the demands of its population and various sectors in operation, such as agriculture, industry and households.
Santiago called for the government to allocate more resources to infrastructure development surrounding the adequate supply of water.
“For (water supply) infrastructure development for Sarawak, Labuan as well as Kelantan, the government has allocated something like RM1.1, RM1.2 billion, but for building the LCS naval ships it has allocated anywhere between RM9 to RM11 billion over the next few years,” he said, referring to the littoral combat ship project.
“But let’s flip it. If RM11 billion goes towards the development (of) more water resources, we will be ready to face climate change in the next two, three years.
“We are not going to use naval ships anytime soon. I am not sure where the enemy is in this part of the world, but clearly we have a challenge called climate change.”