GEORGE TOWN: Penang’s industries are unhappy with the state government’s decision to cut water supply for as long as four days next month to undertake major repairs.
Several industry leaders and interest groups who spoke to FMT said the decision came as a surprise as none had been consulted.
“We first heard about the water cuts informally,” said one, who did not want to be named. “We then proposed that these cuts be held during the Christmas and year-end holidays, when most factories were shut down anyway.
“A few days later, we read in the media that the water cuts would take place in January. We were shocked. That is a busy period for any factory.”
The 96-hour water cuts will hit important industrial belts in Penang on the island and in Seberang Perai from Jan 10. The Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBA) said the repairs being conducted were urgently needed to prevent sudden water interruptions in future.
“It is not that we are against maintenance, but we feel four days is just too much. We would prefer a two-day turnaround,” the industry leader said.
“We were then told informally by a PBA officer that the domestic users, made up of slightly over 500,000 accounts, are more important than industries. We then replied that the 90,000-odd industry accounts pay the salaries of these domestic users. Both are equally important.”
Another leader said while all factories are supposed to have two days of reserve water supply at all times to be prepared for cuts like these, not all had the luxury: “There are many limitations in terms of space and cost.”
Separately, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers’ Penang branch chairman Lee Teong Li said the cuts were “an unprecedented challenge”.
He said the interruptions will lead to significant losses for Penang’s factories.
“We understand the complexities involved in infrastructure maintenance but believe that a balance can be struck between the essential upgrades and the economic well-being of the businesses and workforce in Penang,” he said in a statement.
While PBA has yet to respond to FMT’s queries for comment, chief minister Chow Kon Yeow said the repairs are unavoidable and that the one month notice given to all affected businesses was sufficient
“Factories must plan to be resilient in case of disruptions,” he said after an official event yesterday. “Hopefully, they will work according to the schedule and plan their production to cut down the impacts (of the cuts),” he said.
“Of course, we can take a more popular approach by postponing this. But it would be irresponsible. The repairs are very important and would affect 85% of the state.”
The state government said the water supply could be restored in two days but may take longer in hilly areas or for high-rise buildings.