Water woes: Classic case of buck passing


The current water situation in Selangor is a textbook case of murky bureaucracy, buck passing and administrative irresponsibility.

It’s a dry week for Selangor. Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s decision to forge ahead with maintenance works at its Bukit Badong facility affect three Sungai Selangor water treatment plants, which supply water to 60% of residents in the Klang Valley. The backlash has been immense; with disruption of water supply in 814 locations, residents are taking to social media en masse to criticise both TNB and the Selangor state government.

The state is no stranger to water disruptions. Although the cause this time is a rare one – electrical works instead of waterworks – residents are having none of the excuses being given.

Right now, the situation looks like a frantic game of musical chairs. TNB yesterday shifted responsibility to national regulator National Water Services Commission (SPAN), saying that repairs were initially scheduled for September, but were postponed several times following requests by Selangor water authorities due to “specific reasons” although these were not specified for the public’s benefit.

TNB’s statement came after Seputeh MP Teresa Kok laid the blame on it. She said the repairs should have been carried out in September anyway if they were truly unavoidable.

Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali has since acknowledged that he agreed with TNB to the maintenance delay. “At that time,” he told reporters, “we wanted to complete works at Langat 2 and at the time it was also the school holidays, and there were students who were preparing for examinations. Therefore we felt it was best to delay it.”

These “reasons” are galling in their lack of specificity, and only fuel suspicions about the increasingly bogged Selangor bureaucracy. The Menteri Besar’s excuse cannot soothe the public if it’s true, as TNB says, that the maintenance works were urgent enough to require attention months ago. His assurance that the state would “explore ways” to protect those preparing for Christmas celebrations from being inconvenienced only attempts to distract from the real question: why was this not done so much earlier?

It looks like the federal authorities are complicit in all this. Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water Maximus Ongkili has yet to speak on the matter. Ultimately, though, it is Azmin who must explain in full detail the reasons for the water disruption and hold himself and his administration accountable for wrongdoing, if any.

After all, the elections are coming, and soon enough PKR will have to prove its worth as the main party governing Selangor.