Should concession deal with SPLASH be axed?

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Thousands of households were left without water last week after a surge vessel system burst in a water treatment plant.(Facebook pic)

By Charles Santiago

One of my constituents said people don’t remember what the Selangor government has done for them in the last five years, but they will certainly remember the last seven days.

The last one week happened to be just before the next general election, expected to be one of the most fiercely fought in the country.

Those seven days were excruciatingly painful for some 500,000 people in Selangor who were left without water due to a surge vessel system burst in a water treatment plant.

They were furious with the state government and frustrated with having to deal with overflowing toilets and the inability to even buy drinking water as it quickly sold out.

Their anger was justified. But neither the state government, Syabas nor Air Selangor were responsible for the mess.

Syarikat Pengeluaran Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (SPLASH) was awarded a 30-year concession by the previous Barisan Nasional-led state government in January 2000 to build, operate and maintain the water plant.

This means that SPLASH is the concessionaire and supplier of treated water to Syabas, and therefore responsible for the water disruption.

Not only did SPLASH fail to provide regular updates on the status of repair works, it did not have proper contingency plans to handle emergencies.

Apparently, three of the water pumps had not been repaired or maintained since 2016.

The fourth pump was recognised as faulty by Air Selangor because of consumer complaints and a loss of 30 MLD (million litres a day) from the dams.

After repairs to the fourth pump, the surge vessel system exploded during the reactivation process, injuring five workers.

It is clear that the plant was poorly maintained. As a result, thousands of households were left without water and in distress, not to mention the extra expenses incurred to buy food and water.

The National Water Services Commission (SPAN) needs to investigate why the three water pumps were not repaired for more than a year, the causes of the explosion, whether procedures were followed, whether systems were maintained properly and if SPLASH should compensate consumers.

The water concessionaire is also facing financial problems given that its debts with Tenaga Nasional Berhad run into millions of ringgit.

The crucial question to ask is whether SPLASH’s concession agreement should be terminated given the poor maintenance and staggering debts.

People in Selangor cannot be left highly vulnerable again because of SPLASH’s poor performance.

Charles Santiago is Klang MP.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.