By Yeo Bee Yin, State Legislative Assembly (ADUN) for Damansara Utama
I refer to the article written by Khairy Jamaluddin entitled “Who is to be blamed for Selangor’s Water Woes?”. He has brilliantly put in some facts while conveniently ignored some, leading the readers to believe that Selangor government is solely to be blamed for the current water crisis.
First of all, I would like to point out that the current water shortage is due to a change in rain patterns as a result of climate change. Therefore, while the federal government’s 2010 ‘prophecy’ saying that water crisis will happen in 2014 seems to have come true, the cause of the crisis is not due to demand growth as predicted by the federal government. Based on the demand growth trend, Tan Sri Khalid then believed that we have sufficient water supply to meet the demands up to 2019. While he might have made a mistake of not taking into account the weather risk (this rain pattern change happens first time in the history), the federal government should stop waving the “I told you so” card just because it has coincidentally gotten the water crisis prediction right.
Secondly, Khairy has pointed out that the refusal of Pakatan Rakyat government to allow Syabas to increase water tariff has caused Syabas to lose its revenue to reduce its non-revenue water (NRW). I would like to remind Khairy that even without the water tariff increment, Selangor water tariff is already second highest in the country. The reason Syabas is unable to reduce its NRW is none other than the misuse of people’s money.
Thirdly, Khairy mirrored many of his Barisan Nasional ministers to claim that if Langat 2 was completed, we would have been able to avoid the current water crisis. I would like to remind Khairy that even if the state government approved Langat 2 project, the earliest the plant would come on stream is 2015. How would that solve our water crisis now?
In addition, Khairy has conveniently ignored the fact that the water distribution network in Klang Valley is actually not interconnected due to years of underinvestment of piping system by Syabas. Currently, our major problem is water shortages at Sungai Selangor, which supplies 60 percent of the water for the Klang Valley. Langat 2 is geographically far away from Sungai Selangor. With current fragmented water grid, even if Langat 2 is completed now, Syabas will not be able to distribute the water to the users affected by water shortages at Sungai Selangor. This is also why Langat 2 approval should come with the taking over of water assets.
Fourthly, Khairy has proudly pointed out that for the sake of the people, the Federal Government has compensated Syabas by taking over its RM 6.2 billion bonds and injected RM 400 millions for operations and maintenance. But how have the ‘intervention measures’ helped Syabas to reduce its NRW? Khairy seems to have forgotten the fact that despite repeated ‘intervention measures’ by the federal government, Syabas distribution network is as fragmented as before and its NRW still revolves at its 2007 level at 33%.
As a matter of fact, it is exactly because the federal government repeatedly gives financial assistance to the poor performing water concessionaires that allow them to repeatedly reject the offers from the state government to buyout the water assets. I would also like to remind Khairy that this is the first time, after 5 years, that the federal government is willing to consider invoking Section 114 of Water Services Industry Act to allow forced take over of the water concessionaires. So now, who is to be blamed for the delay of water restructuring?
Finally, Khairy has described the water deal signed in the recent MoU as a ‘sweet deal’ for Selangor since the federal government will provide RM9.65 billion to acquire water companies. He has ignored yet another important fact that under the original national water restructuring plan, the federal government is to buy over the water assets from the states and concessionaires. It has been done in Negeri Sembilan, Perlis and Johor. Just that in Selangor, we requested for the operation of water assets to be under Selangor GLC Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Berhad (KDEB) instead of Federal GLC Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad (PAAB). Therefore, I do not see how this arrangement will make federal government paying for water assets in Selangor any ‘sweeter’ than other states.
All in all, we can argue till the cows come home as to who is to be blamed for the current Selangor water crisis and we will not reach an agreement. I believe that instead of finger pointing at each other, we should now focus on how to prepare against the looming drought, which is expected to be more serious this year. As for the long-term water management, I hope that the water concessionaires, the state government and federal government will find an amicable solution as soon as possible so we could start water restructuring in Klang Valley.
If Khairy Jamaluddin is really concerned about the welfare of the people in Selangor, I hope that he would use his capacity as a minister to push the federal government to give full support to the state government, despite our political differences, in the current water crisis management and water restructuring in the long run. -The Rocket