Our water policies date back to the 1960s and are not applicable today. The sad part is that no one is looking into reviewing them. The government and Malaysians are not taking the water issues seriously enough.
We do not value water as much as people in other countries, says Dr Renard Siew, who is a task force member of the Integrated Urban Water Management under the Academy Sciences of Malaysia (ASM).
“I don’t think the government is serious enough in improving the situation. The government needs to keep up with the country’s development because with old technology and policies, we will only waste more water,” says Siew.
Comparing the water situation in Malaysia with other countries, Siew says Malaysian just do not value water as much.
“A Malaysian’s consumption of water is twice the amount of an average person’s usage of water in other countries. In a lot of countries, for example Norway, they look at water as a commodity and it is very precious.
“Sad to say that it isn’t the situation in Malaysia and people only realise the importance of water when there is water shortage. But what will happen the taps run dry? It will be too late if we don’t act now,” says Siew.
Water shortage in Malaysia is caused by government overlooking the demand of water versus the supply.
“Population is increasing and development is also increasing and I am not very happy with how the government is dealing with development sector.
“They keep approving projects, the population grows and properties continue to increase but, while all these are growing, the government never really did an evaluation of whether we have enough water resources to sustain these growing numbers.
“They have to relook into the water supply demand before they continue to expand in these areas.
“Does the state governments have an answer to these questions? Are they able to tell what the current water supply demand is? If they have no answers to these questions, then we are in deep trouble,” says Siew.
DAP Klang MP Charles Santiago, who has been constantly pressing both the state and federal government to look into the water problems, says what the country needs to be educated to conserve water.
The recent uproar over water shortage in Semenyih is caused by pollution and this is not the first time it is happening. It is a recurring issue and the government never bothered to get down to the crux of the problem.
“Because of this, it keeps coming back. But that is only one of the water issues that we face apart from the main problem of waster wastage that all Malaysians are contributors of,” he says.
“Do you see in any other countries where people wash their cars on a daily basis? Why Malaysians must see their cars so shiny that you can comb your hair (in its reflection)?
“People were not very happy with me when I proposed to temporary shutdown carwash outlets or at least control the opening of more outlets during water shortage periods.
“But that is only one of the ways that we can effectively conserve water especially during the dry season hits the country,” he says.
He adds that no matter how many dams and water treatment plants are built, it will not solve water shortage problems.
“You can build as many dams as you want but if there is no rainfall these dams are useless. The new dams are built, I can tell you that in the next five years they will become white elephants as the climate worsens,” he says.
Responding also to the recent bickering between the Barisan Nasional and Opposition politicians over who to blame over the water issues, Charles says the matter should have been brought to national level and not just leaving it to the states to handle.
“It’s a global problem and our government (both state and federal) are just not interested to pay any attention to it simply because there is no profit related.
“They will only be interested when there is money-making opportunities involved and that is just how our government works. If this mindset doesn’t change soon, what are we going to do when water really runs out?”
Soo Wern Jun