Water Crisis

(courtesy: Malaysiakini/Zunar)

Water crisis? Or crisis of corruption?

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

– Samuel Taylor Coleridge

COMMENT Have you ever been made to buy something you didn’t need?

Or worse, have you been deceived, intimidated and bullied into making an entirely unnecessary, overpriced purchase?

It would appear that this is what we are facing with Syabas, this “water crisis” it keeps getting excited about.

However, if we examine the hard facts closely, we will see that the only crisis we are facing is an all too familiar crisis of corruption and cronyism – centred tightly around the RM8.65 billion Langat 2 Water Treatment Plant.

Do we really need the Langat 2 plant?

We all know politicians use taxpayer-funded megaprojects to make money. The bigger the megaproject, the bigger the kickbacks – and RM8.65 billion is plenty big.

With that much money at stake, the last thing ‘well-connected’ individuals care about is whether the project is actually needed, or whether it truly benefits the rakyat or not.

The Selangor government is all for preventing this RM8.65 billion gravy train from riding out, and its position is simple: there is plenty of water in Selangor, and if there is any shortage at all, it is due to failure, or worse, on the part of Syabas.

Here’s what Syabas doesn’t want you to know about this water “crisis”: It’s not about how much raw water there is (since the dams in Selangor are all clearly full); it’s about how Syabas is failing dramatically to efficiently convert enough of that raw water into potable water.

(Technically speaking, the main company responsible for treatment of water is Puncak Niaga, which in turn owns 70 percent of Syabas. Both companies are in essence run by the same people. For the purpose of this article, “Syabas” refers to both Puncak Niaga and Syabas.)

Not all the raw water that goes into a water treatment plant becomes potable water – that is, water deemed fit to run in our taps at home. The technical term for the amount of raw water that is wasted due to inefficiencies in the water treatment plant is called “non-revenue water” or NRW.

32pct of water produced by Syabas is wasted

Syabas’ level of NRW is 32 percent. This means that a whopping one-third of the raw water that enters a Syabas water treatment plant goes entirely to waste.

Syabas must be congratulated here, for succeeding in wasting more water than Dhaka, Bangladesh, where the NRW is only 29 percent. Eastern Manila managed to bring down its NRW from 63 percent in 1997 to 11 percent in 2010.

More developed nations have even lower levels of NRW – Germany’s NRW is only seven percent, while the Netherlands and Denmark have achieved NRW levels of six percent.

Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that they are advanced, developed Western democracies? Oh, wait a minute, Singapore’s NRW is five percent.

It looks like under Syabas’ brilliant management, we have managed to waste six times more water than our neighbour to the south whom we like so much to make fun of. Thank you, Syabas!

There is also talk that Syabas is not given enough money to improve its services. However, the question is, would you give more money to a company that demonstrates zero ability to put that money to good use, and in fact wasted away all the money that has already been given to it?

Quite simply put, all we need to do to ensure a sufficient water supply for the Klang Valley is to drastically reduce the amount of NRW. For that, we don’t need a RM8.65 billion water treatment plant, or to throw money at the problem – we just need cleaner, better managers.

Water crisis? Or crisis of corruption?
Nathaniel Tan
Jul 21, 2012 – Malaysiakini

Pulling plug on water rationing reveals Umno ploy, says Selangor

KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 ? Putrajaya’s admission that water rationing was not necessary in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur has proven that the issue was a political gimmick to discredit the Selangor government, state executive council member Elizabeth Wong said today.

She also said that Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) has been turned into an Umno tool to coerce the Selangor government into approving the construction of the Sungai Langat Water Treatment Plant or Langat 2.

Putrajaya has said it will tender out the RM3.6 billion plant despite Selangor’s objections, citing hefty costs for constructing a new plant that will take two years to complete.

“The federal government has no real solution in improving the supply and management of treated water. In fact, they are trying to sabotage Selangor government efforts to do the right thing to protect people’s interests,” she said in a statement today.

Wong said Putrajaya did not enumerate Langat 2’s capability to address the water shortage whereas Selangor already has a RM225 million plan for water mitigation.

“What is needed is an independent committee to decide which project is more effective in solving the shortage of treated water at a low cost,” she added.

She told the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government to acknowledge its mistake when signing the water privatisation agreement in 2004, saying the error cannot be rectified until now.

“The Selangor government has the right to take over Syabas under the Water Supply Industry Act 2006. The federal government’s decision to stop this effort shows that the BN government is partial to corporate companies linked to Umno rather than protecting the people’s interests,” she said.

Syabas is controlled by Puncak Niaga Bhd that is run by corporate figure Tan Sri Rozali Ismail, who is the Selangor Umno treasurer.

Wong also said that the chairman of the special Cabinet committee on water, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, has no experience in the matter and unable to contribute good ideas for water management.

“When he was the Johor mentri besar, he made the state water tariffs among the highest in the country,” she added.

She pointed out that efforts to privatise water supply in Johor to tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary’s MMC Corp Bhd will add to the “people’s burden”.

Pulling plug on water rationing reveals Umno ploy, says Selangor
July 23, 2012 – TMI

Pakatan: Syabas in political conspiracy with BN

SHAH ALAM, July 23 — A group of 200 protesters led by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers demonstrated today against Syabas’ proposed water rationing plan, accusing the state water concessionaire of “political sabotage” ahead of the coming general election.

The protesters, who included members of civil society groups, claimed that Syabas’ purported refusal to hand over its operations to the Selangor PR government could turn into a security issue in the country’s richest state.

“I am confident that we all know this entire issue has been politicised. It has been used to create a sense of dissatisfaction with the PR state government,” Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad (picture) said in his speech during the protest outside Wisma Rozali here.

He pointed out that although Selangor’s seven dams were overflowing with raw water, Syabas’ inefficiency in handling water treatment operations had caused the reported water shortage.

The PAS leader repeated the state’s objection to the federal government’s plans to construct the multibillion ringgit Langat 2 treatment plant, warning that this would result in a hike in Selangor’s water tariffs.

“We reject the Langat 2 project… it will merely squander taxpayers’ funds to fill Umno’s election war chest,” he said.

Wanita PKR chief Zuraida Kamaruddin, who was also at the protest, urged Syabas executive chairman Tan Sri Rozali Ismail not to “play politics” at the expense of Selangor folk.

She repeated PR’s claim that Rozali, who is also Selangor Umno treasurer and Malaysia’s 31st richest man according to Forbes, has been earning a monthly salary of nearly RM500,000

“We want the Syabas management fired and replaced with more efficient people,” she said.

Puncak Niaga, which operates the vast majority of Selangor’s water treatment plants — 29 out of 34 — is about 40 per cent owned by Rozali.

Puncak Niaga in turn owns 70 per cent of Syabas, with the Selangor government holding the remaining 30 per cent, giving the Umno leader significant control over the treatment and distribution of water in the PR-governed state.

Pakatan: Syabas in political conspiracy with BN
July 23, 2012 TMI

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