Act now to avert a crisis

The Star truly lives up to its name as "The people's paper" in having assigned eight staff reporters to write stories highlighting the rapidly falling water levels of dams nationwide and the water shortage looming if rainy season fails to come by October (The Star, 18 August).

All said and done, the bottom line is to make water conservation a way of life.

But all efforts made are unlikely to bring positive responses; as Malaysian consumers, being Malaysians per se, will likely to continue with their pampered life-style, i.e. washing their cars using hoses and other wasteful use of water, until the day disaster really strikes. When that happens, as usual, consumers supported by politicians and some NGOs will blame the Government for not doing enough to plan and cater for their needs. And only then the Government will decide to become more transparent and start to take serious actions.

Unfortunately, in the case of water supply, problems cannot be solved overnight even with huge monitory injection alone into new projects. Besides availability of adequate developable water resources in the effected regions, there is also the question of time needed for planning, design and project implementation, which can take up to five years to produce results. A case in point is the Klang Valley, which will face water shortage in 2007.

But this does not mean that nothing can be done to avert disaster. The authorities, for a start, can:-

  • legislate to penalize those who use water wastefully and excessively beyond a certain monthly quantity and to disconnect supply to such users who disobey,
  • increase water tariff especially for consumption exceeding 40 cubic meter per month per household in order to promote public awareness of the need to reduce consumption,
  • impose measures physically to prevent wasteful usage in domestic premises, e.g. use of constant flow valves,
  • develop expertise and modern technology to manage operation of regulating water supply dams to conserve water stored,
  • carry out comprehensive reviews of safe yields of dams taking into account change of climatic conditions and catchment area development that has taken place since their construction and
  • slow down development in water-stressed areas e.g. Klang Valley until new sources being developed are in place.

The Star, as a responsible people's paper, can contribute by publishing the water supply problems we are likely to face in the not too distance future and urge Malaysians to take heed and change their attitude or else just suffer in silence when disaster strikes.


An edited version of the above was published in The Star on 22/08/05 2007